New York City’s Vision Zero’s policies and new laws to improve pedestrian safety had a successful first year in 2014, resulting in the fewest pedestrian deaths in the city since 1910: 131. The new year brings with it new laws in effect that New York’s leaders hope will further reduce the number of deaths and injuries to pedestrians. Within 10 years the goal is to reduce traffic fatalities to zero.
Mayor Bill de Blasio made Vision Zero a key policy priority for his first year. “Our top responsibility is protecting the health and safety of our people… From tougher enforcement to more safely-designed streets and stronger laws, we’ll confront this problem from every side,” remarked de Blasio upon the launch of his initiative last January.
The city has a track record of 4,000 serious injuries and more than 250 fatalities resulting from traffic crashes each year, according to the Vision Zero website. In 2013 alone there were 177 pedestrian fatalities. Prior to 2014 the all-time low was 142 pedestrian fatalities in 2007.
Children and seniors are the most at-risk for pedestrian incidents, and among children, vehicle collision is the number one cause of injury-related death for those under 14 (it is the second leading cause for seniors in NYC).
In 2014, the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) held a series of workshops across the city’s boroughs, seeking public input on dangerous intersections and feedback on proposed policy changes. Several intersections known for their high rate of pedestrian injuries and fatalities were redesigned–new crosswalks were added and left turn lanes were removed.
The year also saw changes to and adoption of new laws that addressed everything from the average speed limit, hit-and-run drivers and consequences for taxicab drivers involved in serious collisions. In all the City Council passed 15 bills and resolutions addressing traffic safety in response to the policy priorities set forth in Vision Zero.
On January 1, the new “Justice for Hit-and-Run Victims Act” went into effect creating civil penalties for leaving the scene of a crash without reporting it, with fines as high as $10,000 for serious injuries or death.
The new laws were paired with greater efforts to enforce existing infractions like speeding or failing to yield to pedestrians. NYPD issued 42% more speeding tickets and 126% more summonses for failing to yield in 2014 compared to 2013. Of course, given the ongoing friction between the de Blasio administration and elements within NYPD, there’s no guarantee that 2015 will look like 2014 when it comes to enforcement.
“There is no question we are moving this city in the right direction, thanks to stepped-up enforcement by the NYPD, strong traffic safety measures by the Department of Transportation, new laws passed by our legislators, and the work of New Yorkers fighting for change,” de Blasio said in a statement to the New York Daily News.