Mean Streets: Who Is Dying in Traffic Crashes and Why

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 04:00 AM

Cars sit in traffic on West 53rd street in midtown Manhattan. (Natalie Fertig/WNYC)

More than half of the 27 pedestrians killed by cars in New York City this year died on major roadways. That’s just one of the findings of a new WNYC analysis of traffic deaths, Mean Streets. We wanted to help New Yorkers understand who is dying on the city streets from traffic-related causes, and why.

As of March 19, 45 people have been killed in traffic crashes in 2014: 27 pedestrians, 13 drivers, three passengers and two cyclists. The youngest person killed was 5-year-old Rashard Charles, who died in Crown Heights on March 16. The oldest was 81-year-old Ruben Rivera, killed in a hit-and-run on Atlantic Avenue in February. Nine of the 46 deaths did not get media attention until now.


Fourteen of the 27 pedestrians died on or near busy thoroughfares, like 125th Street or Northern Boulevard, which connect major highways and bridges.

Five of the pedestrian deaths were caused by city- or state-owned vehicles, including garbage trucks and MTA buses.

Charges were filed in 7 cases, according to the best data available. Two additional crashes were hit-and-run deaths of pedestrians. As WNYC has extensively reported, charges are rare, even in fatal crashes.

How we did it:

When someone is killed in New York City, the police department sends an email to news organizations. We have used those emails to compile this list, along with news reports and social media posts.

We contacted the NYPD, after noticing discrepancies between our total and those kept by advocacy groups tracking traffic deaths. The department’s total was different from ours, and we worked with police to identify the deaths missing from our data.

Public data released by the New York Police Department runs on a six-week lag. The data includes only the locations of fatal crashes, and does not provide details on victims, drivers, or the incident.

How you can help:

We may be missing some data. If you know of incidents that aren’t on our tracker, please contact Kat Aaron, our reporter on this project at We are also tracking whether charges are filed against drivers involved in crashes. We have noted the status of charges when available, but that information is unknown for many crashes. If you have details on the charges for specific crashes, let us know.



Comments [18]

There are often multiple factors at play.

One common scenario is a car stopping for a jaywalker, and someone driving next to them does not stop. Another is someone who is going the speed limit but there is too much traffic to safely do so.

I feel that you have to create a city where people care about themselves and their fellow citizens. And I think that lowering the speed limit in certain areas, or making significant increases in the number of safe pedestrian-only zones, would help.

I would also like to know how many of the children killed were unaccompanied at the time. You are not allowed to leave your child under 12 alone in your home without an adult, but are people letting their kids wander the city alone? Stories about a "real New Yorker" letting their 9 year old ride the subway and walk around unaccompanied are alarming.

Jul. 30 2014 09:18 AM

How come this didn't break out "Motorcyclists" as it did "Bicyclists"? There were literally twice as many motorcycle fatalities than bicycle deaths in that list and most involved an inattentive or careless "Driver".

Jun. 05 2014 11:48 AM
reason together

only speed bumps will slow traffic to safe speeds. drivers ignoring 30 mph will ignore 25. changing the signs will not help.

Apr. 21 2014 12:29 AM
Fact Checker from NYC

"Analysis of the past five years of traffic fatalities shows that 70% of pedestrian fatalities have causes outside of the pedestrian’s control, particularly drivers speeding or failing to yield." (, paragraph 1)

Mar. 22 2014 01:41 AM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

Bronx, I will believe your claim as much as I believe that Hamas are freedom fighters rather than terrorists. If you can prove that pedestrians and cyclists actually follow the rules by a strong majority, I will believe. However, if you fail to do this or act defensive let alone feel bent out of shape, I will only acknowledge that you have an anti-car bias. I feel that the problem with your kind is that you are too black and white on the issue, and can't look in the gray areas. All your group is doing is presenting nothing more than the effects, while I am stating the causes here. Another thing to keep in mind is that the crackdown on jaywalking didn't involve making any new laws, the police are just enforcing the ones that already exist. Just trying to say that cars kill more doesn't give any excuses for your group to flout laws yourselves nor does it make your actions any less. Until those rules do change, you must follow them rather than acting like a victim to the rules. As for what you propose, only the first two work, while the rest just give motorists nothing more than the royal screw job.

Mar. 21 2014 07:38 PM
Bronx from NYC

Gerry Lesk,

If what you say were true, most pedestrian deaths would not be the drivers fault. Statistically, the opposite is true.

The reason why pedestrians often flaunt the rules is because the game is rigged against them. Street space is not appropriately allocated considering usage. What about longer walk cycles, mid block crossings, neck-downs, curb extensions, and other reallocation/traffic calming which is severely lacking in this city. Your comments about drivers being the most law abiding is humorous. We must live in different cities. You couldn't count all the speeding, double parking and failed to yield violations on a single avenue in Manhattan.

Tal Barzilai,

Laws are not always correct. See above.

