Just a few months after the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) released a landmark study outlining the dangers faced by pedestrians on a daily basis, as well as a prospective plan to improve roadway safety, the NYC Health Department issued a new report. According to information provided by the New York Post, over a span of four years, pedestrians accounted for the majority of traffic fatalities, 52 percent, in NYC. The report also found that although many pedestrians heeded caution and obeyed the law when commuting through the city by foot, this did not provide them with definitive protection.
Between 2005 and 2009, 1,467 people lost their lives in motor vehicle accidents throughout New York City. Fifty-two percent, or 770 of those victims, were pedestrians. The report found that 45 percent of walkers, who became involved in traffic crashes at intersections with signals, were indeed abiding by the law and crossing with the signal when they were hit. On the other hand, 38 percent of pedestrians were crossing against the signal, 15 percent did not use the crosswalk, and 2 percent were not even in the road when they were fatally struck. Additionally, the report contends that although foreign-born residents only made up 36 percent of the city’s population, they accounted for 51 percent of the causalities. According to Manhattan auto accident attorney Jonathan C. Reiter, “Foreign-born residents may account for more than half of pedestrian fatalities due to the fact that motorists are permitted to make right turns on red lights in the NY, which is generally prohibited in other countries around the globe.”
The Health Department’s study noted that while the posted speed limit on city streets is 30 mph, excessive speed tended to play a major role in accidents, accounting for 26 percent of traffic fatalities. Kim Martineau of Transportation Initiatives explained, “Our own research shows that nearly 40 percent of drivers routinely ignore the [30-mph] speed limit.” Multilane roadways, which accounted for a mere 15 percent of the city’s streets, also appeared to cause problems for pedestrians. The report said 57 percent of fatalities were reported on multilane roads, with two-thirds of all pedestrian deaths occurring at intersections. Though the Transportation Department has already begun taking certain steps to improve safety, such as barring turns at notoriously dangerous intersections, more will be needed to really protect the city’s walkers, as well as bicyclists, motorcyclists, drivers and other vehicle occupants.