LaHood, Sadik-Khan Show Off LOOK! Safety Education Campaign

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood joined NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan at the corner of 42nd Street and Second Avenue this morning for the official launch of the city’s new LOOK! campaign, aimed at distracted drivers and pedestrians.

Sadik-Khan and LaHood point to the marking's "eyes," which indicate the direction of traffic. Photo: Stephen Miller

Although NYC traffic fatalities are down 40 percent over the past decade, last year, 57 percent of fatalities were pedestrians. Half of all pedestrians killed in city crosswalks last year had the “walk” signal when they were killed.

“Having the right of way does not guarantee your safety,” LaHood said, while standing beside an intersection that saw 75 pedestrian injuries between 2006 and 2010.

“We need motorists to pay attention as they’re taking the turn,” Sadik-Khan urged.

The LOOK! campaign uses funds from the Federal Highway Administration to install $60,000 worth of thermoplast markings at 200 intersections with high pedestrian fatality rates in all five boroughs. DOT began installing the crosswalk markings in July and has so far reached 110 intersections.

The campaign also includes $1 million for a six-month ad campaign, targeting pedestrians with messages on bus shelters and drivers with ads on the backs of buses.

Sadik-Khan said DOT will be evaluating the effectiveness of the campaign on pedestrian and driver behavior, noting that distracted driving trails only speeding and drunk driving as a contributor to injuries and fatalities. Distracted driving was a contributing factor in 3,092 deaths nationwide in 2010. In New York City, more than 9,000 were injured and 41 died in distracted driving crashes.

Sadik-Khan said she was inspired by ubiquitous crosswalk markings in London that instruct pedestrians to look left or right. Many visitors to London are not used to the UK’s drive-on-the-left rules and habitually look the wrong way before crossing the road. The “eyes” in New York’s LOOK! markings more subtly direct pedestrians to look toward the flow of traffic.

LaHood was impressed with the city’s latest campaign. “New York City DOT has done a great job, as they always do,” he said, adding that he plans to talk about the LOOK! program with officials as he campaigns against distracted driving nationwide.

An example of the ads drivers are seeing on the backs of buses. Image: DOT

At the press conference, Sadik-Khan was asked how much of an impact this campaign could have, given NYPD’s lax enforcement of traffic laws. “We’re working very closely with NYPD and Commissioner Kelly,” Sadik-Khan said. Noting that DOT has done lots of work on traffic safety education and engineering, she added, “enforcement is another very important part.”

The commissioner hinted at future traffic enforcement developments, saying, “It’s too early to give an announcement now.”

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