Vision Zero Initiative

Days Get Shorter, Risks for Pedestrians Increase

Peter McCarthy
Pedestrian Safety
Pedestrian Safety
Image credit: Pixabay / CCO Public Domain

As Autumn digs in, the threat to pedestrian safety grows as short days mean more time spent on the street after dark. New York City's Vision Zero project is trying to lessen the risks. 

"Pedestrian crashes increase by 40 percent in the late afternoon and evening hours from November through March," says Mayor Bill de Blasio's office. Seniors are especially vulnerable.

“Vehicle-pedestrian crashes disproportionately affect older New Yorkers, who are 13 percent of the population and accounted for 38 percent of pedestrian fatalities in 2015,” noted Department for the Aging Commissioner Donna Corrado.

Here on Roosevelt Island, we're fortunate to have less traffic than much of the city, but that good luck is diminished by our heavy dependence on drivers observing crosswalks or even knowing what those parallel lines painted on the street are there for.

If you've ever froze in your tracks in one of our crosswalks as a driver whizzed by without stopping, you know that scary feeling of helplessness all too well. My friend Tony was struck by a car last year on Main Street - while crossing in his wheelchair.

Another source of real danger for us arrives when construction causes a closure of the North Loop Road, and Red Buses change their pickup point from the shelter by the Tram to the other side of the street. Arriving Tram riders cross the street to catch a ride. Children race to get the first seats, oblivious to traffic.

So, some of Vision Zero's newly announced steps to increase safety may be helpful.

According to information released by the Mayor's Office, Department of Transportation analysis, year over year, showed...

  • The earlier onset of darkness in the fall and winter is highly correlated to an increase in traffic injuries and fatalities. Severe crashes involving pedestrians increase by nearly 40 percent in the early evening hours compared to crashes outside the fall and winter.
  • Lower visibility during the dark hours of the colder months leads to twice as many crashes involving turns.
  • In 2015, the year with the fewest traffic fatalities in New York City’s recorded history, 40 percent of the year’s pedestrian fatalities occurred after October 1.
  • Daylight saving time ended last year on November 1, 2015; in the eight days following last year’s “fall-back” clock change, nine New York City pedestrians lost their lives, one of the deadliest periods of the entire year. All of the victims were between 55 and 88 years old and only three of those deaths occurred during daylight hours.

“As the days get shorter and the weather colder, crashes on our streets involving pedestrians increase – and so we are enlisting data-driven strategies to address that upturn,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg

Along with increased educational efforts, the Vision Zero team announced increased enforcement:

  • Increased Evening/ Nighttime Enforcement: NYPD will focus additional enforcement resources on the most hazardous violations (speeding and failure-to-yield to pedestrians), with precincts increasing their on-street presence around sunset hours when data show serious pedestrian crashes increase.
  • Focus on Priority Locations: NYPD will deploy additional Traffic Safety personnel to provide coverage at intersections and corridors with high rates of pedestrian injuries and fatal crashes during key dusk and darkness hours.
  • Focused Initiatives Cracking Down on Dangerous Driving Behaviors: In October, November and December the NYPD will launch a series of initiatives to promote concentrated enforcement on speeding, cellphone/texting, failure to yield to pedestrians, blocked bicycle lanes, and other hazardous violations.
  • Drunk or Impaired Driving: NYPD will also focus resources on drunk-driving efforts, as the evening and nighttime hours in the fall and winter have historically been when the incidence of DWI also increases.
  • Taxis and For-Hire Vehicles: TLC inspectors will conduct speed enforcement to deter speeding among for-hire vehicle operators.

Let's do our part. If driving, let's be 50% more cautious during the late afternoon and early evening. If walking, take nothing for granted. You may have the right of way at the crosswalk, but the driver eager to get home or playing music too loud may have his or her mind on something other than your safety.

Be careful and stay well.

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