Mayor de Blasio calls for more thorough investigation into car crashes

traffic safety
Several people were injured, including a postal worker, when an alleged speeding vehicle crashed into his car at Avenue L and East 105th Street in Canarsie, Brooklyn. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

Mayor Bill de Blasio called for a more thorough investigation of car crashes in response to the battle over moving the Collision Investigation Squad (CIS) from the NYPD to the Department of Transportation (DOT). De Blasio also doubled down on Vision Zero bike lane and street design plans. 

This comes after five district attorneys sent a letter to city councilmembers about a bill, called Int 2224-2021, that is supposed to facilitate the move last week, reported the Daily News.

“We need to do more to investigate crashes because we need more consequences for crashes,” said de Blasio. “I still believe fundamentally that the laws in this state are too lenient to people who use their vehicle to harm other people.”

This bill would transfer the primary responsibility for investigating serious vehicular crashes from the NYPD to the DOT. It also requires safety-improving changes to the city’s street design and infrastructure. The change is also stemming from a package of police reform bills.

The NYPD CIS is a small group that responds to 5% of fatal and serious injury crashes that occur in New York City and is woefully defunded, found StreetsBlog in 2019

In 2020, Transportation Alternatives (TransAlt) released a report making the case for reimagining traffic enforcement, in which they specifically called for reform of crash response by NYPD, and including NYC DOT in investigations. 

TransAlt has stated that the NYPD CIS squad “largely fails to meet this mandate” of investigating the city’s crashes as is.

“The NYPD has failed to sufficiently investigate fatal traffic crashes, and change is long overdue. This new legislation is a significant victory for our campaign to reimagine traffic enforcement and our push to remove investigations from the purview of NYPD alone,” said Executive Director of TransAlt Danny Harris in a statement on Jan. 29. 

Harris said they strongly support this bill, and continue to urge a reallocation of resources from the NYPD to NYC DOT to ensure streets are built for safety. 

As far as street design goes, De Blasio pointed to his Vision Zero initiative as being a central component of cutting out car crashes and collisions altogether.

“Continuing to deepen Vision Zero is a central need, I spoke to Secretary Buttigieg about this a week or two ago,” said de Blasio. “We have a lot more to do on Vision Zero and we need federal to do as much as we could and should do.”

In response to criticisms that Vision Zero did not have a comprehensive plan for building and maintaining bike lanes, de Blasio said there’s an obvious consistency to what’s being done around the city.

“I guarantee you there’s a focus on ensuring that bike lanes are usable all over the city and continue to expand,” said de Blasio.

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