Articles Posted in Traffic Accidents

Data published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Highway Administration show that traffic levels in the US have significant decreased over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic. FHA data show specifically that driving has decreased “by 40% in April soon after the pandemic emerged” compared to the same period in 2019, according to Voice of America News. As drivers returned to the road, the total kilometers driven was only down 11% in July 2020 compared to July 2019. Meanwhile NHTSA data shows that during the second quarter of 2020, traffic volume fell 16% compared to the first six months of 2019.

According to VOA News, experts suggest these trends are beneficial for the environment. One researcher at the Natural Resources Defense Council said that the increase in cycling and other non-driving outdoor activities reduces their carbon footprints. The decrease in cars led to healthier air in cities across the country, including Los Angeles, famous for its smoggy skies. Still, the researcher suspects that as drivers return to the road, “cleaner air won’t last long.”

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a division of the Department of Transportation, has released sobering data about US traffic deaths. According to NHTSA analyses, although traffic fatalities were down in the second quarter of 2020 compared to  the same period in 2019, the fatality rate itself has gone up. Specifically, overall traffic deaths have declined 3.3% (a total of 8,870 deaths), while the fatality rate has increased to 1.42 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles, a jump of 30% over Q2 2019’s numbers.

As the NHTSA notes, the second quarter of 2020 was “the height of the Covid-19 public health emergency,” during which overall traffic volume in the US “decreased by more than 16% in the first six months of 2020.” The agency suggests that the increased fatality rate might mean that while there are fewer drivers on the road, the drivers who remain are taking more risks. The NHTSA’s Deputy Administrator, James Owens, said in a statement: “Road safety is always our top priority, and while we are encouraged by today’s reports showing a continued decline in total fatalities in 2019 and into the first half of 2020, we are concerned by the trend since April showing an increased fatality rate… Now, more than ever, we should be watching ourselves for safe driving practices and encouraging others to do the same.  It’s irresponsible and illegal to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, taking risks not only with one’s own life, but with the lives of others.”

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A new report by the New York Post describes a “boom” in bicycle ridership in New York City, with weekend riding up 57% compared to 2019. The city’s Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told city councilors in a Wednesday meeting that the city is “seeing a cycling boom,” with weekday ridership up as well, by 26%.

These figures were tabulated by automated bicycle counting devices in seven locations: “Brooklyn’s Prospect Park West and Kent Avenue protected bike lanes and five bridges: the Pulaski, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg and Queensboro.” One of those locations enjoyed especially an especially high increase in ridership, with the Pulaski Bridge—which connects Greenpoint in Brooklyn and Long Island City in Queens—marking more than 78% in increased weekend bike rides. The next highest increases were seen at Prospect Park West, the Manhattan Bridge, the Williamsburg Bridge, and the Queensboro Bridge, which all recorded increases of more than 50%. The Kent Avenue Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge, meanwhile, recorded increases of around 25%. Continue reading

New York’s roads might get a little bit safer this week—if state authorities let them. An executive order issued by Governor Andrew Cuomo on March 27, suspending the requirement for annual vehicle inspections, is set to expire on October 4th. If he restores the order, New Yorkers can continue to put off their annual inspections, as hundreds of thousands already have over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Due to the March 27 order, New York’s auto repair shots “performed 739,000 fewer inspections… compared to the average over the same period the prior five years,” according to a recent report by the Democrat & Chronicle. State data shows this is about an 11% drop in inspections. Despite the order, the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles has urged drivers to get their cars inspected anyways, a spokesperson for the Department told the Democrat & Chronicle, “The DMV encourages New Yorkers to have their vehicles inspected if they are past due… The DMV is notifying customers who have an expired inspection or driver license that they are due for renewal and we are providing details on the ways in which they can renew.”

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A new post by the Emergency Safety Responder Institute details the under-appreciated danger of road debris, which studies found was “was a factor in a total of more than 200,000 police-reported crashes” between 2011 and 2014, “resulting in approximately 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths.” Road debris is defined as “any substance, material, or object that is foreign to the roadway environment,” and can be found in travel lanes as well as a road’s shoulder or median. While all roadway debris is dangerous, perhaps the most danger lies on highway debris, given that drivers traverse highways at higher speeds than on normal roads, giving them less time to react to foreign objects. Debris also poses a risk to roadway responders, the professionals and volunteers who remove debris from the roads.

According to the Emergency Safety Responder Institute, most debris-related roadway incidents are the fault of negligent drivers, though others are due to mechanical mishaps. The majority of such incidents are preventable, the post argues, citing AAA data showing that “two in three debris-related crashes result from items falling from a vehicle due to improper maintenance or an unsecured load.” Such items might include tires and wheels that come off the vehicle, cargo that becomes unsecured, and tow trailers that become detached and collide with other cars or trucks on the road, according to AAA’s research.

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As vehicles vanished from the roads during the last six months of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, traffic fatalities increased dramatically, according to preliminary research by the National Safety Council. The NSC found that there were 20% more traffic fatalities between January and June 2020 than January to June 2019, even as drivers drove 17% fewer miles during that same period. This death rate constitutes “the highest jump NSC has calculated for a six-month period since 1999,” according to a news release by the organization.

