Photo Courtesy of Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office
Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner O’Neill certainly had reason to smile as traffic fatalities dropped for the fifth straight year in every borough—except Queens.
By Michael V. Cusenza
New York City in 2018 saw its fewest traffic fatalities on record, powered largely by dramatic drops in cyclist and motor vehicle occupant fatalities, both of which have reached record lows, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Friday.
The City achieved a fifth consecutive year of declining traffic deaths under Vision Zero, with fatalities declining by a third since 2013. Fatalities declined in each borough from 2017 to 2018—except in Queens.
Indeed, The World’s Borough tossed water on this year’s Vision Zero success story. In 2018, there were 71 traffic fatalities in Queens, compared to 62 the previous year. This marks the first time that traffic fatalities increased in Queens under the de Blasio administration.
However, the overall City Vision Zero stats have been positive. Since 2013, the year before Vision Zero was implemented, traffic fatalities have dropped 34 percent to the lowest level since record-keeping began in 1910. In 2018, 196 people have been lost in traffic crashes; last year, as of Dec. 27, the city had experienced 221 traffic fatalities. Among cyclists, fatalities have seen a dramatic decline: 10 in 2018, compared to 24 in 2017 — from a four-year average of 19 deaths since 2014. Meanwhile, motor vehicle occupant fatalities fell to 36 in 2018 from a total of 58 in 2017, and from a Vision Zero average of 56 per year.
“With each passing year, New Yorkers continue to see Vision Zero save lives,” de Blasio said. “Over the last five years, we have lowered the speed limit, increased enforcement and designed hundreds of safer streets. But no loss of life on our streets is acceptable, and the 12 pedestrians killed so far this past month are a sober reminder that this new milestone is less a cause for celebration than a reminder that even with this year’s success, we have much more to do to meet our ambitious goal.”
De Blasio administration officials pointed to notable Vision Zero achievements in 2018 as reasons for the year’s success, including: fewest-ever fatalities in Manhattan and Staten Island; preservation of the speed camera program; continued strong traffic enforcement; and safety improvement projects in every borough.
The mayor pointed out that the city’s 140 speed cameras have been a key element of Vision Zero, shown to reduce speeding in school zones by more than 60 percent. Despite inaction during the Albany legislative session, where reauthorization of the lifesaving program was blocked, the program was restored the day before schools opened – due to coordinated action from de Blasio, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
Additionally, de Blasio cited borough safety improvement projects as a reason for the glowing Vision Zero numbers, including in Rockaway, where the complex and confusing intersection at Far Rockaway Boulevard and Beach Channel Drive was redesigned. New crosswalks, markings, expanded pedestrian space, and a simplified traffic pattern make it easier for residents, including those at a new senior facility, to walk to local retail or catch the A train.
“Although I am extremely pleased with the overall reduction in traffic fatalities, I still believe that there is much more work to be done,” Assemblyman Michael DenDekker (D-East Elmhurst) added.