NYC Pedestrian and Cyclist Traffic Injuries Hit Five-Year High in 2013

Motorists injured more pedestrians and cyclists in New York City last year than in any of the previous five years, according to official 2013 data on traffic injuries and deaths released by the state DMV [PDF]. Confirming preliminary NYPD figures, the final DMV stats show total traffic injuries remained near the five-year low — meaning pedestrians and cyclists accounted for a higher share of traffic violence victims on New York City streets in 2013 compared to recent years.

Total traffic injuries increased around 2 percent from 2012 to 2013, while pedestrian injuries went up 5 percent and cyclist injuries rose 8 percent. All told, drivers injured 11,398 pedestrians and 3,817 cyclists last year — the highest totals in any of the last five years.

There were 294 total traffic fatalities in 2013, an 8 percent rise from 2012, when 271 people were killed. More people died in New York City traffic crashes last year than in any of the past five years.

Traffic deaths are more subject to random variation than traffic injuries, and there were some especially large swings in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities last year. Pedestrian deaths increased from 135 in 2012 to 183 in 2013, marking the highest death toll in the last five years after four years of declining fatalities, while cyclist deaths dropped from 17 to 9.

Last year, 65 percent of people killed in traffic were pedestrians and cyclists, compared to 56 percent in 2012.

New York City motorists injured 4,278 children age 13 and under in 2013, and killed eight. Motor vehicle crashes are consistently the leading cause of death due to injury for children in NYC.

Speeding was cited as a factor in 69 of 281 fatal crashes, based on information DMV collects from NYPD crash reports. Driver inattention or distraction was cited in 49 fatal crashes, and 52 were reportedly caused at least in part by failure to yield. Pedestrian or cyclist error was cited as a factor in 66 crashes that resulted in death. In a sign of the inadequacy of NYPD’s current crash investigation procedures, 21 percent of all crashes, including 46 fatal crashes, had no contributing factors reported.

The high numbers of injuries and deaths in 2013 relative to recent years mean that improvements in the city’s street safety record in 2014 should be taken with a grain of salt — some of the positive results may simply be reversion to the mean. Early indications are that traffic injuries and pedestrian fatalities are down so far this year, though cyclist deaths have more than doubled compared to 2013. Mayor de Blasio will have to ensure consistent and effective NYPD enforcement of Vision Zero laws, and up DOT’s game when it comes to safer street designs, to get injury and fatality counts headed in the right direction.

  • BBnet3000

    In New York we use sharrows where theres “too much auto traffic to change the road geometry” (but actually its the parking we wont touch, not the moving lanes), in The Netherlands the standards require segregated cyclepaths where the auto traffic exceeds a certain threshold.

    These are inverse design choices. Guess which place is talking about Vision Zero and which place has actually accomplished it?

  • vnm

    Wait, can this be right? According to the politicians on the TV news, it’s Metro North that’s unsafe, not cars!

  • ReinventAlbany

    Thank you for providing a csv format download of the DMV crash data. Be great to see public interest groups and journalists routinely share their data in an open format like this.

  • It seems very little is being done in NYC in general on the logical, progressive front.

    I’m visiting from SF where it’s far better. Any local insight as to what’s going wrong here?

  • jooltman

    Time to stop blaming victims: Victim “error” accounts for under a quarter of all fatal crashes.

  • Joe R.

    A lot of things come to mind:

    1) Community boards comprised of people who grew up in the “See the USA-in your Chevrolet!” era who think bikes are something for people 12 years old or younger, not serious transportation for adults.

    2) Elected leaders who are either from the same era, or are just afraid of the clout of the motoring minority.

    3) A minority of 1%ers who feel entitled by their wealth to drive everywhere. This colors policy enough so that we cater to cars in general. That in turn results in more of the middle class driving who otherwise wouldn’t.

    4) Residents who view free on-street parking as a virtual entitlement.

    5) Businesspeople who still think the majority of their customers come by car (maybe true if your business deals in heavy items but in general not true).

    6) Bribes and kickbacks from industries which benefit from the current policy. Some industries which come to mind are taxis, for-hire car services, traffic light manufacturers, road repair businesses, etc.

    7) Institutional neglect of infrastructure. This is partly related to 6). For example, roads are “repaired” or repaved to very low standards so the companies can get paid again doing the same work over and over again. Nobody holds these companies accountable, nor refuses to pay them if their work isn’t up to par.

    Anyone else feel free to add to this list. This is just what came to mind in short order.

  • Sean Kelliher

    As an addition to #4 – the practice of issuing and honoring of parking placards that let federal, state, and city employees, their friends and allies, and a host of other people park their personal cars absolutely anywhere for free.

    Also, the setting aside of curb space as reserved parking for the personal cars of police, fire, related law enforcement, EMTs, letter carriers (I kid you not), media, etc. is another hinderance to better street design.

  • How much of this is due to drivers knowing as long as they are sober and remain at the scene they won’t get charged with anything more than a minor traffic ticket?

  • hammr25

    I’d guess 99.999999999999% of motorists haven’t given it a second thought about what they’d do if they hit a pedestrian or cyclist because they’d really rather not hit one.

  • Too many “9”s there, but yes, most drivers are decently human and don’t want to kill. The problem is the 0.01% who don’t give a damn now have an excuse, especially if they are good enough actors to make people think they are upset about the wreck and injured party, sympathetic upset not angry upset. If I hadn’t been exposed to that 0.01% regularly, and had one run me over when he thought he could get away with it, I might be less cynical about what’s happening on the streets.

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