Transportation Nation

Where the Pedestrian Deaths Are

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Between 2003 and 2012, more than 47,000 pedestrians were killed nationwide. Find out which cities are safer and why.

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Transportation Nation

Washington First City in Nation to Deploy Stop Sign, Crosswalk Cams

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


As Washington becomes the first city in the U.S. to deploy cameras to catch drivers who run stop signs and crosswalks, block the box, and drive oversized or overweight commercial vehicles in residential neighborhoods, safety researchers are launching a study to measure the new cameras' effectiveness.

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Transportation Nation

Pedestrian Fatalities On the Rise Nationwide

Monday, August 05, 2013

Even as overall traffic fatalities decrease, newly released 2011 data shows it's becoming more dangerous to be a pedestrian. According to the DOT's National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, 4,432 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in 2011.  Pedestrians were among the few categories of road users where deaths rose, accounting for 14 percent of total traffic fatalities in 2011, up three percent from 2010.

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Transportation Nation

Traffic Fatalities Up in NYC, Speeding Top Culprit, DOT Says

Monday, March 18, 2013

(Click text below title to see additional charts)


Traffic fatalities rose 12 percent in 2012 in New York City, driven by a 46 percent jump in the number of motor vehicle occupants who were killed in crashes. Speeding, the city says, was the top contributing factor. Pedestrians and cyclist fatalities remained at or near historic lows.

The number of cyclists who were killed dropped 18 percent compared to 2011 (from 22 to 18) while the number of pedestrians struck and killed rose by 5 percent in 2012 (from 141 to 148) according to figures released by the NYC Department of Transportation.

In total 274 people died in traffic collisions, 108 of them in vehicles (including on motorcycles) and 166 of them while walking or riding a bike. The DOT had previously cited 237 as the number of fatalities for 2011 but amended that to 245 in today's release.

The DOT calculates "speeding was the greatest single factor in traffic deaths, contributing to 81 fatal traffic crashes—about 30 percent of all traffic fatalities." Fatal hit-and-runs are also on the rise, the DOT said. Other contributing factors were "disregard of red lights or stop signs, driver inattention and/or alcohol."

“One thousand New Yorkers are alive today who would not be if we simply sustained the city’s fatality rate just one decade ago,” said Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. She stressed efforts the city is making to reduce speeding near schools (see graphic below) and long term positive safety trends.

New York remains safe by national standards. Traffic fatalities remain near all time lows following an aggressive program installing about 200 safety improvements in the past five years including street and intersection redesigns, protected bike lanes, slow zones and special attention to schools. NYC traffic fatality rates are less than one third of the national average on a per capita basis, and about half the rates of many other big cities.

To address the dangers of speeding, Mayor Mike Bloomberg and several members of the City Council want to install speed cameras. Last week the City Council called on state legislators -- whose approval is needed -- to permit the city to install cameras.

The NYPD supported the idea in a statement along with the official release of the 2012 fatality numbers. “Just as red light cameras reduced infractions at intersections where they were installed, we anticipate that speed cameras will result in greater compliance with posted speed limits,” said Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly.

The Police union, however, has come out against the speed cameras, telling the NY Daily News, "What we need are the actual police officers on the street ... Cops on the street are what slows people down.”

Last month, Kelly announced a considerable expansion of NYPD staffing its Collision Investigation Squad (formerly the Accident Investigation Squad) as part of a wider effort to focus more on preventing and investigating traffic collisions, which kill almost as many New Yorkers as gun homicides.

The NYPD issued one million moving violations last year, 71,000 of them for speeding, a figure advocates say is not enough. (By comparison, about 51,000 tickets went to cyclists in 2011. To see the latest breakdown of what summonses were issued by the NYPD, see this chart from January ). Police point out issuing speeding summonses requires special equipment, while other tickets can be written by every officer on the street. That could be why the NYPD supports speed cameras.

If today's announcement is any indication, the initial focus of speed cameras, if approved, could be around schools.

