Exclusive: Traffic Death Toll Reaches 100

Wednesday, June 04, 2014 - 05:26 PM

New York City marked a dubious milestone Wednesday morning: the 100th traffic death this year. 

Jose Duran, 35, of Springfield, MA, was driving a tractor-trailer on the Cross Bronx Expressway when a manhole cover came through his front windshield and struck him in the head, police said. (His death is under investigation.)

WNYC has been closely tracking traffic deaths in 2014 by exhaustively surveying multiple data sets. City tallies of traffic fatalities are significantly lower than WNYC's numbers.

Of the 100 people to die so far this year in NYC traffic, about half are pedestrians. Five are bicyclists. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio has made reducing traffic deaths a major goal of his administration and has adopted a "Vision Zero" approach. His goal: no fatalities by 2024. So far, the city has made changes at specific intersections, created new slow zones, and lowered the speed limit on a number of arterial roadways. The New York Police Department is also ramping up enforcement of the most dangerous moving violations. Last week, New York's City Council passed a whole slew of traffic safety laws. And there are more changes still in the works, including a push to lower the speed limit city wide and get autonomy for the city over its traffic-enforcement camera program. Those measures, however, require approval from Albany.

It's hard to know exactly how this year compares to last — because the city's own data doesn't add up. There are two public data sources we use to track traffic fatalities: the NYPD and the city's OpenData website. According to the NYPD, which releases its data in monthly PDFs, the city is almost exactly at the same pace of deaths as last year: from Jan. 1 to the end of May 2013, NYC recorded 99 traffic deaths. But the city's data on its OpenData site says by June 4, 2013, there were 90 deaths.

Even this year, the two datasets disagree. The OpenData portal, which has a lag of a few days, lists 75 traffic deaths through May 31. But the NYPD's numbers list 72 deaths as of the end of April. May 2014 data is not available yet on the NYPD's site.

We're reached out to the NYC Department of Transportation as well as the de Blasio administration for an explanation. In the past, the city has chalked the difference up to the difficulties in reconciling data.

How we compile our numbers: 

The NYPD sends out press emails for most traffic fatalities it investigates, but we’ve found that there are often deaths that show up in its monthly reports that it doesn't email. In addition to NYPD and city data, WNYC also monitors social media and news reports. 


Comments [13]

Chris from Brooklyn from Brooklyn

@Tom from Sunset Park - Regarding the case of the death of the man called Xiaoci Hu, "Police determined that Hu had been crossing 65th Street AGAINST THE LIGHT in the direction of Bay Ridge, forcing the driver of the Camry to slow down. But a Jeep Cherokee rear-ended the sedan, knocking it forward into Hu." (Emphasis added to "get the facts straight")


Jun. 23 2014 06:16 PM
TOM from Sunset Park

Since we are into specificity, here goes: Min Lin was killed in a parking lot by a negligent BobCat operator and not in traffic. I am personally more afraid of being hit in a parking lot than on the open roadway. Speed limits of 5 mph should be posted just to remind drivers of the all too apparent risk with people moving in and from all directions. Forget enforcement, just remind everyone.
Xiaoci Hu was killed in Bay Ridge. Check the map. It was south of the rail cut. It not right that Bay Ridge should escape a measure of responsibility in this matter. There is enough blame to go around.
Both deaths were tragic but let's get the facts correct or we can't really go about remedying the problems.

Jun. 14 2014 09:38 PM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

The reason I will probably never post on Streetsblog is because it's full of fanatics who just want to hear their own voices. They love to dish criticism, but they can't take it. According them, anyone who drives is always evil and must be burned to the stake, while anyone who doesn't can never do any evil. Just recently, they banned someone who put them between a rock and a hard place, and they didn't want to debate the issue anymore not to mention called that person a troll just for disagreeing with them. Trying to explain about them will be like trying to get the Muslim Brotherhood to accept Israel as a Jewish homeland. Another thing is that Streetsblog has a history of censoring those that don't share their views. BTW, they do encourage pedestrians and cyclists to flout the laws and get nothing more than a slap on the wrist while at the same time calling for every motorist to be held to follow every letter of the law and have punishment so high that they will be forever in debt to pay the fines or even be in jail almost forever. Overall, they hate cars and anyone who drives them even if the car was environmentally friendly.

Jun. 06 2014 06:05 PM

Tal please come post on streetsblog. We need your dose of sanity over there.

