In 2020, New York saw a record high in motorist (driver) deaths and bicycle injuries and deaths, a record low in pedestrian deaths and a much lower number of truck and bus accidents than usual. The Covid 19 crisis that lasted during most of 2020 had a significant impact on New Yorkers commuting habits around the city. Emptier streets have lead to reckless driving and as a result more deaths related to speed. A surge in bicycle accident injuries was also recorded as many New Yorkers are now using bicycles instead of riding the subway.
Surge in traffic accident deaths in NYC
Despite a slowdown in activity in the city , 239 people died in traffic accidents in New York City, compared to 214 in 2019, 199 in 2018, 209 in 2017, 223 in 2016, 235 in 2015, 250 in 2014 and 286 in 2013. The number of car accident deaths was almost back to the level it was when the Vision Zero program started. If it was not for a significant decrease in pedestrian deaths, the number of fatalities would have been over this level with all other categories of road users reaching record high number of fatalities.
Traffic injuries for all categories of road users expect for cyclists were significantly lower than usual. A total of 43,601 people were injured in motor vehicle accidents in New York City in 2020 compared to respectively 60,234, 60,646, 58,990, 58,526, 51,255, 50,886 and 54,818 in 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013. The total number of traffic injuries was at a record low last year not because road users behaved better but because the city was much quieter than usual. Many New Yorkers worked from home, tourists from overseas were not authorized to visit the country and many New Yorkers just left the city.
Record Number of Bicycle Accident Injuries and Deaths
As many street safety activists predicted, the limited amount of bike infrastructures in the city is making it difficult for newbies to safely ride their bicycle from point A to point B. As a result the number of bicycle accident deaths and injuries both reached record highs last year.
Bicycle accident injuries increased by almost 25% in 2020 compared to 2019. 5,224 cyclists were injured in traffic accidents in New york City last year compared to respectively 4,207, 4,281, 4,373, 4,534, 4,274, 3,960 and 4,043 in 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013.
27 cyclists were killed last year compared to 24 in 2019. After bicyclist deaths reached a record low in 2018 with 8 cyclists fatalities, they then reached a record high in 2019 and another one in 2020. The rise in both bicycle accident injuries and fatalities shows the need for the city to develop more friendly cyclist infrastructures.
Another sad record of 2020 is the number of reckless drivers who have been killed in car accidents
90 motor vehicle drivers were killed in crashes in 2020 compared to 57 the previous year. That is an increase of more than 36%. Even before Vision Zero in 2013, the number of driver deaths was below this record with 84 fatalities. Because the streets were not as busy as usual and also because the police were reluctant to arrest drivers during the Covid19 crisis, speeding and recklessness significantly increased, causing an unusually high amount of driver fatalities.
Motorist injuries were lower than usual with 19,534 motor vehicle drivers injured in crashes in the city. The lowest number of injuries is mostly related to the decline in traffic and activities during the Covid-crisis.
Passengers killed in car accidents also recorded a significant increase in 2020 with 28 fatalities. This is the second highest number of passenger deaths since 2013. The record high over this period was in 2015 with 34 passengers deaths.
While the high number of passenger deaths might be related to speeding and recklessness , the record low number of passenger injuries might be related to the decline in activities due to Covid19. 12,426 motor vehicle passengers were injured in crashes in 2020 compared to 18,502 the year before.
Pedestrians were the only NYC road users whose both deaths and injuries declined in 2020. With no tourists in town, New Yorkers working remotely from home and the restaurants and entertainment venues closed most of the year, the pedestrian activity was extremely reduced in New York City and as a result less pedestrian accidents occured. Pedestrian deaths reached a record low at 94 compared to 116 a year earlier.
The decline in pedestrian fatalities was not as significant as the decline in pedestrian injuries. They dropped from over 10,000 yearly during the entire period of Vision Zero to 6,417.
2,159 motorcycle accidents resulting in injuries or deaths were recorded in 2020. It is difficult to compare this number to the previous years’ numbers as the NYPD changed their accident report policy. Since the beginning of 2020, the NYPD does not create reports anymore for minor accidents that result only in property damages.
The same can be said for truck and bus accidents which also significantly declined in 2020. Police not reporting truck and bus accidents as well as a decline in activities related to the Corona virus crisis are the main factors behind these low numbers.
8,118 truck accidents resulting in injuries or deaths were reported by the NYPD in 2020.
With no tourists in town, schools operating remotely for most of the year and the NYPD only reporting bus accidents resulting in death or injury, the number of bus accidents reported in 2020 in New york was unusually low with 2,788 bus accidents.
Speed and recklessness killed too many in 2020
Drivers speeding and acting recklessly not only put themselves at risk of deadly accidents but they are also endangering other potential passengers in their vehicle and other road users.