Tracking NYC's Traffic Deaths

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Families of traffic fatalities attending Mayor BilldeBlasio's announcement about preventing future deaths. (Brigid Bergin/WNYC)

It's the year of "Vision Zero" but in 2014 there have already been 46 traffic deaths, from bikers to pedestrians to drivers and passengers. WNYC reporters Jim O'Grady and Kat Aaron talk about the new Transportation Nation database, tracking these deaths, and Jim's reporting on one victim -- four-year-old Allison Liao, struck by a car in Flushing, Queens.


Kat Aaron and Jim O'Grady

Comments [38]

Jason from NYC

Why don't we have better traffic light systems that don't rely on drivers to decide whether to drive through people. This is how Allison Liao died. The car had a green light and so did Allison and her grandma. Pedestrians have the right of way, but people are idiots. Rather then rely on them, lets change the traffic lights so this doesn't happen. It might slow down traffic in some places but Id rather people like Allison be alive.

Thankfully with advances in car safety features we will eventually look back on these days as the dark ages of driving when thousands of teenagers killed themselves every year because their cars weren't smart enough to stop them and urban drivers could kill people daily without recourse.

Also our laws are created by people who care more about their next campaign then doing what's right even if they think they are being altruistic you can't escape the political system we have.


Nov. 20 2014 12:14 PM
FatOtto from Manhattan

Does anyone have any suggestions on where I might find info on how fast cars were travelling in accidents where deaths occurred? I'm very interested in the current push to lower the speed limit to 25 mph but I wonder how much of a difference this will make in the long run if the speed limit is not enforced.

Aug. 11 2014 09:43 AM
Please Slow Down from NYC

Thank you WNYC for covering this issue.

Lives are worth more than negligible inconvenience for a small minority of our city.

Please slow down. Please be aware.

Mar. 20 2014 06:53 PM
Safe streets in Harlem petition from Harlem

Reads please sign.

Mar. 19 2014 07:58 PM

This blaming of pedestrians is BULL.

A plurality, if not a majority, of pedestrians who are hit by cars are NOT jaywalking. In fact I think most of them are in the crosswalk with the light. (Or perhaps that's the majority of those who are killed.) To the contrary of what selfish drivers and low-self-esteem pedestrians think, the ubiquitousness of jaywalking and "jaywaiting" in NYC is one of the best traffic calming factors NYC has. Jaywalking and "jaywaitng" SAVE pedestrian lives by slowing the psychopaths down.

Compelling vehicles to go slower--by various (and, make no mistake--POSSIBLE) means would make these "blame pedestrian" voices irrelevant and 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.

Very regrettably, 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. Time to stop groveling before the city-destroying Moloch of fast driving on city streets.

Mar. 19 2014 01:31 PM
Jf from Car dystopia

Cars cause lung cancer, great mouthfuls of soot smog and asthma. They make my life uNbearable, ban them.

Mar. 19 2014 12:40 PM

Such a complex issue. Our infrastructure is lagging, enforcement is sporadic at best, the law forgives recklessness, and citizens are ignorant to basic safe streets etiquette. I applaud vision zero for addressing engineering, enforcement, and educational aspects of our shared streets. Thank you WNYC for keeping the light shining on this issue.

Re: victim blaming. I would like to believe that if every pedestrian crossed at the crosswalk, and every bicyclist stopped at red lights, their reformed behavior would somehow teach motorists how to share the road safely with the rest of us. I fear this is delusional. Motorists must be the engine of reform and take responsibility for the recklessness of commonplace activities like operating a multi-ton vehicle in hurry through residential streets. Safety first principles must guide our engineering, enforcement, and education of motorists.

Mar. 19 2014 11:55 AM
LLLD from New York

Is the driver from New Haven ignoring the rule that when she makes a turn she needs to YELD to pedestrians who have the green light? Most of the close calls I've seen in New York involve vehicles making turns when the light is GREEN for pedestrians, and not when people are jaywalking. My experience is that pedestrians don't bang on cars for fun, or when they are jaywalking, but when they feel their rights have been violated.

Mar. 19 2014 11:27 AM

Many countries believe that your fate is "In the Cards" (or as the Chinese say, up to Joss.) This is a cultural mindset and I blame it for myopic, selfish and of course dangerous behavior. It absolves the individual from responsibility.

