With traffic fatalities surging across the United States over the last few years, New York City’s 2022 data, which shows modest year-over-year improvement, is a bright spot. But there is still a long way to go before the City reaches its “Vision Zero” aspirations.

The Good News: First Reduction in City Traffic Fatalities Since 2019

Across the developed world, traffic deaths have been falling over the past decade in nearly every country except for the United States. Even during the pandemic, when car travel decreased worldwide and traffic deaths generally fell, the opposite occurred in the U.S., reports the New York Times.

U.S. road deaths increased 5% in 2020 compared to the 2017 – 2019 average. The following year saw a 10.5% rise in traffic fatalities from 2020. And in the first half of 2022, traffic deaths were up again over the previous year, preliminary NHTSA data shows.

Amid this nationwide increase in traffic deaths, New York City has shown improvement. The Department of Transportation (DOT) recently reported that overall traffic fatalities fell across NYC in 2022 by 6.6%, including a 6.3% decrease in pedestrian deaths and fewer cyclist deaths for the third straight year. Mayor Eric Adams says these numbers are a sign that “New York City is getting safer.”

The Bad News: NYC Traffic Deaths Still Exceed Pre-Pandemic Levels

Between 2014—the year Bill de Blasio became NYC mayor and launched “Vision Zero”—and 2018, NYC experienced a steady decline in car crash deaths, from 259 to 202.

However, while the 255 total traffic fatalities reported last year are down from the 273 recorded in 2021, they’re still higher than 2018’s total—the lowest number since Vision Zero was implemented.

In 2013, the year prior to Vision Zero taking effect, there were 299 NYC traffic fatalities. From 2000 to 2003, NYC averaged more than 380 traffic deaths per year.

Mayor Adams cited actions like 24/7 speed cameras and improved intersections for making NYC’s streets safer for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. But he emphasized that the City will continue working toward the Vision Zero goal of ending traffic fatalities.

According to Vision Zero NYC, around 3,000 New Yorkers are seriously injured and more than 200 are killed every year due to car accidents. The program focuses on redesigning city streets to make them safer, motorist education, and improved traffic law enforcement.

While NYC officials point to progress, some street safety advocates say not enough is being done to reach Vision Zero. Danny Harris of Transportation Alternatives told The Gothamist that the City has failed to install the 30 new miles of protected bike lanes outlined in the “Streets Master Plan” approved by the City Council in 2019.

December 2022 Snapshot of NYC Car Crashes

Vizion Zero points out that traffic deaths and injuries are not “inevitable” accidents, but preventable crashes.

The organization has pushed back on the previous NHTSA claim that 94% of crashes are due to human error. One of its core tenets is that communities need to take greater responsibility for the design, operation, and use of their transportation systems.

Yet given how the laws are written, New Yorkers seriously injured in car accidents have a difficult time holding government safety officials accountable. Furthermore, the focus on engineering and policy solutions may underemphasize the risks that many drivers knowingly take.

A New York Post analysis of the pandemic surge in traffic deaths found that it was fueled by “antisocial driving” such as drunk driving, speeding, and inattentive driving. This corresponds to an NHTSA report showing that increased pandemic fatalities were driven by impaired driving and speeding. Another NHTSA study found that 54% of roadway users seriously injured or killed in traffic accidents tested positive for drugs or alcohol.

Even as traffic fatalities begin to level off post-pandemic, dangerous driving behavior remains common. City of New York Police Department statistics from December 2022 list over 8,000 motor vehicle crashes citywide that killed 21 people and injured 4,157. Among the top contributing factors in these accidents were:

  • Driver inattention/distraction
  • Failure to yield right-of-way
  • Following too closely
  • Improper passing or lane usage
  • Unsafe speed
  • Ignoring traffic controls
  • Alcohol

Overall in December, Manhattan had 1,362 car accidents, The Bronx had 1,400, Brooklyn had 2,626, Queens had 2,262, and Staten Island had 476 crashes.

Talk to a Car Accident Lawyer at The Sanders Law Firm

Vision Zero is a noble goal and New York deserves credit for the progress it has made towards making our streets safer. But as long as there are car accidents in New York City, there will be a need for car accident lawyers.

The Sanders Law Firm has been helping New Yorker injured in motor vehicle accidents since 1967. We’ve recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for our injury clients and established a reputation as a law firm to be reckoned with.

To discuss your car accidents rights, including when you might be able to file a lawsuit outside of the New York No-Fault system, please contact us.