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Pedestrians and NYC’s dangerous streets

As a New Yorker, you are an old hand at dashing across streets clogged with traffic. You may not even give it a second thought since it is something you do several times each day. You would do well, however, not to take your safety for granted. More than 120 pedestrians die each year while negotiating NYC’s crowded sidewalks and crossing our even more crowded streets.

Between 2012 and 2014, 497 NYC pedestrians lost their lives when a vehicle struck them. Perhaps not surprisingly, 37 percent of these were 65 years old or older, even though this age demographic represents only 13 percent of NYC’s population. A large percentage of fatal pedestrian accidents occurred within 10 blocks of the victim’s home, with the age group fatalities breaking down as follows:

  • Age 65 and older – 57 percent

  • Age 18-64 – 37 percent

  • Age 17 and under – 72 percent

Whatever your age, if a vehicle strikes you going 20 miles per hour, you have a 10 percent chance of dying. If one strikes you going 40 miles per hour, your chance of dying increases to 80 percent.

Vision Zero Initiative

Due to alarming pedestrian death statistics such as the above, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio initiated a new traffic safety initiative in 2014. Recognizing that speeding vehicles cause most pedestrian deaths, Vision Zero reduced speed limits on most city streets to 25 miles per hour, changed traffic patterns, and put up cameras near schools to catch speeding vehicles.

Despite these efforts, however, your risk of suffering injury or death by a vehicle while walking on NYC’s sidewalks or crossing streets continues to climb. In 2015, 120 pedestrians died as a result of a vehicle hitting them. The number rose to 126 pedestrians in 2016. In the first five months of 2017, 5,577 pedestrians and bicyclists received injuries and 46 died.

“Perfect storm” of factors

Vehicle speed is not the only thing that threatens your safety and your life. Other factors come into play as well, including the following:

  • Drunk driving and walking

  • Distracted driving and walking

  • Failure of vehicles to yield to pedestrians

  • Increased traffic

  • Lower gas prices

During one three-week period, NYPD officers issued 4,880 citations for illegal cellphone use while driving, 4,268 for failure to yield, 3,818 for speeding and 3,066 for texting while driving. In other words, you had 16,032 chances of being injured or killed in less than a month. That is a truly staggering figure.

Your best strategy while out walking in NYC is hyper-vigilance. Make it a point to stay aware of everything going on around you. This is no time to be talking or texting on your cellphone or drowning out the city noise with your headphones. Your life may well depend on your own conscious efforts to keep yourself as safe as possible.

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