An Alarming Look Back At Fatal New York Traffic Accidents In 2012
New York City has made significant improvement in reducing traffic deaths over the past decade. That’s why many citizens, officials and safety advocates are surprised by New York’s fatal accident data for 2012. The city’s most recent Mayor’s Management Report showed a 23 percent increase in traffic deaths in the 2012 fiscal year (June 2011 to June 2012).
The Bloomberg administration admits that the increase in auto accident deaths is disappointing, but believes it’s somewhat of an anomaly amid a greater trend in increased safety on New York City streets. Overall, fatality statistics lend credibility to this argument, but there are still a number of unsettling figures that help depict New York’s struggle with traffic:
- New York City traffic fatalities rose to 291 in the 2012 fiscal year, up from 236 in 2011.
- More than 60 percent of the fatalities were pedestrians or bicyclists.
- Approximately 74 percent of serious accidents – those involving serious injuries or death – occurred in intersections.
- About 57 percent of all serious pedestrian accidents occurred when the pedestrian was following a “walk” signal.
While New York City has, overall, made inroads on motor vehicle safety in recent years, there is still a significant problem. To fix it, officials must determine the cause.
Who Or What Is To Blame?
The Bloomberg administration is struggling to answer why there was an increase in fatal accidents. If you’re looking for the primary culprit, many identify speeding.
Research has shown that a pedestrian struck by a car traveling 40 mph is four times more likely to die than if the car was going 30 mph. Equally telling, a pedestrian hit by an automobile going 30 mph is six times more likely to be killed than if the vehicle was traveling 20 mph. You get the picture: Speed kills.
City Transportation Department Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan believes that a surge in distracted pedestrians also accounts for some of the increase. Walkers are increasingly texting, Web surfing and talking while walking. Sadik-Khan told the New York Times that she recently “saved three or four people” from likely pedestrian accidents while they were distracted by their cellphones.
Other possible factors include:
- Distracted driving
- Drunk driving
- Motorists impaired by prescription medication such as painkillers or antidepressants
- Drowsy driving
All of the above factors contribute to traffic safety problems in New York, but they can all be lumped under one common heading: irresponsible motorists.
What Are The Solutions?
In Europe – where there are significantly fewer pedestrian accidents – many major cities have a 20 mph speed limit in pedestrian-heavy areas or even enforce a walking-speed only law for cars. While nobody anticipates New York City experimenting with comparable measures, government officials are implementing new anti-speeding measures, including:
- Increased red light cameras
- A new speed-camera enforcement program
- Intersection planning that forces cars to slow down
Pedestrians aren’t the only ones victimized by speeding drivers; New York cyclists are frequently killed by cars and trucks that are driving too fast.
The Ever-Burning Bicycle Issue
New York City is the site of a contentious battle between bicyclist advocates and automobile drivers. The city recently added 200 miles of bicycle lanes, recognizing that bikes are an increasingly popular solution to traffic congestion and the high cost of car ownership in NYC. Yet cyclists continue to die at an alarming rate.
Cyclists are quick to point out that motorists often violate the “3-foot law.” This law requires motorists to maintain a 3-foot cushion between their vehicles and bicycles. Another common cause of car-bicycle crashes is a driver’s failure to see the cyclist.
Unfortunately, the city’s problem is compounded by a sizable segment of NYC bicyclists who regularly break traffic laws. Many cyclists blow through controlled intersections, ride the wrong way down one-way streets or simply ride too aggressively. These behaviors reduce the effectiveness of New York’s cycling safety features and draw the ire of many motorists, who in turn stereotype cyclists as law breakers who refuse to play by the same rules as others navigating city traffic.
As the mayor’s administration seeks to find an amicable understanding between motorists and cyclists, many continue to needlessly die. Both sides need to accept some accountability, but in fatal bicycle accidents, the car driver is at fault 60 percent of the time, according to a 14-year study by Transport Alternatives.
What To Expect In 2013
As 2012 draws to a close, it’s natural to wonder what 2013 will bring to New York City traffic safety. It’s reasonable to predict that the number of fatal motor vehicle crashes will drop closer to what it was in 2011, especially with the introduction of NYC speed cameras. However, it’s certain that too many people and families will continue to needlessly suffer.
Until drivers use their smartphones more intelligently, take their foot off the gas in intersections and stop engaging in petty, who-is-in-the-right battles, New York will continue to host a great number of serious car and pedestrian accidents.
When A Negligent Driver Causes Harm
The Law Firm of Tolmage, Peskin, Harris, Falick is currently representing dozens of clients who have suffered serious injuries or lost loved ones because of negligent motorists. If you or a family member needs a New York City injury lawyer, we can help ensure that justice is done and you are fully compensated.