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Pedestrian Accidents Need Attention

A recent article in Crain's New York Business points out that the media have given much attention to the faulty ignitions in General Motors cars that have caused 11 deaths throughout the United States in the past decade. It asks why isn't there as much national coverage of the remarkable number of deaths and injuries caused by traffic accidents in New York City?

The piece further asks why there should be so much attention paid to 13 deaths among 325 million people over ten years and less to the 286 people who died last year alone in New York City because of motor vehicle collisions. The writer of the piece suggests that the media needs to get its priorities straight.

Cited in the article is information published by Transportation Alternatives (TA), a pedestrian and bicycle safety advocacy organization. According to TA, the primary causes of New York City traffic deaths are speeding and failure to yield to pedestrians. These problems can be addressed by undertaking the following corrective actions:

  • Reducing the speed limit
  • Enforcing pedestrian rights and regulations
  • Re-engineering streets
  • Investigating crashes
  • Assigning fault in car accidents

The New York City mayor and police chief have set themselves and the city a goal of having no car crash fatalities by 2015. There are bills pending at the state level that would reduce the NYC speed limit to 20 mph.

The Crain's writer observes that it will take more than vigorous enforcement and changes in traffic laws to achieve the goal of zero traffic fatalities. It will require a culture shift that elevates pedestrians and cyclists from irritants to street and sidewalk users with rights. For example, drivers today who see a yellow light do not slow down in preparation for the light turning red. Rather, they speed up in order to get through the intersection. Attitudes like this must change if the mayor's goal is to be achieved.

According to the article, New York City could be a leader in focusing on causes and prevention of traffic crashes. The city has done this before. When then-mayor Bloomberg banned public cigarette smoking, he started a trend that has been adopted almost everywhere. The same could be true of traffic accidents - the city could lead the way again.

Source: Crain's New York Business, "Making New York safer for walkers and cyclists," Mar. 16, 2014.

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