Vision Zero is a plan that was discussed before Mayor de Blasio even took office. It’s an ambitious idea that aims to have a dramatic impact on traffic safety in NYC. Attempting to eliminate traffic fatalities in the city is a tall order that could result in positive changes for drivers, passengers, and pedestrians alike.
We first blogged about Vision Zero in January when the details were just coming to light. The plan is to eliminate traffic fatalities in NYC in a single decade. Modeled after similar programs in Sweden and Chicago, the effort is an attempt to make our city safe and to eliminate the number one killer in NYC.
Traffic fatalities number one killer in NYC
Some 249 people died in traffic accidents in 2011 in New York City (NYC.gov). That’s a far cry from the 701 who were killed in 1990, but the premise of Vision Zero is that no number of traffic fatalities is acceptable. Just as the nation was able to bring seatbelt compliance up from about 20 percent in 1985 to 88 percent today, we should be able to implement programs to drastically reduce the most serious traffic accidents.
Eliminating traffic fatalities won’t be something achieved by the Mayor’s office alone, or by the police. It will take a collaborative effort of citizens, police, city engineers, officials at city hall, and more.
Several changes have been proposed by city policy makers and state lawmakers, including a bill proposed by Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell that would reduce speed limits across the city from 30 mph to 20 mph. Another law, proposed by City Council member Helen Rosenthal (District 6) would mandate cab drivers involved in fatal or injurious pedestrian accidents have their licenses immediately suspended pending investigations.
De Blasio’s Vision Zero plan builds on these ideas and more. In his most recent press conference, the following ideas were discussed:
- Redesigning some 50 dangerous intersections per year to make them safer
- Expanding the use of red light cameras. Currently, the Dept. of Transportation is installing the systems at 20 intersections.
- Lowering the citywide speed limit to 25 mph
- Enhancing lighting at 1,000 intersections
- Outfitting city-owned vehicles with the ability to record unsafe driving, including speeding
- Providing the police with lidar speed detection systems, which use infrared light rather than radar
- Using “pilot technology” in city cabs to alert drivers and passengers when the speed limit has been breached
- Boosting traffic enforcement near problem intersections
The Mayor says it’s important that Vision Zero initiatives stay as local as possible. No one knows the problems of certain intersections and streets like the people who travel them daily. Community boards, therefore, should play a central role in developing programs and standards locally to reduce accidents.
District 7 in Manhattan, for instance, has the highest number of dangerous pedestrian crossings in the borough, according to the Columbia Spectator. Leaders in that specific district are best-equipped to identify those crossings and ensure steps are being taken to overcome those specific problem areas.
For the most part, the Mayor’s plan is receiving positive feedback. People want their city to be safe and most are even willing to make sacrifices to see the reality of zero fatalities come to fruition. While reducing speed limits may not be popular, the effect of slowing drivers down may be many lives saved. Speed is one of the top three contributing factors in serious auto accidents.