Kat Aaron is an Associate Producer for WNYC, where she is part of Transportation Nation, a public radio reporting project that combines the work of multiple newsrooms to provide coverage of how we build, rebuild and get around the nation.
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.