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New Mayor Aims to End NYC Traffic Deaths

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio campaigned on the issue of traffic safety, calling for the city to achieve Vision Zero, with zero fatalities from car crashes, in 10 years. Modeled after similar programs in Chicago and Sweden, de Blasio’s initiative focuses on traffic safety to make NYC a better place to live and work.

As de Blasio’s campaign site points out, one person is killed every 30 hours in a New York City car crash. Every 10 seconds, someone is injured, and every two hours, someone is dismembered or disfigured in an auto accident.

New York City street safety is a more pressing problem than gun violence. From 2001 to 2010, more people were killed in auto accidents than by firearms.

For children, the danger is especially tragic. Being hit by a car is the most common cause of injury-related death for children between the ages of 1 and 14 in the city and the second leading cause of death for those 15 and older.

In the past year, 291 people were killed in car crashes in the city and 15,465 were hit by cars while traveling by foot or on bicycle.

 Vision Zero Policies

The Vision Zero concept says no traffic death is acceptable. The idea arose in 1994 and was implemented a few years later in Sweden, where roads are designed for safety.

An analysis by Transportation Alternatives and the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy lays out what a Vision Zero plan could look like for NYC. The analysts say the main causes of traffic accidents in the city are unsafe road design and human factors like speed and distraction. Eliminating these problems will require the cooperation of NYC residents.

The Vision Zero program is likely to involve traffic calming, including 20 mph zones and traffic circles, as well as bicycle lanes, public education and involvement, and increased law enforcement.

The number of accidents in Sweden continues to fall under Vision Zero despite a rising number of vehicles on the road. De Blasio and New Yorkers hope the same can happen here.

In his campaign plan, de Blasio called for improving at least 50 dangerous corridors and intersections every single year. He suggested a “sweeping expansion” of 20 mph zones throughout the city, quadrupling their number in just four years. He also called for adding traffic cameras, making a priority of speeding enforcement, and cracking down on drivers who put pedestrians at risk.

At the swearing-in of Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, de Blasio once again stressed his commitment to traffic safety and eliminating deaths. While the thought of a zero-fatality NYC may seem like a long shot, the intensive focus on reducing auto accidents holds remarkable promise for drivers, passengers and pedestrians.