Traffic Remains Top Injury-Related Killer of New York City’s Children

Picture_2.pngTransportation-related injuries, overwhelmingly caused by motorists hitting pedestrians, remain a top killer of New York City children. Graphic: NYC Department of Health

New York’s public transportation keeps children alive. New York City traffic kills them. Those are the fundamental facts that explain injury fatality rates among the city’s children, according to the Department of Health.

Last week the health department released their fourth yearly report on children’s injury deaths [PDF]. As in past years, motor vehicles are the leading cause of death due to injury among children. Between 2001 and 2008, 1,535 children died in New York City, 445 from injuries. Of those, 106 were killed by motor vehicles. The overwhelming majority of these victims were walking at the time they were fatally struck, while a few were in cars themselves or on bikes or scooters. The first report in this series focused more closely on traffic crashes and offered a more detailed look at how cars kill children.

In this year’s report, the Department of Health focused on disparities
in fatalities, and the unequal burden of traffic couldn’t be clearer.
For instance, 26.6 percent
of city residents are black, but black children account for 46 percent
of the transportation injuries that claim the lives of New Yorkers age 12 and under.

"The public health imperative for safer streets has never been clearer," responded Transportation Alternatives’ Wiley Norvell. "Our city’s children are falling victim to dangerous roadways and reckless driving."

The ray of light that emerges from the grim statistics is that because so many New Yorkers rely on public transportation to get around, children are much safer than they would otherwise be. New York City has only a third as many transportation-related child fatalities as the national average. Our safer transportation system is the prime reason that overall, New York City kids die from injuries at half the national rate. 

The report also offers a few recommendations for how to keep New York’s children safe. With regards to transportation, they recommend stronger enforcement of traffic violations and allowing cameras to enforce speeding laws on dangerous speeds (a measure that has seemingly stalled in Albany this session), as well as installing convex mirrors on trucks and better installation of child car seats. Said Norvell, "It’s time to marshal every lever in government to bring these numbers down."

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