NYC Traffic Fatalities Drop, But Pedestrian Deaths Hold Steady

Traffic deaths of all kinds have fallen since 2001, but pedestrian deaths now make up most of the total.

Mayor Bloomberg and NYCDOT Commissioner Sadik-Khan announced on Wednesday that 2009 saw a record low number of traffic fatalities — down to 256 from about 290 in 2008, a decline of 12 percent over the year, and a 35 percent decline since 2001 when 392 people were killed on New York City streets.

Unfortunately, even as motorist and bicyclist deaths dropped, pedestrian fatalities rose slightly in 2009, to 155. Pedestrians now comprise 60 percent of NYC’s traffic deaths, a statistic that makes it clear that the city needs to continue making walking safer.

Commissioner Sadik-Khan recognized this in her remarks, saying, “We will continue to engineer safer streets, but the fact is that too many accidents are preventable, involving inattention, speeding, drunk driving and motorists who simply fail to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. Working with NYPD, we will work to keep New Yorkers safe from reckless motorists who put everyone on the road in jeopardy.”

TSTC Pedestrian Report Continues to Draw Attention to Safety Needs

Tri-State’s Most Dangerous Roads for Walking report has continued to spur insightful media coverage and government action three weeks after it was released earlier this month. Last weekend, the New York Times‘ metropolitan section took a close look at the deadliest road in the region, Nassau County’s Hempstead Turnpike. One Long Island academic summed up the problems with the road’s design as follows:

“I can’t think of a single redeeming feature about Hempstead Turnpike,” said Lee Koppelman, a director of the Center for Regional Policy Studies at Stony Brook University. He declared the road “another of these state-maintained archaic arterials with uncontrolled commercial development on each side, no shoulder, no real median, where every driveway into every parking lot is in effect an intersection. A disaster waiting to happen.”

Those who work near the road echoed that assessment:

Robert Quinn, [manager of a Levittown flower shop], said that the traffic was more deadly than ever. He pointed west, toward a roadside shrine on a telephone pole at the intersection with Loring Road, right beside the “Welcome to Levittown” sign. The shrine is wrapped with artificial flowers, stuffed animals, a “poem from Heaven” and pictures of a smiling teenager: Lauren Emily Davis, who was 18 on Dec. 30, 2008, when she was killed as she tried to cross.

“I used to go across the street to the luncheonette, but these days I stay on this side,” Mr. Quinn said. “Why tempt fate?”

In the article, Nassau County officials said they were considering adding red-light cameras to six intersections on the road, and NYSDOT plans to improve six other intersections.

Image: TSTC graphic using data from NYCDOT. “All other” fatalities include vehicle drivers, passengers, and motorcyclists.

2 Comments on "NYC Traffic Fatalities Drop, But Pedestrian Deaths Hold Steady"

  1. Thanks for posting this. Unfortunately, the number of fatalities that was announced is not a very good performance measure for roadway safety. Accident rates would be preferable.

    Without comparing the number of fatalities to changes in traffic volume, it’s hard to attach real meaning to the numbers. For example, a 2% decrease in the number of accidents would have a very different meaning if traffic volumes were down 20% than if volumes increased by 20%.

    Additionally, there are factors other than roadway safety that influence whether an accident results in a fatality or not. Improvements in response times and advances in medical treatments could save lives that would otherwise be counted as traffic fatalities given the exact same dangerous roadway condition.

  2. Kelliann Davis | April 11, 2010 at 5:01 pm |

    Thank you for writing this article. Lauren is my younger sister. She would have been 20 years old today (4/11/09). Please continue to report on this issue. There was another accident a few weeks ago involving another Division Avenue High School student. Something needs to be done about this.

    Our family will be hosting an organ donors registration drive on April 29th. It would be GREAT if the information could be noted somewhere in the news.

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