Calling traffic fatalities an “epidemic” that deserves immediate attention from the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio launched his administration’s “Vision Zero” agenda this afternoon, setting out to eliminate traffic deaths within a decade. The most important news to come out of today’s announcement is that his administration will enlist multiple agencies to tackle the multifaceted problem of traffic violence. A working group led by the city’s police, transportation, health, and taxi commissioners is tasked with coming up with an action plan by February 15.
De Blasio also announced more immediate steps. School-zone speed cameras, which have been issuing warnings since they were installed in September, will begin issuing tickets tomorrow, the mayor said, and the police will begin prioritizing enforcement of the most dangerous infractions: Speeding and failure to yield to pedestrians. In addition, NYPD will be increasing the size of its highway division — which investigates crashes and performs much of the department’s traffic enforcement — to 270 officers, an increase of 50 percent; already, the unit has increased its staff size by 10 percent, up from 170 officers.
De Blasio made the announcement this afternoon at PS 152 in Woodside, where 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was walking last month when, crossing Northern Boulevard with his sister, he was struck and killed by an unlicensed tractor-trailer truck driver. Flanked by Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, incoming Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, elected officials, and families of traffic violence victims, de Blasio began his remarks by saying this issue is important to him as a parent. ”Every one of us thinks: ‘What if that was my child?’” he said. “That is, in fact, how we have to make public policy and how we have to implement public policy.”
“There is an epidemic of traffic fatalities and it can’t go on,” de Blasio said, noting that traffic fatalities are the leading cause of injury-related death for NYC children and that the city’s plunging homicide rate — 333 murders last year — is closing in on the number of traffic fatalities, which last year’s preliminary data puts at 286 people.
“The families joining us today have turned their grief into action,” de Blasio continued. “We are standing with them and we’re starting immediately to make changes to protect our children, and to protect all New Yorkers.”
In tone and substance, today’s announcement marked a notable departure from the days when NYC DOT was the sole city agency taking traffic violence seriously. The interagency task force will convene over the next month before releasing a report with “concrete plans” to carry out de Blasio’s Vision Zero campaign promises, namely: Dedicating more NYPD resources to traffic enforcement, improving design and enforcement along 50 dangerous corridors and intersections annually, expanding the number of 20 mph zones, and formulating a legislative agenda that includes securing home rule over traffic enforcement cameras.