Do the math. If we want to see zero traffic deaths in this City we must work both sides of the equation. Ticket blitzes alone will not reduce casualties among those who share the streets. We need to be educating motorists about safe driving techniques, working with commercial vehicle operators to implement driver training, installing safety equipment and planning delivery routes and schedules to avoid time of peak congestion. Pedestrians and bicyclists must be reminded that they have some responsibility for their own safety. While motor vehicle operators are primarily responsible for any incident, pedestrians and cyclists be mindful of vehicles that may cross their paths, follow safety rules and remain visible. The law may give a pedestrian the right of way, but if a driver doesn’t see her, she just becomes a statistic. Additionally, crossing guards should be stationed at busy intersections.
Tickets: in some respect, they’re just numbers. Reacting to the rise in traffic fatalities in the last year, Mayor Bill de Blasio has, for the second time in a month, called for stepped up traffic law enforcement. True, fatalities are below pre-Vision Zero rates, but the recent increase in traffic deaths jolted the Mayor to show that he was doing something about it. So, the thinking goes, get in front of bad numbers with good numbers.
It was only in October, just before daylight savings time ended, that the City announced increased enforcement between the 4-9PM dusk hours. In the month since then, according to City Hall, a staggering 50,000 traffic tickets were issued… that’s more than 1,600 a day. Then, at last week’s press conference, in response to the rising traffic death toll, the Mayor announced yet another traffic ticket push. But clearly, if traffic deaths are rising even as traffic ticket citations rise, it’s clear that ticketing alone is not the answer.
The trucking industry stands ready to help reach the City’s Vision Zero goals. In fact, last week, at the third annual Vision Zero Fleet Safety Forum in Flushing Meadow Park, City agencies, safety advocates, safety equipment providers and private fleet operators came together to discuss strategies to minimize traffic injuries. Participants at the well attended event, hosted by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS), operators of the City’s huge fleet, discussed how improved training, company policies, technology and new safety equipment were driving down the number of incidents involving commercial vehicles. Not on the agenda, of course, was any discussion the need for more ticketing.
Incredibly, at the same time this conference was being held, Mayor de Blasio was at Police Plaza announcing the latest round of enforcement efforts. In fact, two City Council members (Julissa Ferreras-Copeland & Ydanis Rodriguez) who were scheduled to be at the Queens Safety Forum, instead chose to stand by the Mayor in Manhattan as he announced the latest enforcement push. If the Mayor moved his press conference to Flushing he could have showcased the efforts of his own administration as well those of private fleets to reduce traffic deaths.
So, are we serious about reducing the number of traffic casualties over the long term or are we just looking for quick fixes that do little to alter public behavior? With traffic fatalities increasing in spite of increased ticketing, the vision needs to be broadened to, if we want to get to zero.