Can New York City Achieve a New Goal of Zero Traffic Deaths Per Year?

Illustration for article titled Can New York City Achieve a New Goal of Zero Traffic Deaths Per Year?

In one of the most ambitious announcements of his term so far, Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged yesterday to eliminate traffic deaths in New York City. In 2013, there were 286 traffic-related fatalities.


The 42-page plan includes changes to both the design of streets and enforcement of traffic flow, according to the New York Times:

Perhaps the most significant changes involve the New York Police Department, whose officers will increase precinct-level enforcement of speeding. Other measures include the widening of parking lanes, to keep delivery vehicles out of travel lanes while double-parked, and exploring the use of an automated system that could pause a taxicab's meter if a driver exceeds the speed limit.

The zero-traffic-deaths strategy first originated in Sweden in 1994, where the country's Vision Zero Initiative outlined their goal to achieve zero fatalities by 2020 (interestingly, the same year Swedish automaker Volvo has pledged to end auto deaths by their cars). According to the Vision Zero website, fatalities have been reduced by almost 50 percent in the last five years, even as roadway volume has increased. There were 541 deaths in 1997, a number which has steadily gone down, reaching an all-time low of 266 deaths in 2010. Comparatively, New York City saw an all-time low of 249 in 2011.

While Sweden hasn't achieved Vision Zero as a country yet, many cities around the world have outlined their own campaigns modeled on the plan; however, some of these remain outlines and proposals that have not been formally adopted by the city leadership yet. Just this week, Walk San Francisco announced its Vision Zero plan to end traffic deaths in the city by 2024.

New York City certainly has a good head start. The city has taken great strides with the addition of pedestrian plazas and bike lanes in recent years and is already making some of the improvements outlined in the plan: The Department of Transportaton revealed changes for a particularly deadly intersection on the Upper West Side. Some of those elements will be seen at 50 more intersections across the city, like clearer lane striping and enhanced street lighting.


But it will take more than just better streets and stricter ticketing—achieving zero traffic deaths will require a citywide shift in behavior. What do you think: Can New York City be the first large city to reach this goal? []

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Well, given that there are unpredictable factors like drivers who have heart attacks, mechanical failures, etc this is just a pipe dream. Of course, it is a nice one, and they will certainly reduce traffic fatalities.

Minor point of contention though: enforcing speed limits does not necessarily make roads safer.