11 Traffic Deaths In 15 Days, de Blasio Vows to Take Action

Wednesday, January 15, 2014 - 01:06 PM

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio (Brigid Bergin/WNYC)

Speaking outside a Queens school where an eight-year-old boy was recently struck down by a truck, Bill de Blasio says New York City will take immediate steps to stem traffic fatalities.

"The goal is literally to reduce fatalities on our roadways to zero. That is our singular focus," he said.

In recent days, the mayor has been urged to move forward on his "Vision Zero" traffic safety goal, especially since eleven people—seven of them pedestrians—have already been killed in traffic in the first 15 days of this year.

De Blasio said starting Thursday, New York City's speed cameras—finally assented to by Albany—will begin issuing tickets instead of warnings.

Because speed cameras require state approval, the city can only install 20 of them. But the mayor says he wants more.

"We're going to fight for the home rule right to install speed cameras and red  light cameras wherever data shows they will make our street safer," he said. "Look, this is a right our city needs to have. We need to be able to protect our people...we should not have to constantly go to Albany."

De Blasio also said he's creating an interagency working group that will report back to him by February 15th. The group, which he said touches on every agency but especially the NYC Department of Transportation, the NYPD, the Taxi and Limousine Commission, and the city's health department, is charged with figuring out a plan to deter and enforce dangerous driving behaviors, improve at least 50 dangerous corridors, expand the number of 20 mph zones across the city, and pursue a "traffic safety legislative agenda."

In the immediate future, the NYPD will increase the number of personnel dedicated to serious traffic violation enforcement, adding 60 officers to a squad that currently stands at 210. A police officer will also be stationed on Northern Boulevard in Queens, the site of the crash that killed eight-year-old Noshat Nahian.

Families of traffic fatality victims attending Mayor de Blasio's press conference (photo by Brigid Bergin/WNYC)

Police commissioner Bill Bratton said the department had also recently expanded both the number and type of collisions it investigates, and had had harsh words for a previous NYPD policy. In the past, he said, "many, many serious accident investigations, involving serious injuries, were not seriously investigated." Bratton added that the NYPD's goal would be to investigate all serious accidents.

Bratton said the NYPD would be cracking down on driving behaviors that lead to crashes, such as disobeying signs, improper turns, failure to yield to pedestrians, distracted driving, and speeding. At the precinct level, more officers will be trained on newer-technology laser speed measurement, and precincts will be required to submit pedestrian safety plans.

This is "an effort that the police department is committed to," Bratton said. "A life lost is a life lost, whether by murder or by traffic accident."

De Blasio campaigned on "Vision Zero," an approach to traffic fatalities that treats every death as preventable. He's been meeting with the families of traffic crash victims, many of whom were in attendance at the press conference. "They, to me, are moral arbiters in this fight," he said.

Advocates praised the announcement. Paul Steely White, the head of Transportation Alternatives, said de Blasio's commitment to this issue is "heartening," as is his willingness to work with victims' families. "No one speaks with such moral authority as New Yorkers who have lost loved ones, and that will make all the difference as we need to change the law in Albany and as we continue to keep this issue on the front burner," said White.

Audrey Anderson is the mother of a victim.

"My loss is with me everyday," said Anderson, who lost her 14-year-old son Andre Anderson in September 2005. She says he was riding his bike on Shorefront Parkway in Queens when he struck from behind by an SUV and killed. "There are days that I just cry like that, walking, on the subway, on the job, at home. I can't even attend family functions and not think about him. It's deep and it's personal and everyone processes it differently. When it hits me, I don't care where I am, I'm going to cry and if you want to look at me and think I'm crazy, that's fine. That's my grief, my pain, and I'm going to handle it whatever way suits my soul," said Anderson.

Audrey Anderson (photo by Brigid Bergin/WNYC)

But after de Blasio's announcement, she still had a question. "What constitutes criminality in reckless driving and accident investigations?" said an exasperated Anderson. "We have no idea what that is. I tried to pursue that angle when Andre died and I ended up with a blank wall. I really want to know."

Anderson didn't feel like any of the new proposals would have prevented her son's death. But she did call it a step in the right direction.



