Transportation Nation

Witness: Driver 'Suddenly Pulled Forward' Into Path of Metro-North Train

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Preliminary data from this week's deadly Metro-North collision shows the crossing gate warning system was "operating as designed," according to federal investigators.  
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StoryCorps 410: Standing with a Giant

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

In his early 20s, Max Starkloff was in a near fatal car accident, which left him quadriplegic and living in a nursing home. One day he came across a young woman who worked there, named Colleen. At StoryCorps in St. Louis, Colleen Kelly Starkloff sat down with her daughter, Meaghan Starkloff Breitenstein, to remember him.



Rookie Officer Killed, Eight Injured in Crash of NYPD Van

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Investigators are looking into why the van struck a jersey barrier on the Bruckner Expressway early Sunday morning.

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Transportation Nation

D.C. Residents Seek Safer Streets After Crash

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


More people are walking and riding to work in the nation's capitol. But city streets remain perilous.

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Transportation Nation

Why Driving on the Sidewalk Doesn't Automatically Result in a Ticket

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

When the driver of a Honda Pilot hopped a curb in Queens last week, striking several children, that action triggered an NYPD investigation -- meaning the driver could face consequences. Here's why that's unusual in New York City.

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The Takeaway

Discovery Channel Crashes a 727 (For Science!)

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Have you ever wondered what would happen if the plane you were on crashed? For the first time on television, The Discovery Channel will remotely crash a 727 passenger jet in the Mexican Desert — all in the name of science. Dr. Cindy Bir is the bio mechanist who was responsible for the crash test dummies that were seated on the 727 during the crash.

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Transportation Nation

Dangerous Intersections Get Local Revamp -- but Albany Needs to Step Up, Says City DOT Chief

Thursday, September 27, 2012

(New York, NY -- WNYC) Eight months after a 12-year-old girl was killed crossing a street, safety upgrades have been completed at 14 locations along a notoriously dangerous street on Manhattan's Lower East Side.

New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan unveiled the revamped street on Thursday. The pedestrian crossings have been overhauled and car travel lanes have been re-engineered. Although the impetus for the redesign was the January 2012 death of Dashane Santana, over 700 people have been injured near that stretch of Delancey Street between 2006 and 2009.

Teresa Pedroza, Santana’s grandmother, said that while she's glad the street work has been completed, more could be done. “There are at least a good five or six schools in the immediate area,” Pedroza said. “You have at least eight lanes of traffic and there should be a crossing guard for these kids, especially when it’s time to come out of school.”

Sadik-Khan agreed that the redesign isn't enough -- but she wants more than a crossing guard. "We’re working hard to get speed camera legislation passed in Albany which will go a long way to help us address the problem of speeding and fatalities," she said, "which are a quarter of the traffic fatalities on New York City streets."

A recent city report revealed traffic fatalities are up 23 percent in New York City over a recent twelve-month period, although overall total traffic fatalities are down about 20 percent since 2003. The recent tick upward in New York mirrors a national trend. The federal government projects that traffic fatalities were up 9 percent in the first six months of this year.

Although no immediate reason was given for the increase, Sadik-Khan reiterated drivers need to obey the law. “The problem that we have on New York City streets is that people are speeding, they are running red lights, they are drinking while driving," she said. "These are all significant problems that we need to address.”

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Transportation Nation

Walking While Elderly, Danger Increases with Age in NY Region

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

One potential safety measure, employed in Canada, is explicit signage. (photo by Marcin Wichary via flickr)

In the greater New York City region, older pedestrians are almost two-and-a-half times more likely to be struck and killed by a vehicle than those under age 60.

That's the conclusion in a new report by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign (TSTC), which also found that elderly pedestrians in the NYC area suffer higher fatality rates than the national average.

According to the TSTC, between 2008 and 2010, 435 pedestrians aged 60 years and older were killed on the region’s roads. That age range makes up just over 18 percent of the area's population -- but accounts for 34 percent of pedestrian fatalities.

For those who walk slower, it can be difficult to cross an intersection before the light changes. That's partly why the older a pedestrian gets, the more likely she is to be hit and killed by a car. Those aged 75 years and older fared worst of all, with a fatality rate 3.09 times the rate of those under 60.

