The grim results are in. In the first six months of the year, car accidents in New York City killed 124 people. According to advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, it was the worst first half of any year for traffic fatalities since at least 2014.
The question is, why? According to Mayor Bill de Blasio, the COVID-19 pandemic is to blame.
More drivers, more car accidents?
Reacting to the rising number of fatal crashes, de Blasio recently said that more New Yorkers are driving rather than taking public transit this year due to a reluctance to share space in a subway car with others. He defended his Vision Zero project, which he said has reduced injuries and deaths in traffic accidents since his administration launched it in 2014.
de Blasio vowed to double down on Vision Zero the rest of this year. “More speed cameras, more enforcement,” he said. “More bus lanes, more bike lanes.”
Beyond Vision Zero
That might not go far enough for many traffic safety advocates who want the city to become safer for pedestrians. Of the 124 people killed in the first half of the year, most of them — 64 — were pedestrians. Transportation Alternatives is calling for a plan to convert 25 percent of New York’s traffic lanes into sidewalks and other pedestrian-only spaces by 2025. Providing more options that keep pedestrians separate from cars, trucks and SUVs likely would reduce the number of pedestrian accidents in New York.
Whether COVID, a lack of traffic cameras or unsafe conditions for pedestrians (or some combination of the three) is to blame for the spike in traffic-related deaths this year, victims’ families are the ones paying the price. Not only might they have lost a needed source of income; families have lost beloved spouses, parents or children.