Comments [36]

Jim Demers from NYC

I'm both a driver and a pedestrian in Manhattan. The worst offenders I see are cyclists, who cruise through red lights with impunity -- and do so with the attitude that they've got the right of way, counting on people seeing them and not wanting to get hit. Nothing will stop them until the NYPD cracks down, and maybe impounds the bikes of habitual offenders. As for the delivery guys, at night, without lights, despite laws that require them ... what can I say? I drive carefully, try to look every which way, and still I find these idiots zipping past my front bumper as I enter almost any intersection. (They'll sue you for every dime they can get, too, if you aren't able to stop in time. (Insurers hand them $10k to make them go away ... you have to wonder if they're hoping to get knocked down.)

Second worst are the red-light runners in cars (not often taxis), blasting through an intersection, in a rush to get to the red light one block further down the street. When pedestrians get a "WALK" signal, it means it MIGHT be OK to cross; you're crazy if you don't wait for these clowns to fly by.

Red light cameras? Can't get enough of 'em, in my opinion. My only complaint is that the yellow lights on the West Side Highway below 57th St are too quick to go red. (Funny how that's where the city puts their cameras...)

Feb. 02 2014 03:29 AM
Chang from NYC

What I observe through the windshield inside the car as a driver at the red light: A pedestrian is crossing with a dog actively watching all over and sniffing around. By the time dog is in front of car, I can't see the dog below bumper but owner is not aware looking into phone and actually he is not even aware of turning car in his way because he has the right of the way while dog is staring at the car with some fear. Completely unaware of driver's perspective which has blind spot below hood and side beams of windshield while turning.

Once, just once, pedestrians and bikers should be informed and taught how to cross streets defensively in order to reduce avoidable tragedies.

Jan. 31 2014 11:53 PM
Adela from brooklyn

Traffic light cameras can create more accidents than they prevent. A driver should be concerned about driving, not about avoiding a ticket. If he really wants to stop accidents, give time for the drivers to stop in a traffic light with more warning and eliminate the cameras.
Also, acknowledge that it snows in the city and get some salt trucks, it is beyond belief that the local government pretends a garbage truck with an attached plow is good enough. Ice is not picked up by such frankenplows.

Jan. 29 2014 02:03 PM
Al Cinamon from Yonkers

Typical. Pander to the families of the victim by putting a cop on the corner where he was killed. Why wasn't there a cop before he was killed? Why aren't killer driver charged with murder or manslaughter? Why is it legal to kill with a car unless you're unlicensed or drunk?

Jan. 17 2014 05:54 PM
Cynzanne from Brooklyn

HOW ABOUT .... any time your car winds up on the sidewalk, you are charged with reckless driving. PERIOD.

Jan. 16 2014 09:39 PM
Max Planck from NY

Unfortunately, these cameras will be used as revenue raisers, not enforcement tools. They can also be set to issue a summons if you're a nanosecond past a yellow light. Nassau County has been raking in HUGE amounts of money from them. They will NOT change driver behavior.

Jan. 16 2014 08:43 PM
David from Brooklyn

There is so much that could be done in terms of traffic enforcement. Where I live (in Brooklyn), gangs of thugs on motorcycles regularly intimidate people, ride on sidewalks, run red lights, speed on the streets both with and against the flow of traffic.

I was thinking about this situation this morning when I heard of DeBlasio's new effort (which seems commendable). A quick search on YouTube led me to this astounding video -- not even a week ago, thugs on motorcycles shutting down Broadway in northern Manhattan. Apparently this happened within a couple of blocks of a police precinct. Really worth watching:

Jan. 16 2014 02:23 PM
John M from New York City

As a daily bike commuter in NYC, I'm glad to read this story. People go I.N.S.A.N.E. when you put them behind the wheel and pen them into the big city streets. They drive with no appreciation for the fragility of life.

I always wonder how a speeder feels in the moments after they kill a pedestrian, simply because they were rushing to go somewhere "important." Probably pretty stupid.

Car free NYC by 2020!!!

Jan. 16 2014 02:10 PM
TOM from Brooklyn

January 1st is nationally the most dangerous day of the year for pedestrians(I wonder why?). What was the count in NYC this year and did it skew this number of fatalities for the fortnight?

Jan. 16 2014 01:14 PM
R. Baines. from Manhattan.

I live in Manhattan near the toll free, 59th Street bridge. The intersections around here on First, Second and Third Avenues are really dangerous for a pedestrian to navigate and attempt to cross at all times but especially during the rush hours. The trucks and cars both coming or going to Queens become frustrated by the vehicular congestion and having to wait to access, or exit the bridge, so consequently take very little notice of the laws, speed when they can, block the box, and generally ignore pedestrian safety. More cameras, fines, and enforcement of the existing laws Mayor De Blasio, please!