According to the report, "older pedestrians in Litchfield County, Connecticut have the highest fatality rate in the region, representing 75 percent of all pedestrian fatalities in the county, but only 22.1 percent of the population."

Nassau County, Queens and Brooklyn in New York and Hudson County, New Jersey, rounded out the top five of worst counties for elderly pedestrian safety.



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Transportation Nation

NYC Council Speaker Not Saying If She'll Back Traffic Crash Investigation Reform

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

(UPDATED)  New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is remaining mum on whether she'll back legislation to reform the way the NYPD investigates traffic crashes.

"As with all legislation on the day that it's introduced," said Quinn, "it will be referred to committee, I will review it, and it'll make its way through the legislative process."

Several New York City Council members have introduced a package of legislation that would broaden the number of crashes the New York Police Department investigates.

Current NYPD policy is to investigate traffic crashes only if the victim is dead or has suffered a life-threatening injury. And only members of the 19-member Accident Investigation Squad can conduct those inquiries.

Some 243 people were killed in traffic crashes in 2011. A TN investigation found that in "all cases where a driver kills someone — pedestrian, cyclist, other motorists, themselves — forty percent of the time, there’s not even a traffic ticket."

Council Member Brad Lander, who's co-sponsoring 'The Crash Investigation Reform Act,' says too few officers are dedicated to crash investigation. "We can train a lot more people to do that investigation work who are patrol officers or regular precinct cops," Lander said.

The bills and resolutions introduced into City Council would also require the NYPD to investigate serious -- not just deadly -- crashes; create a task force analyzing how crashes are investigated; broaden the NYPD's crash statistic reporting; and require the NYPD to collect insurance and ID information from drivers who injure cyclists.

These proposed reforms come five months after a bruising City Council hearing where NYPD brass defended the department's procedures.

"A broad set of people came out of that hearing feeling really troubled," said Lander. He said that he, Peter Vallone, and Jimmy Vacca -- three council members who haven't always agreed on transportation issues -- see eye on eye on this one.

The NYPD did not return a request for comment.



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Transportation Nation

Poor Pedestrians More Likely To Be Struck by Cars

Monday, May 14, 2012

Listen to an audio version of this story here.

Three years ago, Sharon Rodriguez was walking to her job as a bartender at a hockey bar in downtown Newark, near where the Devils play. She says the light turned green, and she stepped out into the intersection.

"And then a car came towards, me, turning. It just hit me from the front. And I slid across the hood." She wound up under the car - at which point, she said, the driver backed up and drove away.

Sharon Rodriguez (photo by Kate Hinds)

Rodriguez says her head hit the hood with such force her fillings popped out of her teeth. She needed stitches in her chin, and her jaw had to be reconstructed. She was taken to the emergency room at The University Hospital in Newark. Dr. David Livingston, its chief trauma surgeon, says he sees 300 pedestrian injuries a year.

Dr. David Livington, head of the trauma center at UMDNJ-University Hospital in Newark (photo by Kate Hinds)

"And not surprisingly," he says, "they tend to be a lot of the times quite severe, because there’s a car, going at a moderate-to-high rate of speed, and a person!"

In all of Newark, roughly five hundred pedestrians are struck by cars each year. It’s one of just two dozen cities across the country singled out by the federal government as a pedestrian safety focus city.

Another thing about Newark: its average household income is about half the state’s median.

While a grad student at Rutgers, Daniel Kravetz starting sifting through data for several counties in Northern New Jersey.  "And I started to notice that all the roads that were most likely to have a lot of intersections with high crash counts, were in communities where the population was either highly African American or highly Latino," he says.

Dan Kravetz (photo by Kate Hinds)

So he dug a little deeper. And found what he calls "a statistically significant relationship" between low income neighborhoods and high pedestrian crash totals.

That correlation shows up everywhere. "The higher the income level, the lower the likelihood for crashes to occur in an area," Kravetz says. "And that was found in almost any study that analyzed that relationship."

Researchers are trying to hone in on why this is. One obvious reason: car ownership is out of reach for many low income people – so they’re walking more, literally increasing their exposure to cars. But poorer neighborhoods often lack even the most basic pedestrian infrastructure. And advocates are turning their attention to trying to improve intersections, one corner at a time.

