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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.

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