Mar. 21 2014 06:29 PM
Martin L Schneider from Brooklyn Heights, NY

I listened to yesterday's report twice. Congratulations on the great investigative journalism your report represents. I am proud to be a supporter and want to encourage similar reportage. The City needs much more of this kind of independent and pointed journalism.
The fatality report strikes home. Here in Brooklyn Heights last year a young woman was killed while on the sidewalk at the intersection of Clinton St and Atlantic Ave. The cops never detailed exactly what happened. Months went by. Rumors flourished. Who was the driver? Why was he taken into the nearby coffee shop for a private talk and the people in the shop sent out? Was he a cop? A retired copy? Was he shown favoritism? Who was responsible for this horrible death of a community member?
Please keep up the focus on the NYPD's secretive approach to what should be public information.

Mar. 21 2014 12:33 PM
Upper West Sider from NYC

Laws are useless if not enforced. NY's regularly flout the speed limits and street crossing rules. In all cases the wheel is king. Even a bike on a sidewalk trumps a pedestrian.
NY'rs know that they can pick and choose what they do with little consequence. They feel entitled to do what ever they want and continue to do so. When was the last time you got in a cab that did the speed limit or less.
Until NY'rs develop enough self esteem to enforce the laws by what ever method it takes we shall remain the savages of the New World as we kill and injure each other just because we felt like it. I have lived many places where this would never be acceptable. New York, whats your useless excuse?

Mar. 20 2014 02:15 AM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

Honestly, it's so easy to blame motorists when just looking at the effects, but if some bother to look at the causes, you might see that they weren't solely responsible for their actions. A number of times that pedestrians or cyclists get hit, part of that had to do with them flouting the laws themselves. A number of times I have walked the streets of NYC, I have seen more pedestrians and cyclists flouting the laws compared to motorists. For the record, I don't condone the actions of reckless drivers and I have constantly called them out, but I hardly the rest of you calling out jaywalkers and rogue cyclists. Also, I find those pushing for us motorists to follow every letter of law while they aren't are nothing but hypocrites as well as having no moral legitimacy to what they have to say. If you truly believe that rules are so important, than how about following what you are supposed to following? The only way the streets will really be safe will be if all groups following the laws, not just one only. Having such an attitude is why call out the double standard not mention the anti-car bias.

Mar. 19 2014 05:52 PM
TOM from Brooklyn

Can you direct me to source where I can access the disaggregated year-by-year fatality/serious injury counts over time(from about 1920 when these numbers were collected) for just NYC?

Thank you.

Mar. 19 2014 11:20 AM
Gerry Lesk

I have lived most of my life in Manhattan and in my neighborhood, at least, I would rank the threats to pedestrian safety as follows:

1 Pedestrian behavior: nobody pays any attention to traffic lights or signs. I see people walking out into traffic in the middle of blocks talking on a cell phone or looking at some hand-held device, completely unaware of cars coming down the street.

2 Cyclist behavior: nobody pays any attention to traffic lights or signs or the direction all vehicular traffic is supposed to be going in on a particular street, and all too often, ride bikes on the sidewalk.

3 Car Driver behavior: in all my pedestrian experience, the drivers seem to be the most conscientious followers of all the rules, lights and one-way signs.

Mar. 19 2014 11:01 AM

One more for the "stop blaming victims" file:

A plurality of pedestrians who are hit by cars are NOT jaywalking; the ubiquitousness of jaywalking and "jaywaiting" is one of the best traffic calming factors NYC has. Jaywalking and "jaywaitng" SAVE pedestrian lives.

Mar. 19 2014 10:46 AM
kerith from Brooklyn Heights

I'm so glad you are collecting this data! I would like to know if there is just a matter of numbers: New York has many more pedestrians than any other city, density etc. Period. So maybe New York needs to have different traffic patterns - more room for pedestrians, less room for cars. Period.

Mar. 19 2014 10:43 AM

COMPELLING vehicles to go slower--by various (and, make no mistake--POSSIBLE) means would make these "blame pedestrian" voices like this woman on now and that truck driver utterly, and RIGHTLY, irrelevant and therefore rightly silent. There should be no right to go fast on city streets. There's no reason for it, and it does more harm than good.

Mar. 19 2014 10:40 AM

"Who Is Dying...and WHY?"

The broad answer to "why" is very easy: it's because everything about how NYC governs its roads--from how they are laid out to how its users' behavior is treated under the legal system--says that car occupants are more important than non-car occupants.

Of course it's not true that they actually are more important, anywhere in the world. But if there's any place it's especially untrue, it's New York City. Yet we operate as if it was true.

Mar. 19 2014 10:32 AM
editor123 from Brooklyn

Thank you WNYC. Please keep the awareness up and the pressure on city officials to make our streets safer.

Mar. 19 2014 09:59 AM
LN from Manhattan

A cyclist killed in 2014

Vehicles do not drive into people, drivers do, why post the model/make of the car/truck?

Post information about drivers including if commercial vehicles what company owns the truck and is employing the driver.

Mar. 19 2014 09:55 AM
Please Slow Down from NYC

This is a useful resource in accessing who, how, and where people are dieing in traffic. Hopefully this will promote further awareness. Thank you.

Mar. 19 2014 09:46 AM

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