New York is in the midst of a “traffic violence epidemic” that requires bold legislative action. That’s the message from the New York State Safe Streets Coalition, a group of organizations backing a legislative package that includes the New York Crash Victims Bill of Rights and other traffic safety bills.

Through the first nine months of 2023, car accidents killed 183 New Yorkers. Citywide, New York City saw more than 7,700 motor vehicle collisions in August.

No Relief in Sight for Post-COVID Accident Surge

According to Transportation Alternatives, a member of the NYS Safe Streets Coalition, car crashes are the leading cause of injury-related deaths in New York, the second leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations, and the third leading cause of injury-related emergency department visits. New York traffic fatalities are up 20% since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

Echoing the Vision Zero initiative launched under Mayor de Blasio in 2014, the Coalition believes that traffic deaths are a preventable health problem. But despite efforts to curb crashes, such as implementing 24/7 speed cameras and redesigning dangerous intersections, the first and second quarters of 2023 were deadlier than the Vision Zero-era average. They were particularly deadly for the 25 bike riders killed during the first nine months of the year.

If these numbers hold, 2023 will be the deadliest year for New York City bike riders since 1999. Highlighting the need for traffic safety measures, 94% of bikers killed by a vehicle were riding on streets without protected bike lanes. Of the 183 people killed in traffic accidents from January to September, SUVs were responsible for 52 deaths, including 36 biker and pedestrian fatalities.

The SAFE Streets Package

Traffic safety advocates are pushing legislation that they say is central to preventing traffic violence across New York.

“We all know that we have a statewide problem here that needs statewide solutions,” said Anne Savage of the New York Bicycle Coalition, a NYS Safe Streets member organization.

The Streets are for Everyone (SAFE) Streets Act, endorsed by NYS Safe Streets, is a package of bills intended to “redesign our streets with safety as a priority to protect all road users, address the speeding rampant on our streets, and provide support to those personally impacted.” SAFE Streets Act bills include:

  • Sammy’s Law: Allows NYC to lower its speed limits to 20 mph and as low as 10 mph in school zones.
  • Complete Streets Maintenance: Requires “Complete Street” features in state roads being built, reconstructed, or rehabilitated.
  • Complete Streets Application: Expands Complete Street design principles policy to cover local and county roads, in addition to state roads covered by current law.
  • Vehicle Safety Standards: Mandates standard safety features in new vehicles such as intelligent speed assistance, emergency braking, and distraction recognition technology.
  • Safe Passage: Establishes that motorists overtaking a bicyclist on the road must pass with at least three feet of space between them.
  • Crash Victim Bill of Rights: Guarantees rights and a voice for crash victims and their loved ones in car accident legal proceedings.

The Crash Victim Bill of Rights would give victims the rights to:

  • Obtain free, timely crash reports
  • Be notified of crash proceedings related to a crash, including NYS DMV hearings about licensing privileges
  • Not be penalized by employers for attending DMV hearings and exercising other legal rights
  • Be free from intimidation, threats, and harassment from a crash-involved driver
  • Be treated fairly and with respect for the crash victim’s dignity and privacy
  • Be informed of their rights under this bill

The bill notes that traffic crash victims typically are not afforded the support and protections that crime victims receive, because 98% of drivers who are sober and do not flee the accident scene are never charged with a crime.

Deborah J. Glick, who sponsored the Crash Victim Bill of Rights in the NYS Assembly, said the legislation would “ensure the right to free and timely crash reports, the ability to provide an impact statement at DMV hearings, and the assurance to receive time off of work to provide an impact statement for all crash victims.”

Free Car Accident Case Reviews

Strengthening traffic safety is a priority for all New Yorkers. The goal may be “Vision Zero” but car accidents remain an unfortunate reality. And as long as they do, there will be a need for experienced car accident lawyers.

The Sanders Law Firm Supports the SAFE Streets Act and reminds car accident victims they may be unaware of rights they already have, including the right to hire an attorney to investigate the crash and, in some cases, file a claim outside New York’s No-Fault insurance system.

Hurt in a crash? Call or contact us to discuss your rights.