DOT: Speeding the Leading Cause of NYC Traffic Deaths in 2012

Circles indicate motorists speeding near schools. ## for full-size PDF. Image: NYC DOT

Motor vehicle occupant deaths increased by 46 percent from 2011 to last year, NYC DOT said today, as the agency emphasized the need for automated enforcement with the release of 2012 traffic fatality counts.

There were 274 traffic deaths in NYC in 2012, compared to 245 in 2011. Motor vehicle occupant fatalities increased from 50 to 73. The number of pedestrian and cyclist deaths was mostly unchanged: 166 in 2012 compared to 163 in 2011. Pedestrian fatalities were up in 2012, while cyclist deaths decreased.

Speeding was the leading single factor in traffic deaths, contributing to 81 fatal crashes.

Other factoids from DOT:

  • Most fatal crashes involved “speeding and disregard of red lights or stop signs, driver inattention and/or alcohol.”
  • Speeding was a factor in 65 percent more crashes in 2012 than in 2011 (81 compared to 49).
  • Fatal hit-and-runs increased 31 percent from 2010 to 2012.
  • For the third year in a row, no pedestrians were killed in crashes with cyclists.
NYC traffic fatalities. Image: NYC DOT

DOT released a map illustrating 100 locations where 75 percent or more drivers were speeding within a quarter-mile of schools. The agency observed widespread disregard for children’s safety across the boroughs: 79 percent of motorists were found speeding near P.S. 199 in Sunnyside, Queens; 97 percent near P.S. 187 in Washington Heights, Manhattan; 87 percent near P.S. 270 in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn; 89 percent near P.S. 69 in the Bronx; and 81 percent of drivers were speeding near P.S. 35 in Grymes Hill, Staten Island.

“The streets around our city’s schools are the real speed traps, and we can’t play it safe when it comes to doing everything we can to protect New Yorkers on our streets — and especially seniors and school kids,” said DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, in a written statement. Sadik-Khan was joined by NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and Chancellor Dennis Walcott in calling for “swift authorization” of legislation that would allow NYC to employ its first-ever speed camera program.

Speed cameras have been endorsed by the State Assembly but have yet to gain support from the Senate, where they are up against opposition from Senator Marty Golden and the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association.

  • commonsensedriver

    My problem with these statistics is that they’re self fulfilling: If you set an arbitrary number as the speed limit, and then call every crash in which a car exceeding that number is involved “caused by speeding,” you’ll have a study that says speeding is the leading cause of deaths.
    Meanwhile, those people speeding were only involved in a crash because they ran a red light or committed another violation of the rules.
    I’m not saying driving 80 down 34th street is OK, just that not every crash where someone was going over 30 was truly caused by speeding, especially when every car on the road is doing 10 over.

  • Anonymous

    For cars crashing into pedestrians speed is a huge factor in whether the victim lives or dies.
    Thats actually the point of the “thats why its 30” DOT campaign

  • “Speeding was a factor in 65 percent more crashes in 2012 than in 2011 (81 compared to 49).” – Does the DOT or anyone else have an explanation as to why this is? Understanding the root of the problem is necessary before attempting to solve it.

  • Anonymous

    So if I’m driving really quickly and hit a pedestrian in a crosswalk because I can’t stop in time, the acceptable way to describe the cause of that person’s injury is failure to yield, while speed is just a frivolous extra? Or is the real, true crime hitting the pedestrian? Is that the other “violation of the rules”? Talk about arbitrary . . .

    In any case, that’s why speed is talked about as the leading *contributing factor*. Obviously, any event of this sort isn’t a single factor. At a purely physical level, the mass of the vehicle matters, etc. But speed, as @BBnet3000:disqus points out, plays a signal part in how grievous the consequences are for this kind of violence.

  • Anonymous

    You are confusing “cause of crash” with “cause of death”. As has been proven over and over again, as well as in agreement with physics and common sense, the slower the speed, the less likely it is for a crash to be fatal.

    It is also reasonable to expect fewer crashes at lower speeds (other things being equal) because people have more time to react and shorter stopping distances.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The problem with the view of “common sense driver” is that he seems to assume that in many cases drivers have the right to kill pedestrians or cyclists. If a motor vehicle has the right of way, they can just keep going, and if someone else goes where they are not supposed to, that’s just tough.

    So you can just barrel down a narrow, one way residential street at 30, or should I say 35, with a perfectly clear conscience. And perhaps perhaps sue the parents of the dead child than ran out into the street for the cost of damage to the vehicle.

    Lower speed is about being able to stop to avoid killing someone EVEN IF YOU HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY. It’s something I need to be mindful of on a bicycle because people jaywalk in front of me every single day.

    If drivers do not accept any obligation to avoid harming people, then you get to Ulrich’s mentality: so what if I go 45, or 65, if the light is green? (And if there are no cameras and no witnesses, it is always green).

  • Joe R.

    Minor point-I noticed people tend to jaywalk less in front of bicycles which are moving faster. I can still see people in plenty of time to avoid them at 20 mph, as opposed to 10 mph, yet I get far fewer casually strolling in front of me at 20 mph.


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