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."

  • This is along the lines of an argument which I have always believed to be true, yet have had difficulty finding a good study which links the statistics together to truly answer the question. In cities with crime problems, parents justify their decision to raise kids in the suburbs by saying it is safer. I would argue that even in exceptionally crime-infested cities, such as Baltimore, one is more likely to die driving around the suburbs than they would be to die as the victim of urban crime in the city. It becomes a complex question to answer, due to the fact that any one automobile occupant is equally susceptible to death as any other in the suburbs, but with urban crime, while there may be 300 murders per year in a city of 700,000, the truth is that the majority of those murders are criminal-on-criminal, meaning it isn’t right to say that one has a 300 out of 700,000 chance of being shot on the streets of Baltimore. Don’t get me wrong–I’m terrified of certain neighborhoods in Baltimore, and will take an 8 mile route to bike to my friend’s house in favor of a 5-mile direct route through dangerous neighborhoods, for example. But I’m just as terrified of dying at the hands of an inherently dangerous transportation system.

  • I was chatting last weekend with my wife’s cousin, a community physician in Harlem, about this report. Docs in E. Harlem counsel their patients to exercise and lead healthy lives, but the streets aren’t safe to use. How can the city justify prioritizing installation of cycle tracks between Houston and 34th Street on First, Second and Eighth Avenues, over installation of cycle tracks in East Harlem? Especially when the chair of the CB 11 Transportation Committee is pleading for protected bike paths, unlike some CB Transpo Committee Chairs I know?

  • Schuylkillsarah

    I don’t understand why this post says that motor vehicles are the leading cause of death (28%) due to injury when non-transportation accidents are the cause of a greater percentage of deaths (41%). Is that because the non-transportation accidents are a sum of many different types (fires, drownings,..) and motor vehicle crashes account for more deaths than fires and more deaths than drownings? I think the pie chart would be more powerful if the non-transportation accidents were broken out so that one would see that the 28% caused by motor vehicles is greater than other types of non-intentional accidents.

  • How can the city justify prioritizing installation of cycle tracks between Houston and 34th Street on First, Second and Eighth Avenues, over installation of cycle tracks in East Harlem?

    JSK and her defenders have convinced themselves that Harlem residents don’t know what’s good for them and don’t want any ped/bike/bus/subway improvements. To try to convince them otherwise is like to try to convince Dick Cheney that sometimes torture isn’t the best interrogation method.

  • Sarah, the 35% of fatal injuries caused by motor vehicles is much greater than the next biggest cause, fires and burns, with 28%.

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