For a decade, New York City saw a decreasing number of deadly accidents. That was until June of 2012 when a new report showed that traffic fatalities had jumped 23 percent from the previous year.
The city’s leadership had been credited with improvements in safety from bicycles lanes to redesigned roadways, but is the spike in people killed by vehicles an anomaly or the sign of a bigger problem?
Some people are questioning whether all of the safety features that have been added can actually create a false sense of security. For example, bicycle lanes may make people on bikes feel safe and pay less attention to the vehicles around them. The declining size of lanes can also increase the chance of a crash.
Others have suggested the biggest problems are cyclists and pedestrians who do not follow the rules, drivers who drink or people who get distracted.
A study intended to find out why people are getting struck found that speeding vehicles are the biggest culprit. A pedestrian struck by a car traveling at 40 mph is four times as likely to die as a pedestrian struck by a car at 30 mph and 24 times more likely to die when the car is going 20 mph.
The most common way for a pedestrian to get killed is by a vehicle turning at an intersection, and in more than half of those cases, the pedestrian was using the signal.
Safety advocates question police enforcement of accidents. As long as drivers remain at the scene and are not impaired by drugs or alcohol, they rarely face charges. The overwhelming mindset among many police officers is that accidents are unavoidable parts of city life.
In Europe, many cities have lowered speed limits and cracked down on those who break those limits. In New York City, more tickets were issued last year for tinted windows than speeding violations.
While police officers hand out tickets for cell phones when they can catch someone obviously violating the law or for not wearing a seat belt, aggressive drivers who fail to yield are the ones who oftentimes kill people.
Cities across the United States and around the world will continue to struggle with this dilemma. However, it’s important that drivers understand they are accountable for their actions. Reckless behavior must face consequences to make sure other drivers remember the importance of safety.
For all those who want to follow the rules and drive safely, be sure to always pay attention to your surroundings.