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De Blasio's Solid Plan To Fight Traffic Deaths

February 19, 2014

By Nicole Gelinas

Rough as his first few weeks have been, Mayor de Blasio didn’t sound shaky yesterday in pledging to cut traffic carnage. “We at City Hall don’t accept this reality” of more than 250 New Yorkers dying each year — 26 this year so far — in truck and car crashes. “There are so many people losing their lives that we could have saved,” he said. The mayor then put forward a plan on how to avert lost lives — and it sounds like a good start.

De Blasio seems to realize that safe streets is one of his most important jobs. Just before taking the podium yesterday, he spoke quietly with Amy Tam, whose 3-year-old daughter, Allison Liao, died in traffic last year.

She was walking in a Main Street crosswalk — with the light — hand in hand with her grandmother in Flushing when the driver of a Nissan SUV crashed into her.

Children like Allison are far more likely to die on the street than to die from any injury inside their homes. A crash that would shatter the pelvis of a five-foot-five, 130-pound adult kills a three-foot-tall, 30-pound child. “We have a special imperative of protecting children” from this “epidemic,” said the mayor.

And both the mayor and his top commissioners have figured out the biggest killer. It’s not wrong-way bicyclists or clueless jaywalkers — annoying as they are — but speeding drivers. After reviewing five years’ worth of traffic-death data, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said, “70 percent of pedestrian fatalities involve speed or failure to yield.” A small boy who runs into a residential street to catch a ball will probably live if he’s hit at 30 miles an hour. He’ll die if he’s hit at 40.

But Albany controls the speed limit. De Blasio will ask Gov. Cuomo as well as state lawmakers to cut the city’s speed limit (except on major highways) from 30 to 25 miles an hour.

Then, the NYPD has to tackle the hard part: enforcement.

Bratton is beefing up the highway-patrol department. Precinct commanders, too, are directing officers to stop speeders: The NYPD has given out 7,648 speeding tickets so far this year, up 20 percent over last year’s pace. Officers have also given out 1,993 tickets for failing to yield to walkers — a 66 percent rise.

With other crime down, Bratton is also putting more detectives and other officers on crash investigations. He said yesterday that the department will start investigating all crashes with critical injuries (officers until recently looked only at crashes in which the victim was likely to die, which is like investigating only murders).

Even a few high-profile police investigations into crashes could have a big deterrent effect. If you get in a crash while driving drunk, you’ll take the blame — even if the other driver (or walker) was at fault. Drivers should know the risks is the same for speeding and other dangerous behaviors.

Bratton will take another important step, too: collecting and sharing the data the NYPD gathers from its new crash investigations. That can prevent crashes.

To that end, the commissioner should make sure to secure search warrants to find out whether a driver or a victim was texting or talking just before a crash. Relying on witness reports isn’t enough.

But even though there is no constituency in favor of traffic deaths, cutting crashes may not be as straightforward as it sounds. Consistent speed enforcement as well as solid investigations takes manpower.

Sure, it’s OK for now — maybe — to take some cops off the illegal-guns beat. But what if other crimes go up? Will pedestrians be at risk during special events, such as New Year’s Eve, when cops are busy doing other things?

De Blasio has no plans to expand the NYPD — just to move people around. That’s why the other part of his plan is just as important: automated ways to enforce speed limits and keep drivers’ attention on the road.

The Transportation Department will install 250 more speed bumps. And the city wants more speed cameras and red-light cameras (yes, the state controls those, too — right now it lets us have 20 speed cameras, and 190 red-light cameras).

Red-light cameras have reduced pedestrian injuries by 31 percent — no surprise, since running a red light is one of the most dangerous things an impatient driver can do.

Argue as they may on pre-K, de Blasio and Gov. Cuomo should be able to agree on traffic safety — and quickly. After all, no matter how pre-school gets funded, it’ll mean tens of thousands of more 4-year-olds on the streets each morning and afternoon — and it’s the responsibility of the city and state to keep them alive.

Original Source: http://nypost.com/2014/02/19/bill-de-blasios-solid-plan-to-fight-traffic-deaths/

 

 
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