While the de Blasio administration touts 2016 as a year in which the Vision Zero initiative continued to drive down traffic deaths — down four percent from 2015 to 225, and down from 300 deaths in 2013 — all of this year’s gains were made in the category of drivers or passengers. For pedestrians and cyclists, it was another story altogether: according to NY1, 140 pedestrians were killed on city streets, a slight rise from the year before, while eighteen cyclists were killed, up four.
Most alarming: a sharp spike in the number of pedestrians killed by hit-and-run drivers, which jumped by 34%. During the first three days of 2017, there were three separate incidents of fatal hit-and-runs alone. And drivers are getting away with it: in a report released by the NYPD last September, only 13 arrests were made after 38 deadly hit-and-runs during FY 2016. In 22 instances where someone was seriously hurt, just 14 arrests were made.
Transit advocates suggest that the prevalence of hit-and-run incidents in the city may have something to do with the glaring disparity between DWI penalties and those for injury hit-and-run. A driver who’s impaired faces a far tougher penalty for being caught drunk driving then for fleeing the site of a crash.
Until Albany takes action and puts those penalties in line with one another, upper Manhattan councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, the Chair of the Transportation Committee, introduced a bill that would have the council create a reward fund that would compensate members of the public for providing information to the police to catch hit-and-run drivers.
“Every fatal hit and run that occurs in our city leaves a family in mourning,” Rodriguez said at the press conference yesterday. “Hit and runs occur with far too great a frequency. Today we are sending a message that we’re willing to put our money where our mouth is to catch and prosecute cowardly individuals who leave people for dead as they flee the scene. 2017 should be the year we say enough is enough and make ending hit and run crashes a priority.”
Rodriguez also plans to introduce legislation later this year that would create a citywide hit and run alert system, that would provide the make and model of offending vehicles to the public at large, to aid in their sleuthing skills.
“Sadly, we are beginning the new year the same way we ended 2016, with hit-and-run statistics moving in the wrong direction; we need to turn that around in 2017,” Paul Steely White, the Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives said about the introduction of the bill. “We thank Council Member Rodriguez for his efforts to find new ways to improve police investigations, so we can put an end to the scourge of hit-and-run on the way to zero traffic deaths and serious injuries in New York City.”