The intersection of Park Avenue and 4th Street in Newark (photo by Kate Hinds)

Alle Ries is director of community and economic development at Newark nonprofit La Casa de Don Pedro, where she runs the group's Caminos Seguros program. Ries takes me to one city hotspot – the intersection of Park Avenue and 4th Street. Ries said the group chose this intersection because "there were three serious pedestrian accidents in about an 18-month period, and a lot of car crashes. So that is pretty high. If you have one pedestrian accident in a two year period, that’s considered very significant."

The intersection is also home to a city light rail stop and a busy NJ Transit bus stop. Two schools are also nearby.

Last year the group partnered with the Rutgers University Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT) and performed a road safety audit of the intersection to determine exactly what its deficiencies are.

Members of Caminos Seguros observing road conditions, 2011 (image courtesy of La Casa de Don Pedro)

And there are many. "Well, let's start with crosswalks," Ries says. As in there aren't any painted across Park Avenue.

Also: there’s no pedestrian light telling you that it’s safe to cross, the sidewalk is in bad shape, and there’s a streetlight located on the edge of the sidewalk that keeps getting knocked over by cars.

"There’s nothing safe about that," Ries says. At one corner she points out a driveway doubling as a wheelchair ramp. "You can see that no attention has been paid whatsoever to that issue."

Another view of Park and 4th in Newark (photo by Kate Hinds)

Newark officials say they’re working on this. This year alone, they’ll spend $27 million dollars across the city on pedestrian and bicyclist safety improvements. Jack Nata, the city's traffic manager, says that's more money than the city has ever spent on this issue. He's working on a number of fronts to reduce the number of pedestrian crashes --- not only through infrastructure improvements, but by educational outreach programs and increasingly using red light traffic cameras to calm traffic. But Newark, like many other municipalities in New Jersey, doesn’t always have final say over its own roads.

"Unfortunately there are certain streets in the city – Park Avenue, Bloomfield, South Orange, Springfield, Lyons – these are all county roads and the city has no jurisdiction over it," he says. Meaning: the city can't even paint a crosswalk on those roads -- they belong to Essex County.

Essex County has applied for a $350,000 grant from the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority to overhaul the intersection of Park and  4th. If the grant is approved, work could be completed by this fall.

The New Jersey State Department of Transportation is also trying to convince cities and counties to adopt the state's "complete streets" policy. Under this approach, roads are designed for all users -- bicyclists, pedestrians, transit riders -- not just cars.

But changes to Park and Fourth can’t come soon enough for one local resident. "This intersection: if you are not careful, you are definitely going to get hit by something," says Edward Vargas, a 20-year old who has lived in the neighborhood his whole life. He's just exited the light rail station and now he's heading home on Park Avenue. "You gotta know how to cross the street – that’s just Newark in general. You gotta know how to cross the street...I don’t know why it is, it’s just how it’s been, since I’ve been growing up here."

But advocates and city officials hope if they can break the link between low-income neighborhoods and pedestrian crashes, it won't always be that way.

An intersection in downtown Newark, complete with paved crosswalk and a pedestrian crossing signal (photo by Kate Hinds)


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The Takeaway

A Closer Look at Italy's Costa Concordia Crash

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What exactly happened on board the Costa Concordia? How did a luxury cruise go so wrong? Expertise in the psychology of risk perception, the explanation for why our perception of and response to risk sometimes seems pretty irrational. We’re too afraid of some things, and not afraid enough of others, which sometimes leads to new risks all by itself.

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The Takeaway

Computers Play 'War Games' on Wall Street

Monday, May 10, 2010

In the 1983 film, "War Games," a military supercomputer with a personality brought the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation. Today, we’re looking at last week’s “Flash Crash,” during which the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped just under 1,000 points in under an hour and then bounced nearly all the way back.


The Takeaway

Revisting the Buffalo Plane Crash, One Year Later

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The National Transportation Safety Board released its report on what it believed was the cause for Continental Flight 3407's crash in Buffalo nearly one year ago. After a year long investigation, the NTSB concluded the crash was caused by pilot error, and "complacency and confusion that resulted in catastrophe."

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The New Yorker: Out Loud

Tom Shone on J. G. Ballard

Monday, May 04, 2009

Tom Shone discusses J. G. Ballard's novels and the films they inspired.