Public data indicates that New York City traffic fatalities have increased 35% in the first three months of 2022 compared to the similar period in 2021. According to a recent report by the New York Post, New York Police Department figures reflect the deaths of 58 people in motor vehicle accidents, as opposed to 43 people between January 1 and April 3, 2021.
Jon Orcutt, Bike New York’s advocacy director, provided the Post with data indicating that 274 people lost their lives in traffic incidents last year, representing an increase from the 243 people who lost their lives in 2020, which was itself an increase from the 220 in 2019. “Thirty-five percent more in deaths in the first quarter of the year is a lot,” he told the Post. “And last year was not good… We’ve seen deaths going down for decades, really since about 1990. Steadily. The long trend has been down. We are losing that long trend. This could be the fourth year in a row of traffic deaths going up.”
Orcutt argued that the problem was largely the fault of management failures by former mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, stressing that current mayor Eric Adams shares responsibility as well. The Post cited municipal data showing a 57% drop in summonses for “‘hazardous’ driving violations,” after the coronavirus pandemic began, with 387,469 issued in fiscal year 2021, as opposed to 902,482 issued in fiscal year 2019. Arrests for driving while intoxicated fell at the same time, with 5,826 in fiscal year 2019 and 2,583 in 2021—a decrease of 56%. “Drivers know there’s very little anyone is going to do,” Orcutt told the Post. “We’re not even treating traffic rules as guidelines anymore. It’s a free for all.”
In a statement to the Post, the NYC Department of Transportation suggested that the rising traffic fatalities was part of a nationwide upward trend. “The administration is working around the clock to make our streets safer and focusing on making intersections, where more than half of traffic fatalities occur, a sacred space for all New Yorkers,” a spokesperson said.
A recent report by Streetsblog echoed the DOT spokesperson, situating the city’s rising traffic fatalities in the context of the “decade-long national pedestrian death crisis” described by the Governors Highway Safety Association in its annual report on pedestrian traffic fatalities by state. That report showed that 27 pedestrians lost their lives to motor vehicle accidents in New York City during the first three months of 2022, as opposed to 26 during the first three months of 2021. The GHSA attributed the increase to “speeding, distracted driving, larger vehicles, and roads that prioritize car drivers over everyone else.”