Traffic fatalities in New York City were up again last year after five years of decline (see previous blog). A recent article in the New York Times takes an in-depth look at the NYC motor vehicle accident crashes to find out if it was possible to identify specific patterns in the accidents that lead to injuries and deaths. The findings show that despite the common perception that pedestrians are not careful enough while crossing the street and that cyclists ride like dare-devils, most pedestrian and bicyclist deaths were caused by distracted driving or failure to yield. Pedestrian and cyclist errors were only cited in 5% of the fatalities.
When a driver fatally hits a pedestrian or a cyclist in New York, there is a good chance that he or she will not face serious consequences as long as the driver is not drunk and stays at the scene of the accident. Last year 28 cyclists died after being struck by vehicles but only 4 drivers were arrested . 8 others received a summons. The police often blame the victim. Last year, Susan Moses, a 63 year old woman was killed by a Lyft driver on a busy street with no bike lane. In their report, the police blame Ms Moses for moving across the road to turn left and not wearing a helmet. They did not charge the driver despite camera footage showing the Lyft driver recklessly crossing the double line in the middle of Kings Highway to try to pass the cyclist as she was trying to turn. Later on in a very rare move, a judge from the Department of Motor Vehicle reviewed the footage and revoked the driver’s license. The judge said that she didn’t agree with the police statement and that the driver was responsible for the accident. Previous to working for Lyft, The driver who killed Ms Mos used to work for Uber but he accumulated so many complaints from passengers that Uber removed him from the App in 2018.
Some locations such as Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Third Avenue and Southern Brooklyn are among the most dangerous areas for cyclists to ride. Brooklyn has the most cyclist deaths among all New York City boroughs. Other locations such as 125th Street and Chelsea in Manhattan as well as the South area of Prospect Park have a high rate of pedestrian accidents. A significant part of the accidents are caused by trucks and large vehicles such as SUVs.