BY JOE MARVILLI
When it comes to traffic fatalities in the City, there is only one number that Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to see: zero.
On Jan. 15, de Blasio outlined his plan for the Vision Zero Initiative, a strategy with a goal of reducing traffic fatalities in the City to zero within 10 years. He announced the interagency group that would be charged with fulfilling that goal. The NYPD, the Dept. of Transportation, the Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Taxi and Limousine Commission are responsible for developing a comprehensive traffic safety plan.
Although 2014 is less than a month old, 11 New Yorkers have been killed in traffic incidents, seven of them pedestrians. According to the Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene, being struck by a car is the leading cause of injury-related death for children younger than 14, and the second leading cause of injury-related death for senior citizens.
De Blasio made the announcement in Woodside near the intersection of Northern Boulevard and 61st Street, where eight-year-old Noshat Nahian was hit and killed by a truck on Dec. 20.
“We aren’t going to wait and lose a son, a daughter, a parent or a grandparent in another senseless and painful tragedy. Our top responsibility is protecting the health and safety of our people,” de Blasio said.
The interagency group will report to de Blasio by Feb. 15 with tangible strategies to improve at least 50 dangerous corridors and intersections annually, to expand the number of 20 miles per hour zones, to pursue a traffic safety legislative agenda and to dedicate sufficient police resources and personnel to deter dangerous behavior, like speeding and failing to yield to pedestrians.
While these ideas are still being formulated, de Blasio also announced some immediate measures the City is taking to curb dangerous driving. Speed cameras recently installed on New York City streets will now issue tickets to enforce the law on dangerous roads. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced that the NYPD is increasing the number of highway officers. He has already increased it by 10 percent, with the eventual goal of increasing the staff by 50 percent to a total of 270 personnel.
Steve Scofield, the Queens Activist Committee co-chair at Transportation Alternatives, praised the Vision Zero Initiative for its thoroughness and its effort to transform traffic safety in the City. He added though that he would like to see engineering solutions to dangerous streets, lower speed limits and a greater focus on publicity and educational campaigns.
“As long as Mayor de Blasio follows through on his initial concentration on Vision Zero, I think he will be successful,” he said. “There exists an overwhelming consensus among New Yorkers that our street culture is in need of transformation, especially in light of the recent spate of tragic fatalities. If our elected officials and residents can successfully rally around Vision Zero, our city at large stands to become a safer, more vibrant place to live, work and commute.”
State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), who was also at the press conference, called for the passage of his legislation that would make it a felony for individuals who drive with a suspended licenses and kill or injure someone in the process.
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Joey788.