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Traffic safety science and New York traffic fatality rates: Part II

Posted by Smiley & Smiley on Dec 14, 2012 11:00:06 AM

Yesterday, we began discussing the recent spike in New York's fatal traffic accident rate. In order to determine what is causing the spike in the worst kinds of auto and truck accidents, New York's unique crosswalk culture, large population and crowded traffic grid must be carefully analyzed.

NYC has undergone significant road safety changes in the past several years. The safety of pedestrians and cyclists has been prioritized at the highest level since World War II. Overall, New York's traffic fatality rates are proportionally lower than other large cities in America, though they tend to be higher than many international, highly industrialized cities.

There is a possibility that the sharp spike in traffic-related fatalities between the summers of 2011 and 2012 was a fluke. However, the more likely explanation is that the city has not yet gone far enough in its efforts to ensure that pedestrians, motorists and cyclists share the road equitably and safely. In addition, some of the efforts already in place may be masking greater road hazards.

For example, some safety advocates are concerned that bike lanes give both motorists and cyclists a false sense of security regarding safety. Bike lane installation has caused roads to "narrow" for motorists and that challenge may inspire rather than prevent certain kinds of accidents, especially in inclement weather when vehicles tend to skid out of control and have less room to regain that control before colliding with anything in their way. In addition, distracted driving, cycling and walking have added to the dangerous nature of traveling in the city.

In order to help prevent future fatality rate spikes, city officials must return to the drawing board and consider New York's unique safety problems very carefully. Failure to do so will only lead to increasingly dangerous travel conditions.

Source: New York Magazine, "Death by Car," Robert Kolker, Nov. 25, 2012

Topics: car accidents, cyclist-safety, pedestrians

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