Flanked by the parents of children killed by cars on the streets of New York, Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday an ambitious plan to eradicate traffic fatalities and injuries in New York City within ten years.
There were 333 murders in New York last year, and an estimated 286 traffic deaths; de Blasio cited the figures on Wednesday, calling them “One of the most sobering statistics you’re ever gonna hear.” More sobering still is the fact that in the last three years, the number of traffic fatalities has continued its steady creep, even as the murder rate has plummeted.
“There has been an epidemic of traffic fatalities, and it can’t go on, and the time to start change is now,” de Blasio said.
To execute Vision Zero, de Blasio has formed a task-force comprised of the heads of the NYPD, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Health and the Taxi and Limousine Commission.
The group will have until February 15 to report back to the mayor with, in his words, “very specific and concrete plans that will include dedicating sufficient NYPD resources and personnel to deter the most dangerous behavior — particularly the behavior of speeding and failure to yield to pedestrians.”
Together, speeding and failure to yield account for 60 percent of traffic deaths.
De Blasio also announced that, beginning Thursday, speed cameras around New York City would start issuing tickets, rather than warnings. He announced plans to install more speed cameras, more red light cameras, and to improve 50 dangerous corridors and intersections per year for the next ten years.
He also pledged to lower the speed limits in parts of the city to 20 miles per hour — the speed at which, if hit, a pedestrian has a 95 percent likelihood of survival.
The mayor was joined for the announcement by newly appointed police commissioner Bill Bratton, who was critical of the NYPD’s track record of investigating traffic deaths.
“Many, many serious accident investigations involving serious injuries were not adequately investigated,” Bratton said.
The police commissioner spoke of a “new policy” changing the threshold at which an investigator will be dispatched to collect evidence — officers will be sent out when a victim is critically injured, when in the past investigators were only dispatched if the victim died or was likely to die. This is not entirely new — the change took effect in March 2013, under Ray Kelly.
Bratton also announced that the NYPD was in the process of increasing the number of Highway Investigation Unit officers from 180 to 270.
The city’s Collision Investigation Squad would also be getting a boost, but not by much. Bratton said he would increase the number of investigators to six supervisors and 27 “highly-trained investigators.” As of September 2013, the C.I.S. had one lieutenant, four sergeants and 22 investigators — meaning, by our count, Bratton was promising just five additional investigators, and one additional supervisor for the team charged with investigating all deaths and critical injuries caused by cars in New York City.
Transportation activists seemed, on the whole, hopeful about the plans.
I truly believe we are watching the birth of an unstoppable movement. The call for safer streets is echoing from many corners these days.
— Brooklyn Spoke (@BrooklynSpoke) January 15, 2014
Watch the entire announcement: