New York City Mayor Outlines Plan to Reduce Traffic Deaths

By JONATHAN LEMIRE | February 21, 2014

Mayor Bill de Blasio outlined a wide-ranging plan on Tuesday to make New York streets safer for pedestrians and drivers, revealing a combination of policing and transportation initiatives designed to bring down the number of traffic fatalities in the nation’s largest city.

De Blasio, a Democrat, called for the citywide speed limit to be reduced from 30 mph to 25 mph and for the installation of more red light and speed enforcement cameras throughout the city. He also said more police officers would be detailed to traffic enforcement and announced the creation of an “enforcement squad” at the Taxi and Limousine Commission with a focus on reckless cabdrivers.

New Yorkers’ lives are “in each other’s hands,” de Blasio said at an Upper West Side news conference where he was surrounded by elected officials and parents of children killed in traffic accidents. “Our children’s lives are in each other’s hands.”

De Blasio has dubbed his plan “Vision Zero,” which is modeled after a Swedish traffic safety that suggests that all traffic deaths can be prevented. Last year, 286 people were killed in traffic accidents in New York City, nearly as many as those who were homicide victims.

But both the speed limit and traffic camera proposals require the approval of the state Legislature, becoming yet another issue for which de Blasio must lobby Albany. He has also asked state lawmakers to raise the city’s minimum wage and approve a tax hike on the wealthy that would fund universal pre-kindergarten across the five boroughs. Those initiatives have yet to succeed.

Safety measures – from speed bumps to pedestrian plazas – will also be added at more than 50 city intersections a year to make them safer, according to de Blasio. The city is not planning on cracking down on jaywalking, but local precinct commanders have been empowered to enforce existing pedestrian regulations as they see fit, the mayor said.

The mayor’s traffic safety task force also suggested exploring whether new technology could be added to taxis to improve safety, including a black box-style data recorder to track trips, an alarm that would alert passengers if the driver is speeding or a device that would stop the cab’s meter from running if the driver speeds.

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