Second generation immigrants seem to be immune from this particular affliction, in my observation.

Mar. 19 2014 11:20 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Well said Art: Sorry to hear that. I got whacked by a cyclist, riding the wrong way on a one way street. He fell off and even though I got hit, I reactivity apologized, he yelled at me "that I should watch where I was going" and of course - I then let him have it.

Mar. 19 2014 11:06 AM
Steve from Queens NY

I drive 3 days a week for a major rent-a-car company. We move cars and trucks between the 5 boroughs of NYC and the tri-state area. I do agree with the truck driver that NYC pedestrians walk with reckless abandon when crossing the city streets and to top it off some are plugged into to their audio device of looking at their cell phone texting or talking etc.. While J-walking or stepping off the curb while waiting for the light to change They need to be ticked for doing these things. In CA cars come to a stop when a pedestrian steps on to the street, how can we start changing the culture on New Yorkers to try and get to that point. I have worked in NY, NJ, CT, MA, CO, CA. And I think NY has the most aggressive but best drivers. I just think we all need to slow down; drivers, bicycles & pedestrians and enjoy the city.

Mar. 19 2014 11:04 AM
Anthony Terranova from United States

I have been following this story for a while. I am a commercial drive for 40 years. I believe there is no way to prevent accidents between vehicles and peds unless NYC institutes 4 way red light intersections. No mention has been made. Pedestrians should not have to compete with vehicles making right or left turns through a crosswalk they have the right of way to ealk through. This conflict causes the accidents. A clear four way red light gives pedestrians a clear path in any direction

Mar. 19 2014 10:58 AM
art525 from Park Slope

I'm with you Sheldon. Yes bikers are less likely to kill someone although there were a number of cases where bikers put pedestrains in the hospital a couple of summers ago. I wonder if those bikers faced any charges. I don't think so. But bikers are the most cavalier in ignoring traffic laws. At least once a day a biker flies by me as I am crossing with the light. I have lived in New York for 35 years and I have to say that in the last few years I have felt a diminishment in the quality of life when you constantly have to keep swiveling your head to watch for errant bikers. I had one the other day who appeared at my shoulder brushing against me as he weaved through a crowd of pedestrians crossing with the light. He rode in their direction rather than across them and veered in and out of the crowd like a salmon swimming upstream. The other day a young woman rode the wrong way down one way Court street and right through the crosswalk as we had the light. I yelled at her and her response was -of course- "What is your problem"? My problem is you. And your arrogance. And sense of self entitlement.

Mar. 19 2014 10:58 AM
PC from Upper West Side from NYC

Some misc. comments:

-Bring back Mayor Koch's "don't block the box!" - it's very scary for pedestrians to have to walk into traffic to cross the street because the crosswalk is blocked by cars.

-The city needs to clarify the law re. whether cars have the right to drive when they are waiting at the median between two roads (for ex, upper Broadway) and have a red light. I don't know what the law is, but clearly some drivers believe it's okay to drive through the red light. If okay, it shouldn't be. I was almost hit last week by a driver going through the red light while I was crossing with a green light.

-I'm alive today only because I look sideways/behind me to check for drivers when I cross the street and can run. Many years ago when crossing CPW and 77th street I saw a cab slowly driving into a turn toward me. Assuming his slow speed indicated he saw me and was waiting for me I kept crossing. But he kept on driving right into me. I had to run across the street to avoid being run over. The cab clipped me but I was okay. Had I been walking and looking ahead or unable to run I would be dead.

Mar. 19 2014 10:51 AM
linda Baumgarten from NYC

Friend hit by car walking in crosswalk, with light, on March 11, about 3:00 PM.
She is one lucky person in that all tests showed nothing broken and she didn't have skull
fracture. Car apparently was trying to make light. Presenttly she is in a lot of
pain and would like to follow up with orthopedist. No Fault insurance
is making this very difficult because doctors do not accept this. In how many
ways must she be a victim?
And while I am writing, what about the scooters, bikes and skateboards that will
soon be visiting our city streets withg full parental permission when it's a chile.
Walking is becoming quite scary.

