Traffic deaths at an all-time low
by Heather Senison
Jan 04, 2012 | 3465 views | 0 0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and Mayor Michael Bloomberg standing in front of the Grand Army Plaza in Prospect Park.
Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and Mayor Michael Bloomberg standing in front of the Grand Army Plaza in Prospect Park.
New York City saw its fewest traffic-related fatalities in 100 years in 2011, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced last week.

There were 237 traffic-related fatalities as of Thursday, December 29, according to the mayor's office, down from 271 in 2010. Of those, 134 were pedestrian fatalities, compared to 152 in 2010.

In total, traffic fatalities decreased by 40 percent since 2001. There was also a record-low of three child fatalities last year.

Bloomberg made the announcement along with Transportation Department (DOT) Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly in the Brooklyn Library next to the Grand Army Plaza in Prospect Park.

“Keeping streets safe for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians is one of the most important public safety challenges any government faces,” Bloomberg said, “and that's why our administration has focused on making streets and crosswalks safer for all New Yorkers, no matter how they decide to travel.”

Although it's a shame that more than 200 people did die in traffic fatalities in 2011, “that's the lowest number since we started keeping records back in 1910,” he said.

Bloomberg cited three major factors in the citywide initiative to improve traffic safety. The first, he said, is engineering, including improving road design, enhancing traffic safety and installing speed reducers and flashing lights.

For example, DOT fixed the traffic circle in Grand Army Plaza and added 72,000-square-feet of pedestrian space.

The city also sought to improve traffic education by promoting safety, particularly in areas with high senior citizen populations and near schools, Bloomberg said.

The third is increased enforcement, he said, adding that the city installed red light cameras at 150 intersections throughout the five boroughs.

The city's goal is to cut traffic fatalities in half by 2030, Sadik-Khan said.

Last year, she said, DOT improved and upgraded more than 60 miles of New York City streets. In addition, it implemented a neighborhood slow-zone process, in which communities can request their areas be turned into 20 mile-per-hour zones.

Traffic fatalities in 2011 were down by 156 from 2001, she said.

“While the numbers are going in the right direction, any fatality is one fatality too many,” Sadik-Khan said, “and we know how devastating that can be for families and loved ones and we're doing everything we can to prevent fatalities on the streets of New York.”

However, bicycle fatalities remained stagnant in the last 10 years, despite the installation of 260 miles of bike lanes, according to Bloomberg's office.

Speakers at the conference said the number of bike fatalities remained the same because the city's bicyclist population quadrupled in the last 10 years, doubling in the last four.

Michael Murphey, a representative for the transit advocacy organization Transportation Alternatives, said that while his group applauds the Bloomberg administration for lowering fatality numbers, the stagnant number of cyclist fatalities may be due to the Police Department's failure to adequately hold reckless drivers accountable.

“In sharp contrast to the DOT's very visible work on traffic safety,” Murphey said, “Ray Kelly's [Police Department] has shown a worrisome pattern of failure to hold dangerous drivers accountable for killing and injuring people on our streets.”

Murphey cited the case of Mathieu Lefevre, who was killed in October from a collision with a flatbed truck in Williasmburg. Lefevre's mother was recently quoted in this paper as saying police seemed rushed in clearing the driver of guilt without providing an adequate investigation.

“There just seems to be a disturbingly low standard of acceptable behavior for drivers rather than a proper recognition of their responsibility to exercise due care on our streets,” Murphey said.

He also called for increased enforcement of speeding laws, since speeding is the leading killer on New York City streets.

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