As Traffic Fatalities Jump for First Time in Sadik-Khan Era, DOT Blames Bad Driving

The mayor’s management report is out this week, and it reveals a rough patch for the city’s Department of Transportation [PDF]. Traffic accidents have hit levels not seen since 2007—the same year Mayor Bloomberg appointed Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, a brash force who has reshaped large swaths of the city’s street grid over the past five years.

The rationale has been to make the streets more pleasant for everyone—not just drivers but pedestrians and bikers, too—and to improve safety as a result. That we are back at pre-transformation levels may simply be a result of an anomalous year, not to mention that, safety measures or not, many New Yorkers like these changes. All the same, it seems like a setback for the data-driven Bloomberg administration and his streets czar.

Last year saw 291 fatalities overall, a rise of 23 percent from last year, which saw 236 accidents. Of this year’s deaths, 115 were drivers or their passengers, 176 were cyclists or pedestrians. These numbers have been declining since 2007, when the city saw 310 traffic fatalities, 127 for people in cars, 180 for those out of them.

According to Department of Transportation spokesman Seth Solomonow, the problems lie most with drivers.

“By far the single biggest increase in traffic fatalities was for motor vehicle occupants (drivers and passengers), and there were 19 more fatalities last FY among motorcyclists alone than the FY before,” he wrote in an email. “Large numbers of fatal crashes were overnight and/or highway crashes and about half involved speeding, drunken driving, red-light or stop-sign running.”

If anything, this calls for greater vigilance and only strengthens the case for roadside interventions. “This underscores the importance of our sustained safety campaigns targeting speeding, drunk and distracted driving and it’s also behind our push for legislation in Albany to expand red-light cameras and install the city’s first speed cameras,” Mr. Solomonow wrote.

He did point out that accidents had fallen, to 176,482 from 179,112 in 2011 and 183,278. In 2010, there were 177,996.

Streetsblog points to another cause in the spike of deaths: decreased traffic enforcement by the NYPD. This has been a pet issue for pols and street advocates of late, and while budgets are tight, perhaps it is an area the administration might begin focusing its attention on more. Why not trade stop and frisk for traffic stops?

As Traffic Fatalities Jump for First Time in Sadik-Khan Era, DOT Blames Bad Driving