Bratton on NYC’s Vision Zero Goal: “It Will Probably Remain Elusive”

If New York City hopes to achieve Vision Zero, it probably won’t happen on Police Commissioner Bill Bratton’s watch.

Bratton kicked off the Vision Zero Cities conference, happening today and tomorrow at NYU, with a big helping of complacency.

“You’re not going to get to zero,” Bratton said at a morning question and answer session with former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson. Though it’s a nice goal to aspire to, said Bratton, “the reality [is] it will probably remain elusive.”

Something else New York won’t be doing while Bratton heads NYPD is increasing the number of crash investigators. Abramson, who was hit by a truck driver in a 2007 crash that police did not investigate, noted that drivers caused 3,500 serious injuries last year, and that the Collision Investigation Squad worked only about 10 percent of those cases. She twice asked Bratton if he intended to beef up CIS.

“We have many priorities,” said Bratton, who cited terrorism, “traditional crime,” and a lack of available officers as obstacles to boosting CIS personnel. Instead, Bratton said, existing CIS staff is handling more crashes, not just those where victims die or are deemed “likely to die.”

Bratton said the Highway Division will get 100 additional officers, but they won’t be assigned to CIS.

Bratton told Abramson NYPD is charging more motorists under the Right of Way Law, which he said took effect in May 2015 (it was actually August 2014). Since that time police have charged only a few dozen drivers for injuring and killing victims who were walking and biking with the right of way.

“Everything new takes a while to get ramped up,” Bratton said.

When Bratton’s repeated use of the word “accident” brought shouts of “crash” from the packed room, Abramson asked him if he considers traffic crashes to be accidents. Bratton said it’s a matter of preferred nomenclature.

“Call them whatever you want,” said Bratton. “Right now we classify them as accidents.” Bratton later clarified that incidents when police can show intent or violation of criminal law are not considered accidents.

Bratton noted that while pedestrian deaths are up nationwide, fatalities in New York City are on the decline, despite the fact that so many New Yorkers walk around staring at their phones.