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New York Post

 

Stop the killing. . . on the city's deadly roads

August 05, 2013

By Nicole Gelinas

Sixteen-year-old Renee Thompson lived in one of New York’s most crime-plagued precincts — The Bronx’ Morris Heights, with five murders this year. But she died a gruesome death in one of the city’s safest neighborhoods — Manhattan’s Upper East Side — under the wheels of a big rig.

Violent traffic deaths like Renee’s are not fateful accidents. They are preventable outrages. But will the mayoral candidates get outraged?

After her shift at Dylan’s Candy Bar on Wednesday night, Renee stepped into the crosswalk. The driver of a 19-wheeler turning right from 60th Street onto 3rd Avenue didn’t see her. “My little sister was hit by a truck tonight,” her brother, Greg, wrote on Facebook. “She didn’t make it.”

Greg joins the families of 72 other pedestrians killed this year through June — and 148 all last year.

Before Renee, three pedestrians died on the Upper East Side in 2013. If they’d been stabbed to death by strangers, the city would be up in arms.

To his great credit, Mayor Bloomberg cares about traffic deaths — and has reduced them, from 193 the year before he took office. In all, the 23 percent reduction in yearly pedestrian deaths has saved 300 lives.

He built on what Mayor Rudy Giuliani started: 1990 saw 284 pedestrians die.

But as with other violence, it gets ever harder to keep reducing it. Where Giuliani focused on drunk driving, Bloomberg has focused more on the streets.

The pedestrian plaza around Herald Square has drawn plenty of complaints. But during Christmas week 2001, a van crashed into the old Herald Square — then one of New York’s most dangerous intersections — killing seven.

After the mayor closed Broadway, pedestrian injuries there fell 53 percent. Injuries also fell on Eighth and Ninth avenues after the city installed bike lanes. (A bicyclist is as likely to kill you as your elevator is.)

The intersection where Renee died is still just an open road — no islands or other safe havens for pedestrians. The city’s priority for this intersection “isn't allowing pedestrians to cross safely — it’s moving large volumes of vehicle traffic quickly,” says Juan Martinez of the street-safety group Transportation Alternatives.

Still, Bloomberg also should do more of what Giuliani did — focus on people (speed cameras, just approved by Albany at the mayor’s request, will help).

The driver whose truck killed Renee, Henry Panama, brought a deadly weapon onto dense streets. Yet he hadn’t registered the vehicle. Nor did he yield or “exercise due care,” according to police. His truck looks to be missing a right-side mirror, too — a device that helps keep pedestrians alive.

For that, he gets tickets.

Yet bringing a truck into the city that is unsafe by definition (the driver can’t see), then hitting someone, should be criminal reckless endangerment with serious prison time, at least.

Bloomberg also ought to direct the police to enforce smaller traffic crimes before they cause deaths. Thursday morning, not 12 hours after Renee died, 34 cars and seven big rigs ran the intersection’s two red lights over just 15 minutes.

By not enforcing the law, the city is allowing deadly behavior. In the precinct, police have given out 27 percent fewer tickets for dangerous driving this year than last.

There are other ways of preventing fatal crashes. Sam Schwartz, the city’s Koch-era traffic commissioner, says the City Council should pass a law requiring rear-wheel guards on trucks — so when a person is hit, she’s thrown, not run over.

And the city’s tech whizzes should think about motion or contact sensors for trucks. Greg, Renee’s brother, says his girlfriend “is actually working on that” at the University of Arizona — that is, “working on making cars [and trucks] smarter to prevent things just like this. . . It’s a shame my sister couldn’t reap the benefits of a world full of extremely smart technology.”

Whose lives would this save?

Elderly people and children, mostly. In Manhattan, the elderly make up 18.7 percent of the population but 37.6 percent of people killed, says the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. And in East Harlem, children make up 30 percent of the population, but 43 percent of victims.

“It’s almost always short people,” says Schwartz.

The next mayor should continue what Bloomberg has done (even if some people don’t like it, as some dislike stop and frisk).

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has pledged to cut traffic deaths in half by 2021. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio wants Albany to let the city decide how many speed cameras it needs. It would be nice to hear something from the Republicans (and other Democrats).

Saving lives is saving lives — whether you’re punishing a reckless gun-toter in The Bronx, or a reckless driver in Manhattan.

Original Source: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/stop_the_killing_7uorZRXK7gc5fbQ571cWMM

 

 
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