Centennial of the First NYC and US Pedestrian Death

1.5 million NYC Pedestrians injured, 30,000 killed over last century

On September 13th, 1899, Henry Bliss was struck and killed by a an electric car at the corner of Central Park West and 74th Street, thus becoming the first pedestrian in NYC and North America killed by automobile.

  • Each year in the United States, approximately 6,000 pedestrians are killed by automobiles, and 110,000 are injured.
  • Pedestrians in the US are 1.6 times more likely to be killed by a car, than by a stranger with a gun.
  • Pedestrians represent 14% of traffic fatalities nationwide (National Highway Transportation Safety Administration).

While the number of pedestrian injuries and deaths in New York City has been declining in recent years due to increased police enforcement, we are still far behind other world-class cities such as London, Paris, Tokyo, and Sydney. Additionally, mid-year statistics show that pedestrian deaths are once again on the rise.

  • In NYC in 1998, almost 200 pedestrians were killed by automobiles, and 14,000 injured.
  • Each day approximately 35 pedestrians are struck by autos in NYC.
  • Currently, over half of all traffic fatalities in NYC are pedestrians (NYC and NYS Department of Transportation).
  • Pedestrian advocates estimate that 1.5 million New Yorkers have been hit by automobiles over the last century, and 30,000 killed.

Pedestrian advocates in NYC call on the City to take three steps to stem the tide of auto violence against pedestrians.

1. Crack down on speeding.

  • The City should mount a vigorous and ongoing campaign against speeders, similar to the Mayor's recent 'Don't Block the Box' campaign. The City should invest in photo radar cameras, which provide automated and effective speed limit enforcement.
  • New York City should greatly expand its speed hump and traffic calming program. Speed humps are more effective than stop signs or traffic signals at slowing speeds and decreasing the risk of pedestrian injury and death.
  • The City should launch an advertising campaign that stigmatizes speeding as anti-social and dangerous behavior.

2. Devote a fair share of federal funding to pedestrian safety. Pedestrian fatalities represent almost 50% of all traffic fatalities in New York City, but pedestrians in NYC only receive around 5% of federal highway safety funds.

3. Stiffen penalties for drivers who kill or maim. Despite driver culpability in more than 70% of pedestrian deaths, stunningly few drivers are prosecuted, or even have their licenses suspended or revoked. Reckless drivers who injure or kill pedestrians should be prosecuted accordingly. The City should expand ongoing campaigns against drunk driving to target all aggressive and reckless driving.