Traffic collisions on the city’s roads have claimed the lives of 59 people so far this year, a 44 percent jump over the same period last year, according to a new report from safe streets advocacy group Transportation Alternatives.
More people have died on the city’s streets in the first quarter of this year than in the same time period of any year since the city’s adoption of Vision Zero in 2014, according to the group’s analysis of city data.
TransAlt and other advocacy groups call the uptick “alarming” and say it calls for immediate action, lest the city weather an even deadlier 2022 than it saw in 2021, which was already the deadliest year on the city’s roads since 2014.
New Yorkers lost to traffic violence so far this year have included 99-year-old Jack Mikulincer, a Holocaust survivor struck and killed by a reckless driver as he drove his wheelchair to synagogue in Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn in February; 10-year-old Davina Afokaba who was killed by a motorist while on a sidewalk in Far Rockaway, Queens; and 53-year-old Anthony Smith, who died after being struck by the operator of an NYPD van on Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights earlier this month.
“From children in Queens to seniors in Brooklyn, too many New Yorkers are killed simply waiting for the bus or crossing the street, and the numbers are only increasing,” said Danny Harris, TransAlt’s executive director, in a statement. “Our leaders must take steps immediately to save New Yorkers and prevent this year from turning into another record-breaking year for traffic fatalities.”
The proportion of traffic deaths occurring among the youngest New Yorkers, those 18-and-under, has skyrocketed this year, TransAlt found: youngsters made up 5 percent of traffic fatalities from 2014 through 2021 but 15 percent in the first three months of 2022. On the other end of the spectrum, New Yorkers 65 or older made up 24 percent of deaths so far this year despite being only 15 percent of the Big Apple’s population. 29 of the 59 fatalities occurred among pedestrians.
Advocates say the data shows it’s time to shift into gear and move forward on a number of measures to increase safety on the city’s streets. They are calling for $3.1 billion in the city’s upcoming Fiscal Year 2023 budget to implement the Department of Transportation’s “Streets Plan,” a comprehensive plan of the city’s streetscape and public space which would see the addition of hundreds of miles of bike and bus lanes and create 1 million square-feet of new car-free public space. The City Council included the funding in their response to Mayor Eric Adams’ executive budget.
The advocates are also calling on the Adams administration to fast-track its January promise to redesign 1,000 dangerous intersections across the city, and to strengthen its “Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program” requiring repeat reckless drivers to complete a motorist-safety course by lowering the number of violations needed to trigger the requirement.
At the state level, TransAlt says legislators and the governor should allow the city home rule over its speed camera program and to pass the Crash Victim Rights and Safety Act, which would allow the city to lower the speed limits on its roadways, provide funding to redesign dangerous streets, and create a “Crash Victims’ Bill of Rights.”
“In this time of crisis, New York City needs more groundbreakings — not vigils,” Harris said.
The mayor’s office declined to comment on the report, directing inquiries to DOT. An agency spokesperson said that the Adams administration is “fully committed to Vision Zero,” that work is underway to redesign intersections, build new bike lanes, and protect existing ones, and that the administration is still seeking home rule over its speed cameras.
The DOT spokesperson, Vin Barone, also provided data to amNewYork Metro showing a downward trend from last year on pedestrian deaths as of mid-April, from 35 in 2021 to 30 this year, and an unchanged amount of cyclist deaths, noting that the uptick has mostly come due to an increase in motorist fatalities.
“The safety of New Yorkers is our number one priority,” Barone said in a statement. “We are proud of the work we have done to curb traffic deaths and we understand there is still much more to do. The agency is working around the clock to increase the number of safety measures and eliminate traffic deaths in New York City.”