Safety has always been a critical priority for DOT. In February 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio reinforced the City’s commitment to safety by introducing the Vision Zero Action Plan. Vision Zero is a cooperative effort among City agencies, led by the Mayor’s Office, to eliminate traffic fatalities and crash-related serious injuries. It reflects the philosophy that serious crashes are preventable. The Action Plan includes safer street designs and engineering, effective enforcement and deterrence of traffic safety violations, and education and outreach efforts to encourage safer choices by drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. DOT has a leading and critical role in the City’s Vision Zero efforts.
Traffic fatalities in the City have fallen significantly over the past two decades—from 701 in 1990 to 271 in 2010. With the City’s renewed efforts, traffic related fatalities fell further from 249 in 2011 to an all-time low of 232 in 2015—and New York is now internationally recognized as a leading innovator in safe street design. Indeed, New York City has one of the lowest traffic fatality rates in the nation. However, the fatality rate in New York City still exceeds the rates in many of our peer cities around the world, including London and Hong Kong.
Vision Zero and our Global Peer Cities
The Vision Zero approach started in Sweden and has now been adopted by cities across Europe and the United States. The chart below shows how New York City compares in terms of street safety to its U.S. and global peers. Domestically, New York is leading the pack, with a significantly lower rate of fatalities from traffic crashes than American peer cities and the U.S. overall. The international comparisons with Hong Kong, London, and Stockholm, however, show how far cities have advanced toward eliminating traffic fatalities. Stockholm, a city of one million residents, has achieved a rate of .4 traffic-related fatalities per 100,000 of population, an amazing accomplishment. DOT will continue to look to our peer cities around the country and the globe for strategies to achieve Vision Zero.
* Peer Cities include all U.S. cities with populations over 500,000, and either 5,000 residents per square mile, or 20% non-car commuting: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington D.C. Source: NHTSA Fatal Accident Reporting System (FARS), U.S. Census Bureau Population Estimates, American Community Survey (2014)
London - Transport for London (2015). Travel in London: Report 8.
Hong Kong – Transport Department, The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (2015). “Traffic Accidents.” 2015 Annual Transport Digest.
Stockholm - Trafik Analys (2016). Vägtrafikskador 2015 (Road Traffic Injuries 2015).
To advance towards the City’s Vision Zero goal, DOT has:
- increased the pace with which we deliver street redesigns, simplifying complicated intersections and providing safe space for pedestrians and bicyclists at priority locations throughout the City;
- expanded the rollout of Leading Pedestrian Intervals (which give crossing pedestrians a head start in advance of turning vehicles), installed brighter streetlights, and retimed traffic signals on high-crash streets;
- led the effort to lower the City’s speed limit;
- expanded the City’s speed camera program; and
- led the City’s efforts to inform New Yorkers of the consequences of their actions through outreach and anti-reckless driving advertisements.
A full description of the multi-agency Vision Zero effort can be found here.
These initiatives, and others, have contributed to the safest year in New York City since 1910. However, the agency recognizes that any fatalities at all means we have more work to do.
Speed Camera Program
Speeding is a leading factor in fatal crashes: Nearly one in three traffic deaths in New York City involves a speeding driver. Pedestrians struck by vehicles traveling at 25 MPH are half as likely to die as those struck at 30 MPH. Deterring speeding on New York City streets is a major component of Vision Zero, and in 2015 the City secured authorization from New York State to install speed cameras in 140 school speed zones.
The results have been dramatic: At locations where speed cameras were installed, speeding violations have plummeted by an average of 50 percent. The program is effective at deterring dangerous speeding, but is limited in scope. State law only allows for the use of speed cameras during school hours and within school speed zones. As a result, cameras cannot be used in nearly 85 percent of the locations and times where people are killed or seriously injured. DOT and the City will continue to advocate for changes to New York State law to expand the use of this life-saving technology.