Mar. 19 2014 10:49 AM
Muriel from Financial District

As long as there are no clearly and solely designated times and places for pedestrians to cross safely there will be jay walkers. I will be one. Currently every time the crosswalk is designated for pedestrians, the pedestrians and the turning traffic have to jockey for position. This is dangerous and frustrating for both drivers and pedestrians. I am both a driver and a pedestrian. NYC is a a walking city first and that fact is not respected or accounted for like it is in all European cities. Pedestrians need more leeway, longer lights, and designated time when its only pedestrians and no turning vehicles to stare down as you try to dodge between them. Because of this problem I usually prefer to cross in the middle of a block between lights when I can see that the road is clear. That's not good either.

Mar. 19 2014 10:48 AM
Shawn from Bergen

I'm a trauma surgeon, and I trained in NYC.

I agree with the callers about pedestrians being at fault. Anecdotally, the vast majority of "pedestrian struck" accidents we saw while I was training in NYC were due to jaywalking. Particularly Queens. For some reason, the people in Queens just have no respect for crosswalks, and the amount of jaywalking is staggering.

Bikers are no better. They disregard the traffic laws unless it benefits them. They run lights, weave through traffic, and get hit. We saw it constantly. So I think education programs for citizens regarding jaywalking and inappropriate biking is in order.

Mar. 19 2014 10:47 AM
Robert from NYC

Disclaimer: I am not a driver, never have been, wouldn't know how to start a vehicle, no license and don't ride bikes so I am strictly pedestrian. But pedestrians AND drivers including bikers ALL have to get on the ball and work on this. I am also no angel, I cross against lights and in the middle of streets when I know and see there is no traffic or traffic so far away enough for me to make it across as slowly as I walk. I don't head into traffic and if I see only one biker coming who has the light I wait for the biker to pass me and always stop for traffic. But the "challengers" really should think twice for their own sake and that of others before the charge into traffic.

Mar. 19 2014 10:45 AM
RJ from prospect hts

Cab drivers used to be employees, with all the usual circumstances--guaranteed wages, benefits etc. If they didn't have to worry about their daily contract fees, and gas rates on top of it, the pressure to make a decent living would be considerably reduced. Years ago I did research on the cab industry and found an article in a taxi industry magazine that said that making drivers independent contractors (as in the dominant current situation) is the best way to avoid a union.

Mar. 19 2014 10:43 AM
Tony from UWS

I live on the corner where the 9 year old boy was killed by a taxi in January. No one has spoken about all of the changes that the DOT made to make traffic move faster in the city prior to this. In my neighborhood alone lights have changed, left turn lanes have been added, etc.

Mar. 19 2014 10:43 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

The problem here is that New York has a corrupt and incompetent law making body. Where are the traffic laws that need to cover an ever growing NYC population? Divers kill people and get way with it?
Again the problem is this corrupt, Tammany Hall Hall bunch of looser in Albany.

Mar. 19 2014 10:43 AM
Ted Todorov from Manhattan

West 72nd St. between Columbus & CPW cars *constantly* make illegal u-turns, on a block full of bikers heading for Central Park. A disaster waiting to happen, I have never seen a single ticket handed out.

West 77th St. between Columbus & CPW - both bike lanes routinely used as double-parking lanes. I have never seen a single ticket handed out.

Mar. 19 2014 10:43 AM
dennis from Brooklyn

Enforcement will only have a marginal effect on pedestrian deaths. Drivers cannot be counted to drive well. Most don't.
However, one way that might have a big effect is to re-set lights. Instead of a two-cycle progression of red, green to green, red. There should be a three-cycle progression of red, green to red, red to green, red. The red, red would be obviously for the pedestrians.

Also, pedestrians must stay on the sidewalks. Once in the street, it is the pedestrian's responsibility to look 360 degrees continuously.

Mar. 19 2014 10:42 AM
Joris from NYC

WHen there's an accident involving an injury, do the police check drivers' cell phone records to see if they were talking on the phone when it happened?

Mar. 19 2014 10:40 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Pedestrians always have the right of way but the truck driver has a point. Many NYC pedestrians are rather cavalier about safety, assuming that they can always sue - flesh vs metal will always have one winner.