Jan. 16 2014 01:12 PM
Karen Gourgey

Accessible pedestrian signals (aps) are critical to a safer streetscape in New York City. They are signals that add audio and tactile output that lets a person with vision loss or hearing loss know for sure when the walk sign is on. In 2011, aps were installed at 23rd street and 7th avenue in Manhattan. Since their installation, DOT reports that the number of accidents has been significantly reduced. Anecdotally, we know that aps are helpful to people in wheelchairs, people whose vision is temporarily obscured by the sun and many others. The correlation between aps and reduced accidents should be studied. In addition, the City desperately needs more of these accessible signals, particularly when signaling is nonstandard.

Jan. 16 2014 11:52 AM
Bonn from East Village

Some years ago, I read an article in an international magazine about foreign drivers. It said that because traffic laws were lenient or not enforced in many countries (or bribes easily taken), these drivers didn't bother with obeying laws and fatalities were common, and they also didn't have the skills to drive. Unfortunately, many of these drivers are now our cabbies. The TLC needs to monitor more properly the people they hire - more training in driving skills, politeness (especially toward women customers) and more knowledge of the city streets. If they get tickets, they need to be warned, required to be retrained or terminated. There is also a mindset that needs to be addressed. I remember when a former Indian policeman was telling me about a fire in a building in India in which many people were killed. I said how tragic. He replied, "It's okay. We have a lot more people." What also needs to be addressed is licensing. I heard that some people go to other states to get their driver's licenses because it is easier. I don't know if these licenses are accepted in NYS, but if so, maybe they need to reapply here.

Jan. 16 2014 11:52 AM
Don P in Queens from Middle Village NYC

Many streets have lights timed so you have to drive 40 MPH to keep up with the green lights. Drive below 40 MPH and you will be stopped by red lights. The DOT wants to enable faster traffic despite the 30 MPH speed limit. Woodhaven Blvd, Crossbay Blvd, and Central Ave in Glendale are all timed for 40 MPH. It would cost very little to correct the timing, as many are controlled by central computers.

Jan. 16 2014 11:11 AM
Anne McCoy from Upper West Side

I would like the police to stop any driver turning into pedestrians who have a green light. Too often cars sit in the left-turn lane of a major avenue waiting for the light to change so they can turn. However, many often don't wait for the light to change and actually run the red light while pedestrians are crossing the street they are turning into. I have almost been hit a number of times by these drivers, who are breaking the law.

Jan. 16 2014 11:00 AM

From Lefferts Gardens - Empire Boulevard is ridiculous - even the traffic cops don't know what to do - we are DESPERATE for speeding regulations - these cars drive above 40 on a regular basis and this is a residential area with schools - at least 2 schools in a 3 block radius. The noise pollution is horrible as well - we can hear the seeding cars on the 6th floor of our building.
I grew up on a highway in Virginia and these cars int he middle of Brooklyn are just as loud and just as fast.

I certainly hope De Blasio makes traffic a high priority.

Jan. 16 2014 10:54 AM
Ryan from NYC

Some people are idiots. These same people can be pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists and different times in the same day, and idiots each time. As pedestrians, they are most likely to only hurt or kill themselves other than through secondary effects, so we give them leeway -- even Rhoda probably doesn't bother the cops every time she sees a pedestrian jaywalk in NYC, or she'd have no free time left. Cyclists are more like pedestrians or vehicles depending on their speeds -- the someone crossing a red light on a 5mph Citibike after stopping and looking is no different than a jaywalking pedestrian, very different than the (much, MUCH rarer) racing cyclist barreling through a busy crosswalk at 30 mph. This is what people tend to think of when they talk about cyclists, but I've seen that happen maybe once in the past three years. When traveling quickly cyclists can cause grievous injury, so we regulate them more than pedestrians, but deaths caused are EXTREMELY rare -- the last one was five years ago. Taking a shower is far more dangerous to your life than walking around cyclists.

Then these same idiots get behind a car. The difference is this time they can easily kill people. I'm a good driver, and in my past there were certainly times that if a pedestrian had been in the road I would have hit them because I was distracted. Cars are giant hunks of metal powered by explosions, and in dense areas they should be intensely regulated to the point of being very annoying to use for non-commercial use. For less dense, car-centered culture, kindly go to anywhere else in America, even a few miles east or west. Central NYC is dense and has lots of transit. Short non-commercial car trips are not the most efficient or publicly effective mode of transportation here, and laws and roads need to be designed to that end.