NSC data shows that when numerous states ended their strict quarantines in June 2020, the number of miles driven by US drivers was still 13% lower than in 2019. Still, “death rates and number of deaths both skyrocketed”: number of deaths by 17% in June, and the death rate per 100 million miles driven by 34.4%. What the NSC concludes from this data is that “the lack of traffic did not make the roads safer.” Distressingly, these spikes in traffic deaths follow a “leveling off and small declined in overall fatalities” that itself followed a steady increase in fatalities between 2015 and 2017.

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From August 19 until September 7, New York law enforcement agencies carried out Governor Andrew Como’s “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign, in which they ramped up enforcement on impaired driving. The city released the results of that campaign on September 18. Throughout the entirety of the action, law enforcement “issued 3,262 tickets for impaired driving,” according to a release by the Governor’s Office, as well as “116,292 tickets for other vehicle and traffic law violations, such as speeding and distracted driving.”

The “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” is coordinated in part by the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, or GTSC, which carries it out several times each year in an effort “to reduce alcohol and other drug-related traffic crashes.” The press release cites research by the Traffic Safety Management and Research at the University at Albany’s Rockefeller College showing that campaigns like this one have reduced DWI-involved fatalities by “more than 19 percent from 2010 to 2019.”

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The recent tragic death of a cyclist and activist in New York City has raised concerns about the possibility of rising bike and pedestrian fatalities in the city, according to a recent report by ABC News. Sarah Pitts, a Brooklyn activist and assistant district attorney, was struck and killed by a tour bus on her ride home from a meeting with Black Lives Matter activists in early September, the report states. It adds that the location where she was hit, a section of Brooklyn’s Wythe Avenue below the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, “has a bike lane, but it’s not protected.”

Pitts’ death was one of 17 cyclist fatalities in New York City since the beginning of 2020, according to ABC. However, New York Police Department data reveal that six of those deaths “happened in the first two weeks of September,” raising concerns that the city might be in for rising cyclist fatalities. In a statement about the upsurge, which also includes the September 10 death of a 29-year-old pedestrian crossing the street, activist Danny Harris said the city has been lax in its implementation of accident-prevention measures: “These are preventable deaths… Last year was shameful. We saw an almost 200% increase in bike fatalities, and now we’re on track to reach a similar number, especially as we have a city that’s not even open yet. The responsibility falls squarely on Mayor de Blasio.”

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A new study by WalletHub, a financial advice and information website, ranked the hundred biggest cities in the United States according to 31 metrics of “driver-friendliness.” The study identified the best and worst cities to drive in according to “key indicators” like gas prices, hours of traffic congestion per auto commuter, number of auto repair shops, number of car washes, car theft rates, and days with precipitation. What the study ultimately found is that New York City is one of the worst cities to drive in a nation where “87 percent of daily trips take place in personal vehicles,” and during a pandemic in which people are increasingly wary of public transportation.

New York City came in 96th place in the study. The four cities worse for drivers were, in descending order: Detroit, Michigan; San Francisco, California; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Oakland, California. The top five cities identified by the study were, in descending order: Lincoln, Nebraska; Raleigh, North Carolina; Corpus Christi, Texas; Greensboro, North Carolina; and Boise, Idaho.

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A new analysis by City & State suggests that New York City might be at risk of “Carmageddon,” a phenomenon in which residents returning to work after the pandemic forsake public transportation for private cars, risking increased congestion, traffic deaths, and poor air quality in the city. According to the report, 80% of commutes into Manhattan were on public transportation, a figure that has fallen approximately 785 since the pandemic began. On the other hand, data show that vehicle ridership on bridges and tunnels has only fallen 18%, and “traffic in Manhattan below 60th Street is down just 15%.” The figures are not quite so rosy for the Long Island Rail, whose ridership is at 23% of its levels one year ago, and the Metro North system, which is at 16% of its levels one year ago. The report states that transit experts fear New Yorkers may suffer massively as a result of these factors.

According to those experts, “a modest change in the number of cars circulating around Manhattan makes a difference” that can ruin the entire transportation system. One metro planning think tank president said that if just 10,000 more vehicles are added to the system, “It’s actually the difference between the system functioning and completely crashing.” This may lead to the demise of New York City’s public transportation—due to budget cuts and decreased ridership—that adversely impacts working-class New York residents who have no other choice but to ride the subways and buses. Experts believe workers might not return to work in their offices in New York City en masse until the summer of 2020, long after there’s a vaccine for the novel coronavirus. This is because office buildings, with their ill-ventilated rooms and crowded elevators, may be a hotspot for COVID-19 outbreaks. In contrast, according to the report, public transportation poses less of a risk, so long as riders follow proper precautions. “ In New York City’s subways, filtered air circulating around a car is replaced with fresh air at least 18 times an hour, The New York Times reported,” the report states, whereas the “recommended rate of replacement” in offices is six to eight times per hour. “I definitely think that there’s the chance that a significant fraction of the workforce will not return until we have a vaccine in place,” one expert told City & State.

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