Speeding near schools in NYC. (Image: NYC DOT)

Speeding is alarmingly common near schools. The DOT measured the percentage of vehicles that were speeding when passing NYC schools. Outside three schools, 100 percent of the cars were speeding: P.S. 60 Alice Austen in Staten Island, P.S. 233 Langston Hughes in Brooklyn and P.S. 54 Hillside in Queens.

At the High School for Law Enforcement and Public Safety, 75 percent of cars were going above the legal limit. In all, the DOT released a list of 100 schools where 75 percent or more of vehicles were speeding. Cameras, the city says, can help.

"The streets around our city’s schools are the real speed traps, and we can’t play it safe when it comes to doing everything we can to protect New Yorkers on our streets—and especially seniors and school kids,” said Sadik-Khan.

The DOT also pointed out, no pedestrians were killed in crashes with cyclists.

High-Speed School List

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Transportation Nation

A Deadly Mix: Students, Trucks, and a Missing Crossing Guard in Harlem

Friday, March 01, 2013

A police officer directs traffic at 117th Street and First Ave a day after six-year old Amar Diarrassouba was fatally struck by a truck there. The normal crossing guard has been suspended.

Parents held their childrens' hands a little tighter as they picked them up from PS 155 on Friday afternoon. Danger felt closer than usual here, and tragedy was the topic of conversation after six-year old Amar Diarrassouba died on the corner, struck and killed by a turning tractor trailer truck.

"I was the one who picked him up off the middle of First Avenue," said Melanie Canon, a mother who was standing in front of the school a day after the accident.

"He was face down," she said of Amar, who'd been walking to school with his 9 year-old brother. "His brother was standing right next to him. The little boy said, 'Help.' I picked him up by the back of his jacket. He was lifeless, limp. I saw a big pool of blood."

Canon is a doctor but there was nothing she could do. Amar--praised by neighbors as being kind to all--had no pulse.

Canon's daughter is a 3rd grader who attends nearby PS 206 and passes the same intersection every morning. Like the parents outside the PS 155, she said it's a treacherous walk for a child. "The paths to the schools need to be safe."

Outside the school, where the flag waved limply at half-mast, parents complained about the heavy volume of trucks, especially since 2009, when the East River Plaza mall opened a block away.

Tara French lives in the neighborhood and walks her three children to the school each day. "It's dangerous," she said." First Avenue is a dangerous street for them to be crossing. And now we have the mall so we have all the 18-wheelers coming up First Avenue."

Jaime Barton agreed. "The trucks should have at least another way to go for deliveries, that's how I feel," he said. The truck that struck Amar was coming from the direction of the mall, heading west on 117th street, and hit the child as it turned right onto First Avenue toward the Tri-Borough Bridge, which is seven blocks north. 117th Street is a narrow, one-way side street.

"Even 116th is a bigger intersection because it's two-way. This is one-way," Barton said as her daughter interrupted to boast about a recent birthday, her 6th.

A crossing guard was supposed to be at the intersection. Police are investigating her whereabouts. "What we're saying is that she was not on post when the accident happened which was  0754--that's all we can say at this time is that she wasn't there," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters Friday.

While some parents said that crossing guard was frequently late or absent, others didn't blame her. Lydia Soto, who has a 13-year old at the school, said that parents had complained in the past about the guard to the school. Standing with French, the parents said that several years ago--the date was uncertain--parents had petitioned to have a different crossing guard replaced. The new guard on Second Avenue was "fabulous," they said.

Department of Education spokesperson Marge Fienberg said, "The principal of the school has not received any complaints about this guard and generally, when there are complaints, the safety agents provide parents with the number of the local precinct.

The NYPD is responsible for hiring crossing guards. The department has said that retaining crossing guards can be difficult because the job is only part time, several hours in the morning and several in the afternoon, and, according to the NYPD website, can pay below $10 per hour . 

A spokesperson at the NYPD said the department would have to research whether there had been past complaints about the crossing guard at PS 155.

