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City traffic deaths plummet

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the city had the fewest amount of traffic deaths in 2011 since records were kept in 1910 as Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly look on. Photo courtesy mayor's office
TimesLedger Newspapers

The city was set to end the year with the lowest number of deaths from traffic accidents since statistics were recorded in 1910, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other city officials announced last week.

As of Dec. 27, there were 237 traffic fatalities in 2011 — a 40 percent drop from the 393 people who were killed in accidents in 2001.

The city’s traffic fatality rate dropped from 4.87 fatalities per 100,000 residents in 2001 to 2.8 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2011.

Of the 237 deaths last year, 134 were pedestrians who were hit by cars, 47 were senior pedestrian fatalities and only three were child pedestrian fatalities.

“This will be the city’s safest traffic year in the more than 100 years since records were kept,” Bloomberg said at Grand Army Plaza last Thursday in Brooklyn, where he made the announcement along with Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and city Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. “We’ve made progress in every area of traffic safety due to our willingness to take new, creative approaches to longstanding challenges with safety redesigns and through aggressive traffic enforcement.

Bloomberg tied in the safety records this year to an earlier announcement that the city’s life expectancy is now 80.6 years, which surpasses the national average.

“We’ve focused on making our streets safer for all who use them — no matter how they decide to travel — and it’s another reason New Yorkers are living longer and another reason our city is safer than ever before.”

Bicycle fatalities have stayed close to the 2001 levels even though bicycle ridership has quadrupled over the last 10 years.

Bloomberg said the all-time lows were due in part to the DOT’s undertaking safety initiatives and the NYPD’s aggressive enforcement of speeding and drunken driving.

“The reduction in traffic deaths as a result of our safety engineering means nearly 300 New Yorkers are alive today who would not have been if we had simply sustained the fatality rate of five years ago,” Sadik-Khan said. “And even as we applaud this accomplishment, the men and women of NYC DOT are working throughout the five boroughs to make our streets even safer.”

DOT installed pedestrian countdowns at about 1,100 intersections across the city, including some along Queens Boulevard, called the “Boulevard of Death” for the large number of pedestrians who have been struck and killed on the major thoroughfare.

NYPD traffic enforcement also contributed to the fewer traffic fatalities this year, Kelly said.

“NYPD traffic enforcement is aimed at saving lives, and that’s reflected in the million summonses we issue for moving violations annually,” the commissioner said. “About a third of the summonses are related to seat belt enforcement and distracted driving, both life and death concerns. It’s also reflected in arrests for DWI. We’ve made 8,500 drunk driving arrests through Dec. 18, and seized 900 vehicles in the process.”

DOT also said it would continue its safety campaigns into 2012, including the “That’s Why it’s 30” campaign about the impact of speeding and the “Don’t be a Jerk” campaign tailored to the city’s bicyclists.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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