An alt-transit broadside against Ray Kelly's traffic priorities
This afternoon, two days after police commissioner Ray Kelly publicly downplayed concerns that New York City's traffic rules are poorly enforced, a street safety group will issue a report finding that every 33 hours in 2011, a New Yorker died in traffic.
Overall, traffic deaths have declined in New York City since the start of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's tenure, but according to advocates, those numbers could fall a whole lot more if the NYPD would spend a bit more time enforcing traffic rules that protect pedestrians from vehicular violence.
The Transportation Alternatives report, “The Enforcement Gap: How the NYPD ignores what’s killing New Yorkers," underscores what the alt-transit group argues is a serious misallocation of police resources.
"Speeding and failure to yield, the two traffic infractions most dangerous to New Yorkers according to NYPD data, are enforced at a 31 percent lower rate than traffic violations that are among the least frequently cited causes of fatal or injurious crashes, like defective headlights," reads the report.
This even though researchers, using NYPD reports, found that in 2011 "[h]alf of the fatal crashes that involved an enforceable traffic violation involved speeding or failure to yield to a pedestrian."
The victims are often the most vulnerable.
Traffic collisions, like the one that killed 12-year old Samuel Cohen-Eckstein on Prospect Park West this week, are the leading cause of "injury-related death" for children, and the second leading cause for senior citizens (after falling). Though senior citizens comprise only 12 percent of the population, they make up 36 percent of all pedestrians killed in traffic.
The report also found that in 2012, "citywide enforcement of the speed limit dropped by 7 percent from 2011," and "73 percent of speeding summonses were issued on limited-access highways by the NYPD Highway Unit."
The average neighborhood precinct issued 252 speeding summonses in 2012.
During the same year, the average NYPD precinct issued 1,069 summonses for "excessive window tint," for a citywide total of 95,866 summonses for overly tinted windows.
The NYPD had no immediate comment, but, under pressure, it did recently agree to bulk up its expert Collision Investigation Squad so that it could investigate collisions that result in critical injury, rather than just those where the victim has died or appears likely to.
Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio has embraced a Swedish approach to traffic management called "Vision Zero" that aims to eliminate all traffic fatalities.
During the lightning round of last night's NY1 debate, moderator Errol Louis asked Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota if the NYPD was "doing enough to investigate drivers who hit pedestrians."
"I believe they are, and if they're not, they should," Lhota said.
UPDATE: "Traffic fatalities are down 30 percent since 2001 and at the lowest level in a century of record keeping," said John McCarthy, a spokesman for the NYPD, in an email. According to the department, there have been 50,000 fewer fatal and injury collisions per year since 2002, which allowed the department to expand the vehicle collision investigation squad. The police department has also added uniformed officers to the Highway District.