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Open Season on Pedestrians in NYC?

It appears to be open season on pedestrians in New York City. Eleven people died after being hit by motor vehicles in a 10-day period between Oct. 31 and Nov. 9. Although these numbers are bad, they really are not that unusual. Someone is killed while walking or biking in New York City about once every 36 hours on average. Dozens of people are injured every day.

crosswalk sign.jpgMayor Bill de Blasio, who frequently touts the success of the Vision Zero program in reducing pedestrian deaths in New York City, recently attended a World Day of Remembrance event in honor of victims of traffic accidents.

Recent victims of NYC pedestrian accidents include two elderly women struck and killed in separate incidents on the Upper West Side and a 68-year old man struck in Ozone Park, Queens. At least two bicyclists were injured, as was a man hit by a fire truck.

In light of the carnage, one would expect stepped-up enforcement of traffic laws and more citations issued to those who speed, run red lights and stop signs, and fail to acknowledge pedestrians in crosswalks. However, at least one City Council member has said that enforcement efforts should focus on the behavior of pedestrians, not drivers.

The 109th precinct, where drivers killed three pedestrians in recent weeks, has issued fewer traffic tickets for speeding and failure to yield than it did last year, despite increased attention to pedestrian safety. At a meeting in the precinct, City Council member Peter Koo, who called the meeting, stated his belief that rather than ticket drivers who commit traffic violations, police should focus their safety efforts on pedestrians. He said they should be instructed in crosswalk use and taught how to follow traffic signals.

Despite his urging to concentrate on pedestrians, the New York Police Department announced a program last week to increase enforcement of motorist violations that include speeding, failure to yield, distracted driving and double-parking. The number of officers assigned to traffic duty will increase and more overtime will be available. The effort will continue through Nov. 22.

One issue highlighted in the mayor's announcement of stepped-up enforcement was the need for consistency across the city. This may be something that leaders and representatives in the 109th precinct want to think about; blaming pedestrians and focusing on their behavior, rather than on traffic violators, could send a very different message to motorists in that part of the city.


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