Department of Transportation Study Reveals New York City Pedestrian Fatalities Have Dropped in the Past Decade

In 2009, less than 300 pedestrians were killed in car crashes in New York City. Though this figure seems alarming, this marks a 25% decrease in the past decade. In fact, 2009 was the safest year for pedestrians in New York City. Thanks to New York City DOT initiatives designed at increasing pedestrian safety, New York City’s pedestrian fatality rate has dropped to only 25% of the national fatality rate and only 50% of the 10 largest cities in the U.S.

Due to their vulnerable position, pedestrians are 10 times more likely to die in a crash than the occupants in the car. Overall, 52% of all car accident-related deaths in the country involved pedestrians. The most common reason for pedestrian fatalities is speeding. In fact, most drivers do not know that the speed limit is only 30 mph in the city. Other common reasons include driver inattention (36% of crashes) and failure to yield to pedestrians (27% of crashes).

The majority of pedestrian fatalities in New York City occur on major thoroughfares such as Times Square. 79% of these fatalities are due to private drivers. 21% are due to taxis, trucks, and buses. 80% of drivers who kill pedestrians are males. Finally, an unsurprising 43% of the pedestrians killed are not New York City residents. This includes both tourists and commuters.

In order to arrive at all of these figures, the New York City DOT undertook a comprehensive New York City Pedestrian Safety Study that analyzed over 7,000 pedestrian accidents in the city that occurred over the past decade. The DOT used the data to determine common causes, factors, and geographic distribution of the pedestrian fatalities. The DOT then took the results to formulate an action plan designed to increase pedestrian safety and reduce the number of car accidents.

Based on its findings, the DOT formulated a list of actions it promises to undertake, including:
• Installing more pedestrian walk signals at 1,500 new intersections • Redesigning 60 miles of roadway to increase pedestrian safety • Redesigning 20 different intersections to increase pedestrian safety • Decreasing the speed limit to 20 mph in neighborhoods • Formulating a program designed to increase left turn lane visibility in Manhattan
In 2008, there were 3.49 traffic fatalities per 100,000 people in New York City. This makes New York City the 13th most dangerous city for pedestrian death in the U.S., and the 14th most dangerous city in the world. However, New York City has enjoyed an astonishing decrease in traffic fatalities over the past several years. In the past twenty years, traffic fatalities dropped 63%. In 2009, only 256 traffic fatalities occurred in the city, a record low. In addition, pedestrian fatality rates have dropped 41% in the past twenty years. In 2008, there were 1.8 pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 people in New York City.

As part of the action plan, the DOT is working to reduce the number of traffic fatalities by 50% before the year 2030. In order to reach this goal, DOT is working with numerous agencies, including the Mayor’s office, NYPD, New York City Health Department, NYC Transit, and the DMV. The city has set traffic fatality goals for each year leading up to 2030. The goal for 2009 was only 258 fatalities, and the city managed to stay below this goal, clocking in at 256 fatalities that year.

Pedestrian accidents are a leading cause of death among young people. Pedestrian accidents that don’t result in fatalities are also associated with loss of quality of life, various cerebrovascular diseases, influenza, and pneumonia. In addition, the financial cost of car crashes is astronomical. Each year, car crashes account for $230.6 billion nationwide, and $20 billion in the state of New York alone. New York City is estimated at about $4.29 billion spent on car crashes and $1.38 billion spent on pedestrian deaths and injuries. This puts New York at the third highest cost per person.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident in New York City, you have legal options. Contact the experienced personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC today to discuss your potential claims.


The New York City Pedestrian Safety Study & Action Plan, New York City Department of Transportation,, August 2010.

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