Mar. 19 2014 10:40 AM
Laura Foulke from NYC

As a pedestrian and bike rider, it has been my observation that nights on NYC streets are ruled by reckless taxi and limo drivers. There is absolutely NO enforcement at night--I'm sure this makes a huge difference.

Mar. 19 2014 10:40 AM
Robert from NYC

The fault is on all sides, frankly. I see pedestrians cross into heavy traffic arrogantly as if drivers should just stop on a dime. We all need to be educated. Bikers on the sidewalk at high speeds must be stopped and respect for drivers, bikers and pedestrians. I've seen pedestrians cross when I bike is coming thinking "oh, s/he'll go around me!"
Yeah it's everybody's fault here.

Mar. 19 2014 10:39 AM
Shawn Onsgard from Brooklyn

I would like to see minor traffic violation enforcement supplant stop and frisk practices as a means of reducing criminal behavior in the city. People who feel they are above the law show it with how they drive and endanger the rest of us.

Mar. 19 2014 10:39 AM
stefano from 11206

I agree with the caller about the high beams allover the city. so many drivers also use blinding fog lights when there is no need. They should only be used on country roads and when fog is present, but I have never seen the NYPD cracking down on that.

I am a driver, a bicyclists and a pedestrian.

High beams in my rear view mirror or in my windshield are really an hazard.

Mar. 19 2014 10:38 AM
Phil from Bronx, NY

There seems to be a general tendency at the city and community board levels that emphasizes driver convenience over pedestrian safety. There was a huge battle in the NE Bronx over the last few years over the reversal of a street which now allows traffic coming off a parkway to enter a residential street at full speed instead of the adjacent service road with much fewer houses with no parking on one side of the street. We lost and the community board members were swayed by people that wanted the convenience of cutting through a residenital street instead of the street of the more traffic controlled service road. We lost that battle even though we showed the number of accidents now are increasing. I wish we had the talk of vision zero then. Until this mindset chsnges and pedestrians are put ahread of drivers, there are going to be instances of this all the time.

Mar. 19 2014 10:37 AM
louis from Brooklyn

The corner street signs are terrible. They're badly faded and they're on every 2nd or 3rd corner which makes looking for an address while driving extremely difficult and dangerous. In addition apartment buildings and other commercial establishments do not have readable building numbers that a driver could see from the street while driving.

Mar. 19 2014 10:36 AM
Francis from Greenpoint

I believe you're incorrect, Brian. There are drivers who are that cavalier. They may not be trying to hit people, but I believe they knowingly make turns into crossing pedestrians in such a way, they know there's a chance they can hit someone, just because they believe they are above pedestrians.

Mar. 19 2014 10:36 AM
louis from Brooklyn

The corner street signs are terrible. They're badly faded and they're on every 2nd or 3rd corner which makes looking for an address while driving extremely difficult and dangerous. In addition apartment buildings and other commercial establishments do not have readable building numbers that a driver could see from the street while driving.

Mar. 19 2014 10:35 AM
B from UWS

How many pedestrian accidents involve city buses? I've had a couple of near-death experiences while standing on a corner next to a bus stop.

Mar. 19 2014 10:32 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

An NYC cyclist complaining about "violating traffic laws" - oh the irony!!!

Mar. 19 2014 10:32 AM
Tom from DC

The problem is that our leadership, in NYC and other cities, do not walk or bike. I live in DC and not a single council member or the mayor walk or bike. They all drive. They think to themselves "if we prosecute drivers for negligence then it might happen to me" so driving collisions that lead to a death are a de facto legal homicide, unless drinking is involved. It is disgusting that the driver could kill a 4-year old and just get two summonses. I hope that driver has nightmares for the rest of his/her life.

Mar. 19 2014 10:32 AM

Some of these traffic deaths seem to be unpreventable due to health problems like driver heart attacks. Is there any correlation to traffic accidents and how long a victim or driver has lived in the city?

Mar. 19 2014 09:58 AM
Tola from Brooklyn

This sounds a bit crazy. In law school about 5 years ago, we were discussing some of the theories behind the excessively lenient car accident laws and drunk driving laws in New York state, and there was some discussion that perhaps Albany law makers hesitate to make these laws stricter as they and more importantly their children would also be subject to these laws. Any credence to this theory. The leniency of these laws are just ridiculous.

Mar. 19 2014 09:33 AM

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