While the number of traffic fatalities is on the rise nationally, in New York, most probably because of the many Vision Zero Initiatives launched over the last five years, traffic fatalities were at their lowest during the third trimester of 2018 compared to the third trimester of the five previous years. The decline in traffic fatalities during the summer of 2018 is due to the decrease in pedestrians and cyclists fatalities while the number of motorist fatalities was at its highest since the beginning of Vision Zero.
From July 1st to September 30 2018, 59 people lost their life in NYC auto accidents compare to respectively 65, 61, 60, 76 and 82 during the same period of 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013. It is interesting to notice that there are now as many motorists deaths as pedestrian deaths. Pedestrians used to be the category of road users the most at risk of dying in trafic accidents. However according to the most recent statistics drivers now have as much risk as pedestrians of getting killed in a traffic accident in New York City.
A record number of 16,300 people were injured in car accidents in New York City during the third trimester of 2018 compared to respectively 15,860, 16,048, 13,998, 13,472 and 14,900 during the third trimester of 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013. Not only in New York but all over the US, distracted driving has led to a significant increase in motorist injuries. Over the last 3 years and despite Vision Zero intense efforts to make New York City Streets safer, the number of motorists injured in car accidents in New York has been increasing tremendously.
Globally, the number of car accidents continue to be high in the city with a majority of them being related to distracted driving. The total number of NYC traffic accidents reached its highest in the third trimester of 2016 and went slightly down after that year however it never went back where it was three years ago, below 57,000.
The number of motorists injured in motor vehicle accidents in New York City initially went down from 4,968 during the third trimester of 2013 to 4,502 during the third trimester of 2014 after Vision Zero started but the next year it jumped to 6,043 and then to 7,006. It stabilized a little bit above 7,000 during the third trimester of the last 3 years. Again distracted driving is suspected to be an important factor in this increased number of motorist injuries.
The speed limit in New York City was lowered to 25 MPH in 2014. The year before 36 motorists died behind the wheel during the third trimester. After that motorist deaths decreased to respectively 21 and 16 during the third trimesters of 2014 and 2015. They reached their lowest at 13 during the third trimester of July 2016 and jumped back up to 22 and 26 during the third trimesters of the last two years. The declining trend is starting to flatten.
Passengers fatalities are also on a declining trend. However while most of the decline in motorist fatalities occurred immediately after the introduction of Vision Zero, passengers fatalities first increased during the third trimesters of 2014 and 2015 and then dropped during the third trimesters of the last 3 years. Do drivers behave better when they have a passenger in the car? Maybe they are less tempted to check out their phone or other electronic device when someone is in the car with them.
5,228 passengers were injured in car accidents in New York City during the months of July, August and September 2018 compared to respectively 5,020, 5,128, 4,121, 5,193 and 5,754 during the same period of 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013. After the introduction of Vision Zero in 2013, the number of passengers injuries never went back over 5,500 but it only went below 5,000, once in 2015.
Pedestrians are the road users who are the less protected in a traffic accident. Therefore they have a high risk of being killed or seriously injured. Many of the Vision Zero Initiatives were launched to protect them, especially children and seniors. 26 of them died in auto accidents from July 1st to September 30 compared to respectively 30, 38, 26 38 and 39 during the same period of 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013.
Pedestrians injuries are somewhat declining as well, however for the last 3 years, they plateaued above 2,300 during the third trimester after reaching their lowest during the third trimester of 2015 at 2,186.
Over the last few years more and more New Yorkers started to use a bike to commute around the city. At the same time the city implemented more on more bike lanes to protect them. It is still dangerous for cyclists to ride around the city but recent statistics seem to indicate that safety is improving. Because of the favorable weather conditions, July, August and September are usually months during which a lot of people use bicycles to move around the city. This year during the warm season, the number of people dying in a bicycle accident went down 50% from 6 to 3 compared to the same periods of 2017 and 2016.
The number of people injured in bicycle accidents slightly increased during the third trimester of 2018 compared to the same period of 2017 but kept much lower than the numbers previously recorded during the summers of 2016 and 2015. Hopefully the city will continue its effort to increase safety for cyclists and less and less people will be injured in such accidents.
Globally while the effort to make the city safer for bicyclists is finally being reflected in last summer’s statistics and pedestrian deaths are at their lowest, the city needs to worry about the growing number of motorists injuries and deaths. Targeting distracted driving is probably the best way to address this concern.