TA Report: Reckless Driving Casualties Rising as NYPD Enforcement Lags

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Transportation Alternatives today released a troubling report on the state of local traffic enforcement, and called on Mayor Bloomberg to establish a new office tasked with reining in dangerous drivers and reducing fatalities and injuries on city streets.

"Executive Order: A Mayoral Strategy for Traffic Safety" [PDF], compiled from official data along with testimony from experts on traffic enforcement and public health, reveals that while deaths caused by reckless drivers are up, citations issued for moving violations are declining.

Among the report's findings:

  • A driver could speed every day in NYC and get ticketed only once every 35 years.
  • While the number of traffic fatalities caused by speeding rose 11 percent between 2001 and 2006, the number of summonses issued for speeding dropped 22 percent during that period.
  • Police and enforcement cameras combined catch only 1 out of every 438 red light runners.
  • A driver could fail to yield (the number two cause of crashes in NYC) every single day and get ticketed only once every 1,589 years.
  • While the number of traffic fatalities caused by drivers failing to yield rose 26 percent between 2005 and 2007, the number of summonses issued for failing to yield decreased 12 percent during that period.

"There's so much that can and should be done, and so much that isn't being done, to save lives," said TA Executive Director Paul Steely White, speaking this morning on the steps of City Hall. In the unlikely event that a person is ticketed for driving dangerously, White said, the ticket will likely be dismissed in court. In the most extreme yet all too common case in which a driver kills or injures another person, as Streetsblog readers well know, charges are rarely issued. Though the NYPD patrol manual contains clear outlines for securing evidence during crash scene investigations (page 51 of the report), these methods are often ignored, making cases difficult or impossible to prosecute.

In addition to injuries and fatalities, White said, New Yorkers also suffer the effects of out-of-control driving in reduced opportunities for exercise and a general diminution in quality of life. "This chain of danger and injustice must be broken," said White.

Ultimately, "Executive Order" concludes that current government practices and a lack of inter-agency cooperation result in little to no deterrence when it comes to dangerous behavior behind the wheel. To establish order on city streets and reduce the number of New Yorkers maimed and killed annually, TA recommends the following:

  • Create an Office of Road Safety at City Hall in charge of reducing traffic violations, crashes, injuries and fatalities.
  • Have the DMV distribute points to licenses from the time of conviction, not retroactively from adjudication, in order to keep dangerous drivers off the road.
  • Reemploy the former NYPD policy of deploying officers to areas with frequent crashes.
  • Measure traffic safety in the Mayor's Management Report through incident reduction, not summonses issued.

There are other suggested remedies. For example, if NYPD were to allow Traffic Enforcement Agents to issue summonses for moving violations, White said, it would add thousands of officers with the ability to calm traffic "virtually overnight."

As it stands, the case of Andre Anderson, whose mother also spoke today, serves all too well as an exemplar of the city's approach to traffic crime. Andre was killed in 2005 while riding his bike in Far Rockaway, Queens. He was 14 years old. Though samples of Andre's body tissue were screened for the presence of intoxicants, Audrey Anderson said, the driver of the SUV who hit him from behind was not tested for alcohol or drugs.

While Andre's killer was eventually issued a speeding ticket, according to "Executive Order," it was thrown out of court.