Jun. 06 2014 01:47 AM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

What some don't know is that there are two sides to every story. Unfortunately, it's very easy to say that motorists are always bad guys considering only the effects, which is what the anti-car crowd always does especially on places like Streetsblog. However, when one looks at the causes, they might start realizing that they weren't solely responsible for their actions. By that, I'm referring to the pedestrians and even cyclists that placed themselves into harm's way by flouting the laws themselves. Another problem is that these statistics never give the cause hence the vilification of motorists by the anti-car fanatics.

Jun. 05 2014 04:26 PM

Hi, Kat Aaron here. Thanks for the comments! Some thoughts and answers:

@LB from Brooklyn - I'm so sorry to hear that. Technically, if someone dies within 30 days of a crash, that's supposed to be counted in traffic death statistics. Whether or not all those deaths actually get included is an open question.

@Tyson - We're tracking ticketing precinct by precinct, looking at how ticketing for the six most serious moving violations this year compare to last year. That's here:

@Martin - We looked at the first five months of this year, as compared to the first five months of last year, as a way to put the numbers into context. We are either right on par with last year, or slightly ahead, depending on whether you're looking at the 2013 numbers from NYPD or OpenData. Because the deaths don't happen on a linear trajectory, it's hard to extrapolate out from now through the rest of the year.

Jun. 05 2014 03:47 PM
Tyson White from UWS


That doesn't explain giving just ONE speeding ticket. In March the number was closer to 30. Still low.

Jun. 05 2014 10:35 AM

Here's a novel idea - what about regularly enforcing traffic laws? Instead of "crackdowns" or "ramp-ups," what about consistently instilling the idea that if a driver runs a red light, or speeds, or makes an illegal u-turn, he or she will be penalized for it?

Jun. 05 2014 10:24 AM
Richard David Feinman from Brooklyn

A friend called to say that she had been hit by a car, was okay, but thought it was so scary. I suggested that the car that hit her had tinted windows. "How did you know?" Not hard, increasingly all cars have tinted windows. It is not a choice. When I bought my car, that was all that I could get.

The reduction in visibility is minimal, especially during the day, but why have any reduction in visibility?

If you walk behind a car in a parking lot with tinted windows, you do not know if there is a driver. Your quick reaction to the back-up lights is what is required if it suddenly starts backing up.

In general, you do not know if there is someone in your car, if it has tinted windows.

In a period of security concerns, tinted windows turn every car into a panel truck.

Strange thing is that, as far as I know, tinted windows on cars are illegal in NY State and manufacturers get around the law by designating the car as an SUV or something else.

On choice, the annoying thing is that if you really want tinting (you keep equipment in your car), it can cost only $99.

Reducing tinted windows seems like only beneficial. No?

Jun. 05 2014 09:04 AM
martin zelnik from the bronx

The March 18th issue of the NEW YORK TIMES reported 270 traffic deaths. 270! Now under DeBlasio, WNYC headlines 100 deaths at almost halfway mark of this mayor's term...or 20/month. Prorated that would be 120 for on e half year....240 for a full year. While any traffic fatality is one too many, it is also good reporting to make some reasonable big picture comparisons.

Jun. 05 2014 07:51 AM
LB from Brooklyn

My mother died in 2007, one week after being hit by a left-turning car while she was crossing the street in the crosswalk. She didn't die immediately, though. She was brought to Kings County Hospital and sent home to recover, but her injuries were too severe - and unnoticed by the hospital. Exactly a week after the accident, I brought her back to the same emergency room that had treated her the week before. She died in the hallway waiting to be seen. But her death was not reported to the State and was not connected to the motor vehicle accident of the week before. It is likely that there are many other such deaths that are not connected to the accidents that actually caused them.

Jun. 05 2014 07:20 AM

Tyson NYPD can't go after speeders because they might speed off and then you have a high speed chase in a dense urban area and innocent people might get hurt. Also the PBA says you can't use cameras because they can't check the licenses and whatnot the way cops can when they pull over speeders even though they can't do that because it's too dangerous.

Jun. 05 2014 12:21 AM
Tyson White from UWS

Amazing! People are getting killed and the city can't even keep a tally on it.

Also, I looked up the reports from NYPD on traffic violations issued. Tickets for speeding are the lowest in number, despite reports showing that speeding is the #1 contribution factor in traffic deaths. My precinct (24th) for example, issued only ONE speeding ticket in all of April!

NYPD has some 'splainin to do!

Jun. 04 2014 10:57 PM

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