Over eight million people live within the five boroughs that make up New York City, and many of them walk the city streets every day. Many more commuters and tourists pour into the city heading toward jobs, museums, galleries and shopping - walking can be a cheap and convenient way to navigate the traffic-jammed streets of the Big Apple. And while a recent traffic safety study from the New York Department of Transportation (NYDOT) touts New York City as one of the safest places in the world for pedestrians, walkers crossing the city's streets face real risks each day.

After surveying a sample of over 7,000 motor vehicle accidents involving pedestrians, the NYDOT's study revealed some startling statistics about pedestrian accidents:

  • One fifth of all pedestrian accidents involve buses, delivery trucks, taxis or other large commercial vehicles
  • Over one third of all pedestrian fatalities or serious injuries are caused by distracted drivers

Buses, Large Trucks and Cabs Account for 20 Percent of NYC Pedestrian Fatalities

The NYDOT's report is quick to point out that most pedestrian accidents are caused by motorists operating private vehicles. However, approximately 20 percent of pedestrian crashes in New York City involve taxis, trucks and buses. And while fewer pedestrian crashes overall are caused by cabs, delivery trucks and buses, these types of motor vehicles are involved in pedestrian accidents at a rate that is higher than passenger cars. For example, buses only account for 0.4 percent of vehicle registrations in New York City, yet buses are involved in three percent of all pedestrian accidents - a rate that is seven and a half times greater than expected.

Similarly, cabs and large trucks have higher rates of contributing to pedestrian fatalities than passenger vehicles. Cabs account for only two percent of vehicle registrations, but 13 percent of all pedestrian accidents. Large trucks account for 3.6 percent of vehicle registrations, but are involved in four percent of pedestrian accidents.

Larger vehicles like trucks and buses are three times more likely to cause death or serious injury than passenger cars. The report notes that trucks with large cabs have a larger blind spot on the right side of the vehicle, which leads to more pedestrians being struck during right turns than is the case for cars.

While semis, buses and other commercial vehicles can cause deadly accidents, other drivers can also create significant risks for those that walk New York City streets.

Crosswalks are Dangerous, Whether or Not the Walk Signal is Illuminated

The NYDOT's traffic safety study notes that drivers who failed to yield to a pedestrian crossing with a traffic signal caused about 27 percent of pedestrian accidents. Another twenty percent of pedestrians were struck while crossing against a traffic signal (New York law requires drivers to yield to pedestrians regardless of signals). The study determined that left-turn pedestrian accidents are three times more likely than right-turn pedestrian accidents because of the greater risk of driver error during left turns.

Other dangerous driver behaviors including speeding, impaired driving and lane-changing all increased the risk of a driver hitting a pedestrian. Where driver negligence or reckless behavior contributes to a pedestrian accident, the driver could face serious criminal charges or a civil lawsuit for personal injuries or wrongful death.

Older Americans Face Triple The Risk of Death in NYC Crosswalks

Transportation for America, a national transit watch dog, recently completed a nationwide study that revealed most city streets are most dangerous for older pedestrians. While the elderly are less likely to be hit by a vehicle, when they are struck, they are much more likely to be killed.

Nationally, senior citizens over the age of 65 represent more than in five pedestrian accident deaths, but only account for 13 percent of total population. In the Big Apple, the danger to senior citizens is much greater: the elderly only account for 12 percent of the city's population, but represent 38 percent of pedestrian fatalities - a fatality risk that is 315 percent greater than that of the general population.

In response to this reality, a New York program called Safe Streets for Seniors began in 2008 with a goal of reducing pedestrian fatality rates for the elderly. Project initiatives include increasing the time that the "Walk" signal flashes to allow slower walkers more time to cross and adding countdowns to walking signals to give those in the crosswalk a better gauge of whether they should attempt to cross the street.

While pedestrians need to be cautious and realistic about crossing streets, a walk to or from work, a deli or restaurant or the great museums, galleries and shops around New York City should not be deadly. By state law, drivers are required to yield to pedestrians and drivers may bear the ultimate responsibility after a pedestrian fatality or a walker is injured. If you or a loved one has been injured in a New York City pedestrian accident, please contact an experienced attorney to explore your legal options.