Following reports that 11 people were killed in traffic-related accidents in the first 15 days of 2014, seven of which were pedestrians, the mayor announced that traffic cameras that were recently installed throughout the city began issuing tickets in an effort to reduce speeding and ultimately deadly accidents.
“This is going to be a central focus in our administration because the human loss is simply unacceptable,” de Blasio said in a press conference at the P.S. 152 playground in Woodside. “We’re dedicating ourselves to not just learning from each of these tragedies, but using them as the basis for action that will save lives.”
As part of the Vision Zero initiative, the mayor announced a new working group for the project that includes the NYPD, Department of Transportation, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Taxi and Limousine Commission, which will put together a blueprint for safer streets.
The group has been dealt the task of ensuring that at least 50 dangerous corridors and intersections be improved, guarantee the extension of 20 mph zones throughout the city, and initiate efforts at implementing more red light cameras at dangerous corridors.
“This will be a top-to-bottom effort to take on dangerous streets and dangerous driving,” de Blasio said. “We aren’t going to wait and lose a son, a daughter or a grandparent in another senseless and painful tragedy.”
New commissioner Bill Bratton announced that the NYPD has increased the size of its Highway Investigation Unit, which investigates life-threatening accidents, by 10 percent with plans to increase total staffing by 50 percent in the coming years, or a total of 270 officers.
“Our job is to save lives,” Bratton said. “We will be just as aggressive in preventing a deadly crash on our streets as we are in preventing a deadly shooting. This is going to be central to our work to keep New Yorkers safe.”
As part of the initiative, individual precincts will be required to develop their own pedestrian safety plans in order to better focus on dangerous intersections.
Councilman Daniel Dromm said he was pleased with the amount of focus on delivering a voice to individual communities.
“Bringing it down onto the local level is something really vitally important,” Dromm said.
Dromm, a former teacher of 25 years, said he plans to advocate for more focus towards educating children and parents on traffic safety.
“When I was a teacher at P.S. 199 in Sunnyside, I used to be in charge of the monitors, “ he said. “Providing street crossing education, like looking both ways before crossing the street, and those types of things are really important to kids. Sometimes we as adults take it for granted, but as we know even adults can get killed.”
As the daughter of a mother who was killed by a drunk driver in 1969, newly elected Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said she is hopeful for the mayor’s focus on reducing traffic-related accidents.
“I take this very personally,” Katz said. “What I took away from today was a mayor who is seriously 13 days into his administration, and he took one of the major issues that I have gotten complaints about for the last 17 years in elected office, so I have great hopes.”
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer recalled the March 2013 death of Tenzin Drudak, a 16-year-old boy killed while crossing 30th Street in Long Island City when the driver reportedly dropped his drink and lost control of his vehicle.
“There has got to be a mechanism that charges something such as manslaughter or negligent homicide that puts people who kill Tenzin Drudak and Noshat Nahian in jail,” Van Bramer said. “People are walking away with tickets when they are killing children.”