By Gabriel Rom
Make Queens Safer, a grassroots street-safety advocacy organization, contends Queens is falling behind the other boroughs in reducing traffic injuries and fatalities over the past year.
The group’s statistical analysis of Queens’ progress in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature traffic safety project Vision Zero finds that the borough is struggling with traffic enforcement and motorist injuries, according to a report released this week.
Queens has faced a 2.3 percent uptick in injuries to motorists and passengers since 2013 and is now the only borough where injuries to drivers and passengers exceed 2013 levels, when Vision Zero began, the report said. Throughout the rest of the city injuries to motor vehicle occupants are down, declining by 7 percent in Brooklyn and in 16 percent in Manhattan. Queens also had a 9% increase in cyclist injuries compared to 2013.
“In five districts (Community Boards 1, 4, 7, 12 and 13), implementation of Vision Zero has been particularly weak and action to jump-start street safety improvements is most urgently needed,” the report said.
Compounding the problem, several Queens neighborhoods are seeing significantly fewer traffic tickets written for these violations by their local police precincts relative to 2013 levels, the advocacy group said. The biggest declines occurred in the 109th and 110th precincts, where ticketing was down by more than 30 percent, with the most significant drops in tickets for cell-phone use.
As part of the Vision Zero effort, NYPD received resources to hire additional traffic safety officers.
“Based on the statistics presented here, there is little evidence that these greater workforce numbers are translating into greater enforcement on the ground. NYPD should provide an accounting of how it is using its Vision Zero budget allocations,” the report said.
Yet the report had some bright spots.
Since November 2014, there have been 69 overall traffic fatalities in Queens, down 26 percent from the 93 people killed in 2013, the Vision Zero benchmark year. Citywide, there has been a 21 percent decline in fatalities. The downward trend points to the modest success of Vision Zero’s second year. But in Queens there were nine traffic fatalities during this November alone.
Some of the stars of the report included the 104th, 107th, 108th and 112th precincts, which were commended for reducing traffic injuries and increasing enforcement.
In October, Vision Zero came to the 104th Precinct. The city Department of Transportation, along with the officers of the 104th Precinct, conducted an educational and enforcement initiative. In the second week of the initiative, the precinct focused on enforcement, targeting hazardous violations such as speeding, improper turns and texting while driving.
The report ended inconclusively:
“This analysis clearly raises more questions than it answers. It does not explain why injury or fatality rates are rising or falling in specific areas, or why enforcement patterns appear to be changing in certain ways.”
Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at [email protected]