September/October 1998, p.6

Death Rate Drop Off --- Will It Last?

Read the latest news about this issue.

Police statistics obtained by T.A. and reported in the New York Times show an amazing 36% drop in pedestrian and cycling deaths in the first five months of 1998. In the Times, T.A. enthusiastically applauded the change and attributed it to the big expansion of police traffic enforcement kicked off in late March's "Zero Tolerance" week. Additionally, the police have gotten much smarter about traffic safety since instituting high-level "Traffic Stat" strategy sessions in early April.

We congratulate the police for taking traffic safety much more seriously. But there are a few nagging questions. The big police push didn't happen until late March, and thus could have only affected pedestrian safety in April and May. Given it only ran for the last two months of the January-May period, the NYPD's campaign seems unlikely as the sole explanation for the cut in deaths.

T.A. has called for serious enforcement for years, but even we are surprised by the size of the drop. If present death rates continue, New York City could have as few as 160 bicyclists and pedestrians killed for the year. Still a heart-wrenching toll, but consider last year's 264 deaths, and that cars killed 365 in 1990.

We hope the police numbers are true. But our experience as bicyclists and pedestrians remains: motorists continue to speed and treat us recklessly and with contempt for our safety.

Jan. 1 to June 3, 1997
Motorists 80
Pedestrians/Bicyclists 111
Total 191

Jan. 1 to June 3, 1998
Motorists 47
Pedestrians/Bicyclists 71
Total 118

Percent Change
Motorists -41%
Pedestrians/Bicyclists -36%
Total -38%