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It's not Zero, But Traffic Deaths Decreased Last Year in New York City

Traffic deaths dropped by 27 in 2015 to 230, a reduction of over 10 percent from 2014. Pedestrian deaths decreased only slightly. Bicyclists fared better: deaths dropped by 30 percent.
January 4, 2016, 10am PST | Irvin Dawid
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"Even though such deaths declined, city officials and traffic-safety groups agreed that more aggressive steps must be taken to reach Mayor Bill de Blasio’s goal of eliminating traffic deaths in the city by 2024, as part of a plan called Vision Zero that he announced nearly two years ago," writes Emma G. Fitzsimmons of The New York Times.

"Pedestrian deaths, which account for the largest share of the fatalities, dropped slightly last year after reaching a historic low in 2014," adds Fitzsimmons. The 133 recorded fatalities amounts to 58 percent of total traffic deaths.

In 2015, 133 pedestrians died in traffic crashes, according to city data, though officials cautioned that the figures could change after the cases were more closely examined. Last January, the city reported 132 pedestrian deaths for 2014, but that number later rose to 139 — still the lowest total on record and down significantly from 183 deaths in 2013.

The Vision Zero program enters its third year with the strong backing of Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“We are moving in the right direction,” the mayor said in an interview. “We know there is a lot more to do, but there is no question that Vision Zero is working.”

A few bullet points on how the program, which featured various safety improvements, such as "lowering the default speed limit to 25 miles per hour" (See NYC Vision Zero Action Plan for more details), fared in 2015.

  • Traffic deaths are down in every borough with one notable exception: Staten Island.
  • Greatest reduction in traffic deaths occurred for those riding on two wheels:
    • Bicycle fatalities dropped by 30 percent, from 20 to 14.
    • Motorcyclists saw the greatest improvement: deaths reduced by over 40 percent, from 37 to 22.
    • No change for those riding in motor vehicles: 61 deaths.

Fitzsimmons writes that Vision Zero is "modeled after a Swedish approach that treats all road deaths and serious injuries as inherently preventable." An accompanying photo shows the traffic-safety group Families for Safe Streets, marching  in November carrying signs stating, "I pledge to use 'Crash not Accident'" to reinforce the preventable nature of traffic injuries and fatalities. The message on their "pledge" webpage:

Traffic crashes are fixable problems, caused by dangerous streets and unsafe drivers. They are not accidents. Let’s stop using the word "accident" today.

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Published on Saturday, January 2, 2016 in The New York Times - N.Y. / Region
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