NYC traffic deaths and injuries declined for all categories of road users except for cyclists between February 2020 and March 2020. As businesses gradually shut down around mid March and the city was officially locked down on March 22nd, traffic in the city drastically declined and so did the number of traffic accidents. The only two categories of road users that recorded an increase in accidents between February and March were motorcyclists and bicyclists. The fear of catching the corona virus in public transportation or taxis has lead to an increased amount of people using bicycles and motorcycles in the city in March. Another factor was the increased amount of speeding recorded in the city as streets were getting emptier and emptier.
Drop in accidents not only due to Covid-19 but also to new NYPD report policy
The number of traffic accidents reported by the NYPD dropped to 10,877 in March compared to 13,586 in February and 14,183 in January. The drop seen in traffic accidents over the last few months is not only related to the coronavius crisis but also to the new NYPD “No Report” crash policy.
For a few months the NYPD is testing a program where officers no longer respond to motor vehicle accidents that result only in property damage or minor damages to the vehicle(s) involved. While such program makes sense during the Corona virus crisis when NYPD resources are limited, it will be under scrutiny by street safety advocates when normal times return. While the police says it reduces congestion and results in improvement of the emergency response time, street safety advocates argue that it will lead to statistics showing the streets much safer than they really are and leave acts of reckless driving such as cellphone usage and failure to yield, unpunished. Additionally, it may also lead to abuse as police officers might try to minimize injuries to avoid making reports.
301 bicycle accidents were reported to the NYPD in March 2020 compared to respectively, 325, 283, 281, 399, 208, 245 in March 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2013. While less people have been commuting to work at the end of the month because of the lock-down, many of the front-line workers have opted to commute by bike instead of using public transportation. Therefore the number of bicycle accidents in March didn’t decrease as drastically as the global number of motor vehicle accidents.
March record high for bicycle injuries
The number of people injured in bicycle accidents in March 2020 was at its highest since the last 4 years for the month of March. 249 people sustained injuries in bicycle accidents in New York City in March 220 compared to respectively 233, 222, 219, 307, 159, 189 and 192 in March 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013.
There were no bicycle accident fatalities recorded in March and in February this year. One person died in a bicycle accident in January. This is an improvement compared to last year when a total of 6 bicyclists were killed during the first 3 months of the year: 3 in January, 2 in February and 1 in March.
Pedestrian injuries declined significantly in March mostly because of the coronavirus crisis. 538 pedestrians were injured in car accidents in New York last March compared to 819 in February and 849 in January. Last year 831 pedestrians were injured during the month of March. After a record high in December 2019, the number of pedestrians injured during the first 3 months of the year declined in 2020 compared to the previous year. The decline in pedestrian injuries at the beginning of the year might be explained by more and more people working from home instead of commuting daily to work. Additionally, many businesses located in the city already started to shut down before the official lock-down or ask their employees to work from home. Many schools as well shut down before March 22nd.
Similarly to pedestrian injuries, pedestrian fatalities also declined drastically in March. 3 pedestrians died in crashes in March compared to 11 in February and 12 in January. However despite the gradual slow down in activities since the beginning of the year, the number of pedestrian deaths increased in January and February compared to the previous years. 23 pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents during the first two months of 2020 compared to respectively 17, 16, 20, 22, 17, 20 and 33 during the first two months of 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 an 2013. During the first two months of the year the number of pedestrian deaths reached its highest since Vision Zero started in 2014.
Motorist injuries slightly declined in January and February before dropping significantly in March. 1408 motorists were injured in auto accidents in March compared to 1770 in February and 1854 in March. Globally the number of motorists injured while driving in the city is on a rising trend. Distracted driving remains the number one cause of accidents in the city.
10 motorists died in crashes in New York City during the first 3 months of the year compared to respectively 9, 13, 8 13, 8, 15 and 15 during the same period of 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013. Despite the slowdown in activities the number of fatalities was higher during the first quarter of the yer. The recent fatalities were mostly related to speeding. As streets were almost empty, speeding became a major issue in the city.
Passenger injuries declined to a record low in March and no passenger death was recorded in March. Social distancing is probably a factor.
Using a motorcycle rather than public transportation can help prevent getting Covid-19, however the city is not the friendliest place for motorcyclists. The number of motorcycle accidents recorded in March was stable compared to the same period a year before with 108 accidents compared to 105. The number of NYC motorcycle accidents slightly increased in January and February compared to the same months in 2019.
Bus activities such as school bus or tourist bus drastically declined in March and as a result so did the number of bus accidents in the city which reached a record low at 338.
As commercial activities gradually declined since the beginning of the year so did the number of truck accidents. Another factor that might have lead to this decline are empty streets that make it easier for truck drivers to operate. 1042 truck accidents were reported in January, 1086 in February and 880 in March. These numbers are the lowest since March 2016 when the number of truck accidents started to explode in the city.