2021 Traffic fatalities in New York at their highest since Vision zero started
According to the most recent NYPD collision statistics, a total of 254 people died in motor vehicle accidents in New York City last year. Among them were 108 pedestrians, 15 cyclists, 33 vehicle passengers and 98 motor vehicle drivers. Before Vision Zero started in 2014, 286 people died in auto accidents in 2013. Then the number of deaths went down to 250 in 2014, 235 in 2015, 223 in 2016. It reached its lowest in 2018 with 199 traffic accident fatalities and then gradually increased to 214 deaths in 2019 and 239 in 2020.
While pedestrians remain the category of road users recording the highest number of deaths of all road users with 108 of them dying last year, the numbers that caused the total traffic fatalities in New York City to be so high last year were the record number of motorists and passengers fatalities. 98 motorists died and 33 passengers were killed in car accidents last year compared to 84 and 23 in 2013 before Vision Zero started. Distracted driving, speeding and recklessness are the causes of most of these fatalities.
Traffic accidents injuries remain lower than usual but however a little bit higher than last year with a total of 50,617 people injured in car accidents in 2021 compared to respectively 43,601, 60,234, 60,646, 58,990, 58,526, 51,255, 50,886 and 54,818 in 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013. A diminution of the day to day activity in the city because of the ongoing Covid19 crisis may be a factor behind these lower than usual numbers.
While motorists deaths are exploding, pedestrians fatalities remained on a declining trend since Vision Zero started. Reducing pedestrian fatalities was one of the main goals of Vision Zero and since the program started in 2014, the annual number of pedestrian fatalities never went back to the pre-vision zero numbers when 168 pedestrians were killed in 2013. The worst Vision Zero year for pedestrians was 2016 when 134 of them died. A year after, however, this number went down to 102. Pedestrian fatalities only went below 100 once. It was in 2020 when New Yorkers were locked down for 3 months in their home.
108 pedestrians lost their lives in traffic accidents in 2021. Pedestrian activity was still lower last year compared to the pre-Covid19 years therefore it is hard to compare last year to the others.
Lower pedestrian activity in New York City streets was reflected in the lower number of pedestrian injuries that hovered around 7,000 yearly for the last two years compared to the pre-Covid19 years during which the number of pedestrian injuries never went below 10,000.
The Covid19 crisis changed the way people commute in the city. At home work reduced the pedestrian activity and many New Yorkers are using their bicycle or their car to commute instead of public transportation. In 2020, as the first wave of Covid19 landed in the city, many New Yorkers switched their MetroCard for a bike lock. With so many newbies in the streets, the number of cyclist deaths and injuries reached a record high in 2020. While bicycle accident injuries remained much higher than usual in 2021, indicating that cyclist activity remains high, they are a little bit lower than the year before. 4,917 cyclists were injured in traffic accidents last year compared to 5,224 in 2020 and 4,207 in 2019.
The number of fatal bicycle accidents went down by almost half compared to 2020. 15 people were killed in bicycle accidents in New York City last year compared to 27 a year before. New York City remain dangerous for cyclists and more has to be done to better protect them.
The most worrisome trend that emerged form the last two years is a record number of motorist fatalities. For the last two years, motorist deaths in New York City have reached record numbers that are even higher than those recorded before Vision Zero. 98 motorists died in car accidents last year in New York City compared to respectively 90, 57, 70, 63, 54, 59, 75 and 84 in 2020. 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 2014 and 2013. This explosion of car accident fatalities over the last two years was somewhat explained in 2020 by more speeding on the road and in 2021 by more people using their car to commute. This rise in car accident fatalities occurred not only in New York City but all over the US.
While motorist deaths are at record high, motorist injuries have been lower than usual over the past two years. 23,182 motorists were injured in motor vehicle accidents last year compared to 19,574 in 2020 and a record high at 27,319 in 2019.
33 passengers were killed in car accidents in New York City in 2021. This is the highest yearly number of passenger fatalities since 2015 when 34 passengers died in auto accidents. After reaching its lowest in 2018 at 8, passengers fatalities gradually climbed to 17, 28 and 33 over the next 3 years. The trend is pretty much similar to the one seen in motorist fatalities.
The same can be said about passenger injuries which were also lower than usual over the last two years. 15,332 passengers were injured in a car accident last year compared to 12,426 in 2021 and 18,502 in 2019. While passenger and motorist fatalities and motorist injuries all remain on a rising trend, passenger injuries are on a declining trend.