Report: Forget Last Year — The First Quarter of This Year is The Bloodiest Year Since Vision Zero Began

Each yellow sign bore the name of one of the 1,800 victims of road violence since Mayor de Blasio took office. File photo: Gersh Kuntzman
Each yellow sign bore the name of one of the 1,800 victims of road violence since Mayor de Blasio took office. File photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Traffic fatalities are up 44 percent so far this year — the deadliest start to any year since Vision Zero launched in 2014.

Crashes killed 59 people in New York City during the first three months of 2022, according to Transportation Alternatives, a massive increase over this point last year — a year that itself ended up being the bloodiest of any year in former Mayor de Blasio’s famed initiative. The death toll since 2014 also includes 100 people under age 18. Injuries are also way up, as Streetsblog reported last month.

Transportation Alternatives said the death toll demands action on many fronts — whether it’s Mayor Adams following the City Council’s suggestion to pump $3.1 billion into the Streets Master Plan, state lawmakers passing a raft of bills they failed to take up last year, or the federal government pumping more money into transit and active transportation.

“Too many New Yorkers are killed simply waiting for the bus or crossing the street, and the numbers are only increasing,” said Danny Harris, the group’s executive director. “The mayor must include the City Council’s $3.1 billion ask … while working with the Department of Transportation to fast-track redesigns of dangerous corridors and redesign 1,000 intersections. Finally, Albany must grant New York City home rule over traffic safety so we can make immediate use of the lifesaving effectiveness of our existing red light and speed safety camera programs. In this time of crisis, New York City needs more groundbreakings — not vigils.”

Mayor Adams has not publicly responded to the Council’s big budget request, nor has he made significant headway in his Jan. 19 promise to redesign 1,000 intersections. He did demand last month that lawmakers in Albany give him the power to deploy more red-light cameras (currently capped at 1 percent of intersections), to allow speed cameras to run 24 hours a day, and to give the city the right to set its own speed limits.

Transportation Alternatives broke down the horror story in multiple ways:

  • Queens and Manhattan are experiencing the biggest increases in deaths: Queens is up 125 percent over the same period last year and Manhattan is up 120 percent. The deaths in Queens represent 60 percent of this year’s fatalities.
  • Twenty-nine of the 59 road deaths were pedestrians: That’s tied for the most since 2016.

    Chart: Transportation Alternatives
    Chart: Transportation Alternatives (Note: TA defines “children” as people under 18.)
  • One-quarter of the deaths are on high-speed roads: Fewer than 10 percent of New York City’s streets have speed limits above 25 mph, but nearly 24 percent of this year’s fatalities have occurred on such streets.
  • Think of the children: So far this year, eight people age 18 and under have been killed — the most of any first quarter of a year since Vision Zero began (and, in fact, since 2004). That means that children and young adults amount to almost 14 percent of the dead. The DOT clarified the data to say that four people who were killed this year were under age 18.
  • Think of our elders: According to TA, senior citizens only make up 15 percent of the city population, but in the first three months of 2022, they comprise 24 percent of all traffic fatalities.

So far this year, Streetsblog has read, at times, like a police blotter, as the body count has mounted. The shocking toll includes a 62-year-old woman in East New York, a senior in the Bronx, a 19-year-old pedestrian in Queens, a 10-year-old girl in Queens, Holocaust survivor Jack Mikulincer, and two pedestrians killed on the same January day in Manhattan.

And while the death toll is part of a national trend due to increasing car sizes and rising amounts of driving, plenty of local remedies have been proposed, including:

Mikulincer’s grandchild is part of the campaign.

“My grandfather survived the horrors of the the Holocaust, but was not able to cross the street in his neighborhood,” said Families for Safe Streets member Elke Weiss. “Crossing the street should not be a life-or-death risk. We need to bring safe streets investments to every corner of the state by passing the Crash Victim Rights and Safety Act. … Safe streets can’t wait.”

As part of a lengthy response on Wednesday morning, DOT spokesman Vin Barone said, “The safety of New Yorkers is our number one priority. We are proud of the work we have done to curb traffic deaths and we understand there is still much more to do. The agency is working around the clock to increase the number of safety measures and eliminate traffic deaths in New York City.”

It is true, of course, that Vision Zero has driven down road deaths from their historic highs in 1990, the Wild West years of New York City, when 701 people were killed in traffic crashes. Last year, that number was 273. In 2019, the last full year before the pandemic, it was 220.

TA’s numbers were through March 31, but since then, the city appears to be leveling off. Still, the numbers of dead are higher than in previous years, mostly because of motor vehicle crashes killing car occupants. Also, moped and motorcycle rider deaths are up.

Chart: DOT
Chart: DOT