The city Department of Transportation oversees the rules of the roads, such as where trucks are permitted to drive or when special turn signals or lane markings are needed. The department has declined repeated requests over the past two months for data on the number and locations of children who were hit by vehicles in New York City.

Amar's family wouldn't speak about the accident. But outside the family's home, a man identifying himself as the boy's uncle said of the tragedy, "It is God." He said the rest of the family was taking the same approach.

-With WNYC News

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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

Pedestrian Deaths Rose 4% in 2010: Federal Report

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Pedestrian deaths rose 4% in 2010 -- marking the first time in five years that the number has risen.

According to a new report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 4,280 pedestrians were killed and 70,000 were injured in traffic crashes in the United States in 2010.

Three-quarters of those fatalities happened in urban areas. Alcohol usage -- either on the part of the pedestrian or the driver -- was involved in almost half of the fatalities. Nearly one-half (48%) of all pedestrian deaths occurred on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.

This follows on the heels of news last month that overall traffic fatalities for the first quarter of 2012 increased by 13.5 percent.

Read the report here.

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The Takeaway

The Immortal Driver: Chicago's Plan to Eliminate Traffic Deaths

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Is zero traffic fatalities a utopian pipe dream? Chicago’s transportation commissioner Gabe Klein explains why he thinks otherwise. He lays out the city's new initiative to eliminate all traffic fatalities within ten years.


Transportation Nation

How Dangerous is Walking in Your Neighborhood?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Photo courtesy Transportation for America.

(San Francisco – Casey Miner, KALW News) Walking around can be a harrowing experience – just ask anyone who's ever looked both ways, sent a prayer skyward and sprinted across a busy, crosswalk-free road. A new report by transportation advocacy group Transportation for America documents just how dangerous walking can be. Using a combination of census information and data from the Centers for Disease Control and the Federal Highway Administration, the report finds that more than 47,00 pedestrians were killed in the past decade; nearly 700,000 were injured.  The fatality numbers, said the report's authors, are the equivalent of a jumbo jet crashing every month. "If that happened, you can be sure there'd be no end to Congressional hearings and investigations," said Transportation for America director James Corless.

Within the numbers are some sobering racial and ethnic disparities: Latino pedestrians are 62% more likely to be killed than whites, while African-Americans are 73% more likely to be killed. Senior citizens of all races are at risk, but again, racial minorities are much more likely to die.

The report points out that while motor vehicle travel has generally become safer over the past 10 years – around the country, car accident fatality rates have fallen – in 15 of the country's largest metro areas, pedestrian deaths have increased. The report's authors attribute the problem to roads designed with only cars in mind: the most dangerous streets by far are major arterials, where speeding is common and pedestrian amenities rare.

Fixing these problems is relatively cheap: the report points out that changes as simple as lowering speed limits and adding crosswalks significantly reduce risk. But ultimately they advocate for government on all levels to design streets with a variety of uses in mind – what's known as a "complete streets" approach.

The top four worst regions are in Florida, followed by Southern California and Las Vegas. In the San Francisco Bay Area, which ranks 41st of 52 metro areas, 685 people died in the past ten years. Wondering how bad things are in your area? The group's got an interactive map where you can plug in your address and see for yourself.

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Transportation Nation

Transportation Fatalities Drop 9%

Thursday, October 07, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation)  The National Transportation Safety Board reported yesterday that "transportation fatalities in the United States decreased by 9.2 percent in 2009 from 2008, according to preliminary figures. The data indicate that transportation fatalities in all modes totaled 35,928 in 2009, compared to 39,569 in 2008."

Highway fatalities -- which account for nearly 95% of all transportation deaths -- decreased from 37,423 in 2008 to 33,808 in 2009. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration announced last month that road deaths have dropped to their lowest level since 1950.

The only categories to see an increase were pipeline fatalities, which went up from eight to 14, and marine deaths, which went from 783 to 817.

Earlier this week, the NHTSA unveiled changes to the government’s 5-Star Safety Rating System that made it more difficult for cars and trucks to earn top scores.

Read the NHTSB report here, and look at the table of data here (pdf).

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