Jan. 16 2014 10:38 AM
Ben from Prospect heights

Could you please ask your guest to explain the law "failure to yield"?

Jan. 16 2014 10:38 AM
sarah from Prospect heights

I live in far more fear of violence by cars then other violent crime in this city. With all do respect to police officers we, and especially our children are in the line of fire too. Please enforce our traffic laws.

Jan. 16 2014 10:35 AM

The TLC has to have more programs to enforce non-agressive driving behavior in cabbies. When you are behind the wheel and your only motivation is to make a buck, safety is your least concern. This needs to change.

Furthermore a special permit needs to be required for any vehicle driving in NYC in addition your regular NYS issued license... You take a specialized safety class specifically for the purpose of teaching non-agressive driving in a non-suburban zone with a lot of pedestrians and with this additional permit you will be able to drive in the 5 boroughs. If you are caught without it, a $1000 fine. If you appear at a boarder bridge or tunnel without it, you are turned away and not allowed into the city. This will reduce traffic and generate income for the city for other driver safety measure like additional required safety classes for CDL's and cabbies.

Jan. 16 2014 10:22 AM
Owen from Crown Heights

When you see pedestrians waving to cars who yield you know who is in charge in the streets. Size matters and many drivers live by this rule. If you get in my way you are likely to get hurt...

Jan. 16 2014 10:03 AM
sarah from Prospect heights

I live in far more fear of violence by cars then other violent crime in this city. With all do respect to police officers we, and especially our children are in the line of fire too. Please enforce our traffic laws.

Jan. 16 2014 09:56 AM

Venus, you said that as a driver, "it is particularly more difficult as a large majority of NYC pedestrians wear black/dark colored clothing and the city has many optical illusions because of lights and reflections."

There's a very simple way to remedy that problem: slow down to a speed that is safe enough that you can expect those surprises. Most drivers don't, and that's the whole point here.

Jan. 16 2014 09:47 AM
Rhoda M. Gilinsky from manhattan

One of the major problems for pedestrians in recent months is bicycles. Most do not obey traffic signals and at night many have no lights or reflectors that indicate their presence. I asked a policeman why he didn't stop a bicycle that hadn't stopped for a red light and he shrugged it off.

Jan. 16 2014 09:46 AM
David from nyc


Lets start with more foreign born NYer's.

More NYer's with English as a second language.

Add in more complex autos(A new owners manual is over 1000 pages)

and lets throw in the mix handheld devices

Can speed cameras really change this ??

Jan. 16 2014 09:45 AM
ben from brooklyn

I now have met two children who have been struck and killed IN CROSSWALKS.
If you are worried for you children's safety like I am please speak up.
Prosecute failure to yield to the fullest extent of the law and start investigating these deaths as the crimes they are. If you take a turn into a crosswalk without care of children, even if they are running across the street, YOU ARE AT FAULT.

Jan. 16 2014 09:42 AM
Paul from Hoboken

Proper driver's training for all cabbies; some of them are not qualified to operate a rickshaw, yet a crown-vick.

Jan. 16 2014 09:29 AM
Elaine M from Prospect Heights

This is an enforcement problem. People can drive like maniacs in this city with impunity. We all see it: cars racing through to make a yellow light, speeding down neighborhood streets, nearly running over pedestrians who have the right of way at a light because they want to turn three seconds sooner. There are precincts that have gone without issuing a single speeding ticket over a whole month! The NYPD has in the past blamed it on a lack of radar guns, according to Gothamist.

Jan. 16 2014 09:23 AM
Venus from New York City

I am a driver in NY and there are already stuff penalties in place. In my experience pedestrians are very unaware of driver's perspective. They take risks incessantly without knowing often times drivers can't see them especially at night on a rainy night. It is particularly more difficult as a large majority of NYC pedestrians wear black/dark colored clothing and the city has many optical illusions because of lights and reflections. Drivers and pedestrians need to be responsible and take all necessary precautions. Aside from stiffer penalties on drivers there should be an analysis done to evaluate all aspects. Often pedestrians and cyclist are talking/texting on their cell phones or have earphones on and they are not paying attention. I once had a near miss with a young lady who didn't lookup from her phone and she had on earphones and just walked into traffic on a green light. And this happens too frequently. There needs to be public service announcements educating people about hazards and to take precautions.

