Following many deaths in just the first weeks of the new year, Mayor Bill de Blasio is planning on making a number of citywide changes in the hopes of reducing traffic deaths. The month is not yet over and, to date, 11 people have been killed in traffic accidents; seven were pedestrians, according to Transportation Nation; at least one was a child, an eight-year-old boy. The mayor announced that New York City will be taking steps to minimize traffic deaths saying, "The goal is literally to reduce fatalities on our roadways to zero. That is our singular focus."
Vehicular fatalities were at 393 in 2001 and dropped to 245 in 2011. Deaths are up again based on early estimates for 2013, and, to date, total 286. Most were pedestrians and bicyclists, The New York Times wrote. To combat this trend, De Blasio said New York City's speed cameras will now issue tickets, not warnings. The cameras require state approval, so just 20 are being installed; however, the mayor said, "We're going to fight for the home rule right to install speed cameras and red light cameras wherever data shows they will make our street safer.... we should not have to constantly go to Albany," according to Transportation Nation. De Blasio also announced an interagency working group that is to report back by February 15th with a plan to discourage and enforce action against dangerous driving behaviors, improve no less than 50 known and dangerous corridors, expand the number of 20 mile per hour (mph) zones in the city, and carry out a "traffic safety legislative agenda," according to Transportation Nation.
The NYPD will increase the number of personnel working on serious traffic violation enforcement; will add 60 officers to its current 210-person squad; and will post an officer at the site of the crash that killed eight-year-old Noshat Nahian, on Northern Boulevard in Queens, according to Transportation Nation. Bill Bratton, NYPD Commissioner, said the department increased the type and number of collisions it investigates; will be investigating all serious accidents, focusing on driving behaviors that cause crashes; will train officers on new laser speed measurement technology; and will ensure all precincts submit pedestrian safety plans. This is "an effort that the police department is committed to," Bratton said. "A life lost is a life lost, whether by murder or by traffic accident."
De Blasio campaigned on "Vision Zero," a way in which traffic deaths are treated-that each death is preventable. As part of his plan, he has been meeting with the families of these victims. "My loss is with me everyday," said Audrey Anderson, whose 14-year-old son, Andre, was killed when riding his bike in Queens in 2005. "There are days that I just cry like that.... I can't even attend family functions and not think about him. It's deep and it's personal and everyone processes it differently, she said, wrote Transportation Nation. "What constitutes criminality in reckless driving and accident investigations?" she questioned. "We have no idea what that is. I tried to pursue that angle when Andre died and I ended up with a blank wall. I really want to know."
On October 8, 2014, 12-year-old Sammy Cohen Eckstein, son of Amy Cohen and her husband, Gary Eckstein, was struck and killed by a van on the street where they live in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Sammy also left a 15-year-old sister, Tamar, behind. The loss has left a hole they are unable to fill, but Sammy's parents are intent on ensuring that he did not die in vain. Soon after his death, they organized their community to join together to make New York City's streets safer. Organized as the Park Slope Street Safety Partnership, the community group's Facebook page chronicles its efforts and successes. Already, it is responsible for a reduction in the speed limit on Prospect Park West from 30 mph to 25 mph. It is now lobbying Albany to pass legislation that will permit the New York City Council to reduce the speed limit on residential street to 20 mph.
The New York Times also wrote that Allison Liao, the daughter of Amy Tam and her husband Hsi-Pei Liao, died two days before Sammy after being hit by an SUV. She was three-years-old and walking with her grandmother. In another vehicular death, a bus struck and killed Ella Bandes, 23, nearly one year ago in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
This year, within 30 minutes, two people were killed on the Upper West Side, a nine-year old boy by a taxi and a 73-year-old man by a tour bus. The man and boy were the 10th and 11th victims in 2014, according to The New York Times. Since, two pedestrians were killed in Queens, a bicyclist in Harlem was killed, and a pedestrian on the Upper West Side died, all were struck by vehicles.
A municipality, like the City of New York, has a duty to provide is residents with reasonably safe streets. This duty includes initially designing the roadway safely and monitoring the design as populations and conditions change and responding to accident data indicating that the design is no longer safe. If the City becomes aware of a dangerous intersection because there have been an excessive number of traffic accidents, it cannot ignore this information. It must undertake a study of the problem and take reasonable action based upon the results of that traffic study. If the City fails to do either of these things, it can be held liable to the family of a person killed in a traffic accident at the dangerous intersection.
- Transportation Nation; 11 Traffic Deaths In 15 Days, de Blasio Vows to Take Action; By Brigid Bergin; January 15, 2014; http://www.wnyc.org/story/mayor-de-blasio-traffic-deaths-are-epidemic-says-nyc-will-act-immediately/
- The New York Times; After a Son's Death, Parents Channel Their Grief Into Activism; By N.R. Kleinfield; January 24, 2014; http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/26/nyregion/after-a-sons-death-parents-turn-their-grief-to-activism.html?_r=