Vision Zero and the Quest for Eliminating Traffic Deaths

Legislation was recently passed in New York City that has audacious aims: to completely eliminate traffic-related deaths and serious injuries over the next ten years. In initiative, drafted by Mayor de Blasio, is called Vision Zero. Auto accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm take a closer look at Vision Zero and how New York City is hoping to achieve it.

Last year, nearly 300 people were killed in New York City in traffic crashes, which is actually a decrease from the 90s. Many of these deaths were high-profile, such as when a little girl died in a recent car accident in Brooklyn. Others catch headlines for their immense costs, like the $22 million award to a woman who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a Brooklyn crash with a Duane Reade truck.

Vision Zero was originally pioneered in Sweden, using a multi-faceted approach to improving safety. Among its provisions, the new legislation will reduce posted speeds (by between 15 and 20 MPH) at seven intersections per year, install red-light cameras, place harsher penalties on reckless drivers, and boost enforcement.

Many are championing the speed limit reductions because of how critical they are in reducing and minimizing the severity of a crash. One study by AAA found that the risk of serious injury to a pedestrian hit by a car going 20 MPH is less than 10% – if the car is going 30 MPH, the risk of serious injury is 50%.

Drivers, on the other hand, are opposed to lowering the city’s speed limits, however, the fact that the public is even discussing this matter is a step in the right direction. Conversations about traffic deaths previously occurred only between economists and transportation experts, or in the legal arena. While drafting the Vision Zero legislation, City Council members relied heavily – and rightly – on the testimony of New Yorkers who are most affected.

City Council gave families of loved ones killed in traffic accidents many opportunities to participate in debates over new speed limits and other issues. Other city departments asked local residents to weigh in on the new designs for bike routes and dangerous intersections. This not only nurtures the relationship between New Yorkers and their government, but gives victims a voice as well.

Although these new provisions are welcome, and will certainly work in many areas to prevent traffic fatalities, they will not stop some of the more dangerous drivers. There will still be people who choose to drive after a night of drinking, or who take too many painkillers before getting behind the wheel. There will still be drivers who, in attempts to escape police or others, hit little girls like the nine-year-old in Brooklyn, and leave the scene of the accident.

With hope, Vision Zero’s aim of punishing aggressive drivers more intensely will help get these drivers off the road. In total, there are 11 bills as part of the Vision Zero package. Some apply to bicyclists and pedestrians, others to cab drivers and school zones.

Some specific examples include new laws that require the city to fix or replace broken traffic signals within 24 hours, and making it a criminal offense to hit a pedestrian or bicyclist who has the right of way. The penalties for leaving the scene of an accident and driving on sidewalks will also increase.

Our team of auto accident lawyers have over three decades of experience fighting on behalf of those injured in traffic crashes. If you or someone you love was seriously hurt or killed on the road, contact our firm immediately. We take clients from all 50 states, and always provide free, confidential legal consultations.

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