Jan. 16 2014 09:14 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

Increase the number of red light cameras; double the fines and the points. Even though red light cameras can't tell who is driving, when the fines start adding up for the owner, and the insurance premiums start increasing, owners won't be loaning out their vehicles to people who are getting the tickets.

The reasoning here is that so many drivers accelerate when they see a yellow light, that they wind up going faster through the red light that ensues and people who already have a walk sign and are walking are not expecting that car coming through the light.

Jan. 16 2014 08:55 AM
David from New Jersey

Unless severe punishment is meted out to those who break traffic laws this carnage will never ever end.

Jan. 16 2014 08:50 AM

We are currently trying to overcome resistance in CB9 and CB10 to a common sense solution to unsafe streets on Morningside Ave. This is a low traffic street, 10 cars per signal cycle, and it borders a park for almost the entire length that is being considered. Some of the suggestions in this DOT proposal: a stop sign at 118th street; reducing the road from 4 lanes to three, with one of those lanes being used as a turning bay for left turn traffic; protected islands for pedestrians crossing the street to and from the park; an added pedestrian cross walk and signal at a dangerous intersection - 125th street and Hancock. There has been one death, and over 100 injuries over the past decade and these street improvement have been made in other neighborhoods with a demonstrated reduction in injuries as well as in the speed of traffic.

I have read too many comments that defend the right of vehicles to go fast. Well, I live in this neighborhood, and I don't feel comfortable ceding my right to safely cross this street to somebody who wants to quickly pass through my neighborhood. Every person who wants to drive fast through my neighborhood: think about how it feels when somebody does that in YOUR neighborhood. And remember, here in Manhattan, if you own a car you are in the minority. Less than 24% of Manhattanites own a car. This number, unfortunately, is not reflected in the make up of our Community Boards and Transportation Committees, which is why they are so often able to block sensible street improvements, usually in defense of parking or the right to drive fast.

Enough is enough. Get on the bus, get on a bike , walk to the store, and stop thinking it is your right to drive fast in exchange for an "acceptable risk" of someone else getting injured or killed.

Jan. 16 2014 08:24 AM
Paul T. from Manhattan

I live on Prince Street near W. Broadway. Taxi cabs race down this street just to catch the lights. I would say 40mph. Speed bumps would definitely help. Or stagger the lights differently. I was sideswiped by a SUV while on my bike and knocked to the ground by a driver who was on the phone texting. I was not hurt badly, thank goodness. It is really a dangerous street. Do something about this.

Jan. 16 2014 08:10 AM
DF from NYC

Yesterday on the corner of Broadway and 97 Street at about 7 PM two cops were sitting in a police car blocking the street toward West End Avenue; a M96 bus couldn't turn into the street and started backing up into pedestrian traffic so he could continue up Broadway. Two women screamed and he heard them and stopped. This was one block between the two fatalities on Friday. I went over to the car; they were oblivious to what happened, argued with me that buses were allowed on 97 Street despite their blocking the street. I did not see how the bus driver would have known that; they acted like I was the problem for bringing it up and neither got out of the car to deal with the crisis they created. Two issues: creating a hazard without dealing with it and talking to me like I was the problem for pointing out the almost accident.

Jan. 16 2014 06:54 AM
CG from Greenpoint

Best news I've heard all day! Long overdue. McGuinness Blvd in Greenpoint needs a 20 mile an hour speed zone, left hand turn signals and speed cameras stat! We've had 5 people die at the same intersection in recent memory. There are too many reckless drivers in NYC.

Jan. 16 2014 12:06 AM

So many of the speed limits are so low, that hardly anyone obeys them and they are usually not affected by them. When a lot of people start getting tickets for driving at normal and reasonable speeds, if indeed tickets are issued for going above the posted speed limit, this matter will come up again via public demand, in the long run, and actual posted speed limits will rise, as they should. Accidents happen, and we all participate in that extremely small risk, to not have to move at a snail's pace.

Jan. 15 2014 11:43 PM
Art Vandelay

Speed cameras?
Speed cameras have one use and one use only - to generate revenue - often just for the companies that install and maintain them.
There are documented cases where accidents and fatalities have gone up due to their use.
If people are more worried about what speed they are going because of speed cameras they are more likely to be looking at the speedometer instead of at the road.

Jan. 15 2014 04:38 PM

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