By Bill Parry
New York City saw its safest traffic year on record in 2017 with the fourth straight year of fatality declines, according to a City Hall Vision Zero review released last Friday. Since Mayor Bill de Blasio’s traffic safety initiative began in 2014, the city’s traffic fatalities have declined 28 percent with a 45 percent drop in pedestrian fatalities, bucking national fatality trends, which have increased 15 percent over the same period.
“Vision Zero is working. We have lowered the speed limit, increased enforcement and created safer street designs, efforts that build on each other to help keep New Yorkers safe,” de Blasio said. “The report we are releasing today shows the promising results so far, but also illustrates how far we must go to deepen this work. Not even a single tragedy on our streets is acceptable, and we’ll keep fighting every day to protect New Yorkers.”
De Blasio took to the steps of City Hall March 23, joining crash survivors, victim’s families, seniors and street safety advocates to demand leaders in Albany expand the city’s school zone speed camera program, which is set to expire in June. Where installed, speed cameras have been proven to reduce speeding in school zones by 63 percent, with injuries to pedestrians dropping 23 percent. However, cameras cannot be installed in certain areas, including the site of a crash that killed two young children in Park Slope, Brooklyn earlier this month, unless the state Legislature allows them.
“New Yorkers are tired of asking the same thing year after year and getting nothing in return,” de Blasio said. “How many more people must be killed before Albany passes common sense legislation proven to save lives? Enough is enough. The time is now to extend and expand our speed cameras program — we cannot afford to wait another day.”
The mayor wants the program extended until 2022 and expanded with speed cameras installed at an additional 150 school zones. The administration also wants to revise the definition of a school zone to allow the city Department of Transportation to address speeding on streets that are near a school, as opposed to only the streets on which a school in located.
“It is unreasonable that in our city protecting children is the topic of debate. There should be no discussion when it comes to their well-being,” state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) said. “We have an obligation to provide them with a safe environment when they go to and from school. Extending and expanding my proposal to increase the number of school zone speed cameras is a no brainer, as is implementing additional measure to crack down on speeding drivers. For example, I hope my bill that will suspend the driver’s license of a motorist who is caught speeding in a school zone two times within 18 months becomes a reality.”
To close out the City Hall rally, the mayor issued a challenge to legislators, especially in the state Senate where Peralta’s legislation stalled during the last session.
“Think of any school in your neighborhood — it means that hundreds and hundreds of cars that go by that school every single day will not be speeding by and risking the lives of children, because those speed cameras work,” he said. “So, we know they work, so what are we afraid of? There should be no fear of speed cameras. There’s only one group of people who should be afraid of speed cameras, drivers who are speeding — and they should pay for that.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr