According to StreetsBlog, city-employed drivers are causing more injuries this year than in 2018 despite a decrease in city-owned cars on the streets. Drivers are involved in almost 4% fewer accidents altogether, but that drop hasn’t coincided with a safer New York City.
In fact, city employees aren’t the only ones who have seen this confusing disparity in car accident reports. Though the collision rate citywide has dropped by nearly 7% since last year, the numbers for collisions resulting in injuries and traffic fatalities have increased—by 1% and 17%, respectively. So, why is it that more people are getting hurt?
Where the Injuries Happen
In 2018, 71,940 New Yorkers were injured in vehicle accidents. Of those, 11,298 (16%) were pedestrians and 3,936 (5%) were bicyclists. More recent data from this year shows a change in the distribution of accidents. Of the 5,355 injuries recorded in August, 700 (13%) were pedestrians and 468 (9%) were cyclists.
If these numbers are indicative of a trend, could the increase in injury be a function of the increase in non-motorist involvement? As of the end of September, bicycle accident deaths have already outnumbered those recorded in all of 2018. How does this relate to the bigger picture of New York City traffic accident injuries and deaths?
Has Vision Zero Made a Difference?
Traffic deaths have been on a downward trend since New York City launched its Vision Zero program in 2014. The data-driven initiative has been behind improvements to many streets and intersections identified as high-risk areas. Vision Zero has also led to the creation of more bike lanes and pedestrian-friendly routes, but detractors question whether this will be enough. Policies and practices that make it easy to travel without cars and discourage driving through pedestrian-heavy areas may be needed to make a difference in traffic injuries and deaths.
What can city employees do when faced with a changing city and proposed restrictions that might affect their on-the-job travel? The city has taken initiative to offer defensive driving training, though it fell short of reaching FY2019 goals. With New Yorkers set to cause more accidents, injuries, and deaths this year, attention within our city agencies may need to be matched with attention to our general populace.
In the meantime, New York taxpayers are subsidizing the city’s bad drivers; over $114 million went to lawsuit settlements in 2018. In fact, car accidents take the biggest chunk of change when it comes to NYC tort claims: motor vehicle damage accounts for 63% of property damage settlements, and among personal injury claims, vehicle accidents sit at 19%, the highest of any category.