Tucked away inside a routine October 2nd press release from the Department of Transportation was the startling announcement that, according to preliminary figures, motorists killed 102 pedestrians in New York City during the first nine months of this year.
Although it is unquestionably a grievous loss of human life, the fatality figure is significantly lower than ever before and far lower than a decade ago.
In 1993, motorists killed 214
pedestrians during the same period. If this year's trend continues, New York
City will finish 2003 with fewer than 140 pedestrian fatalities. The previous
historic low was in 1998, when police reported 183 pedestrians killed.
At some crossings, like
Herald and Times Square, the agency has re-engineered streets with wider
sidewalks, narrowed roadways and turn restrictions.
The police department has
improved and focused its traffic law enforcement through TrafficStat; the
program has allowed the DOT to be faster at fixing dangerous locations. And,
the reduction in crime has freed more police for traffic enforcement.
NYC Pedestrian Injuries Remain Around 15,000 Per Year
While pedestrian fatalities have plummeted, the number of walkers struck by motor vehicles drivers has changed very little over the decade: 14,732 in 1991 versus 15,009 in 2001. (Note: This is actually a slight improvement, since the population of the City increased by 9.4% between 1990 and 2000, so the percentage of the population struck every year has declined a bit.) The question is why do motorists continue to strike so many, but kill so few? One explanation is that drivers are striking pedestrians while traveling at lower speeds. This explanation would make sense if the number of serious pedestrian injuries is also declining sharply, but this is information T.A. does not have at the moment.