We recently wrote a blog post about the installation of school zone speed cameras to coincide with the beginning of the school year. This initiative comes at an important time: According to the New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, traffic is the biggest injury-related cause of death among children under 15.
Traffic accidents represent 25 percent of injury deaths among young New Yorkers, including deaths because of fire, drowning, suffocation, firearms and falls. Among older children – those age 15 to 17, firearms are the leading cause of death.
Although this death rate is bad news for New York families, it is even worse in the rest of the country, where the overall death rate from car crashes is much higher. The national motor vehicle death rate for children is four times higher than the rate in New York City. Among older children, the fatality rate is even less – young people age 15 to 17 are six times less likely to die in car crashes, probably because fewer teenagers in New York City have driver’s licenses.
Kids in New York generally die as pedestrians rather than drivers or passengers, again reflecting the fewer numbers of people who drive in New York City. In fact, 73 percent of 5 to 14 year olds who die in traffic accidents are pedestrians. The Department of Transportation has identified speeding drivers as the most frequent cause of fatal crashes, based on 2012 data.
The report from the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene notes that children and their families can have an impact on fatality rates. Recommendations include educating children about street safety. However, the responsibility for protecting children lies mainly with drivers and the city. Implementing the strategies outlined in the mayor’s Vision Zero plan, such as improving street design and stepping up automated enforcement of traffic rules, will help young pedestrians stay safe in the city.