Public Advocate Highlights Legislation To Combat Traffic Violence After Deadly U-haul Incident

February 14th, 2023

Press Release

After a man fleeing police in a U-Haul struck eight New Yorkers yesterday in Brooklyn, killing one, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams pushed today for legislation that would better enable the city to prevent traffic violence. In a City Council hearing of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, he advocated for collaborative measures to address this violence and prevent future loss.

“Unfortunately, while yesterday had unique circumstances, it is part of a larger problem that our city bears witness to,” lamented Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams. “For years, traffic violence has been dubbed a 'silent epidemic.' In 2022, 255 people died from traffic crashes, and our city has not seen this figure go below 200 for years. Even with the launch of Vision Zero, the lowest number of fatalities since the inception of the program was 208 people in 2018. Every person who is a part of these numbers should be alive today.”

The Public Advocate’s bill, Int 805, would require the Department of Transportation (DOT) to expedite studies of traffic crashes involving pedestrian fatalities or serious injuries every three years, an increase from the current requirement of a five years assessment. DOT would analyze the conditions and factors behind each crash and develop strategies to improve pedestrian safety. The bill would also require DOT to make publicly available inspection reports of locations that have encountered four or more crashes involving death or serious injury. The legislation, which would increase transparency and aid collaboration, was one of several traffic safety bills heard in committee today.

The Public Advocate also highlighted the neighborhoods and communities at greatest risk of traffic violence. Citing a review by Transportation Alternatives, he noted that “The top ten City Council districts with the most traffic fatalities housed a third of Black New Yorkers. In the top ten districts with the most traffic injuries, 87% of residents were people of more color. To meet the moment in our current street safety landscape, we must invest in our low-income communities and communities of more color for our collective safety.”

Public Advocate Williams’ full statement to the committee is below.

STATEMENT OF PUBLIC ADVOCATE JUMAANE D. WILLIAMS TO THE NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE

FEBRUARY 14, 2023

Good Morning,

My name is Jumaane D. Williams and I am the Public Advocate for the City of New York. This time last year, my baby daughter was born two months early, immediately in the NICU - she’s one today. We planned to take the day, but decided to come because this is such an important issue and I didn’t want to miss it. I would like to thank Chair Brooks-Powers and members of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure for holding this hearing. Before I begin, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge what occurred in Bay Ridge yesterday: a truck driver took the life of one person and injured numerous civilians, most of whom were pedestrians, and I hope for their speedy recovery.

Unfortunately, while yesterday had unique circumstances, it is part of a larger problem that our city bears witness to. For years, traffic violence has been dubbed a “silent epidemic.” In 2022, 255 people died from traffic crashes, and our city has not seen this figure go below 200 for years. Even with the launch of Vision Zero, the lowest number of fatalities since the inception of the program was 208 people in 2018. Every person who is a part of these numbers should be alive today. In particular, I think about the children we have lost and how their young lives were regrettably cut short by something so preventable. Our children and all New Yorkers deserve to walk their streets, ride their bicycles, and be on the road safely and out of harm’s way. We cannot become desensitized to these numbers; every traffic death is preventable, that’s what makes it so much more painful, if we make improvements and changes to street infrastructure and pedestrian safety.

Today, the Committee will hear several bills- one of them, Introduction 0805-2023. My bill would require the Department of Transportation (DOT) to expedite studies of traffic crashes involving pedestrian fatalities or serious injuries from every five years to every three years. DOT would analyze the conditions and factors behind crashes and develop strategies to improve pedestrian safety. Strategies may include the installation of audible pedestrian signals and devices to support those with sight, hearing, and mobility impairments and prioritizing roadways and intersections for safety improvements. The bill would also require DOT to make publicly available inspection reports of locations that have encountered four or more crashes involving death or serious injury. These changes would be a starting point for greater transparency and collaboration.

Furthermore, we should increase investments and focus on communities that face the most traffic fatalities and a lack of street safety investment. According to Transportation Alternatives, in 2022, the top ten City Council districts with the most traffic fatalities housed a third of Black New Yorkers. In the top ten districts with the most traffic injuries, 87% of residents were residents of more color. To meet the moment in our current street safety landscape, we must invest in our low-income communities and communities of more color for our collective safety. 

We can envision a city free of traffic violence. It is possible. I urge my colleagues in the City Council to join me in sponsoring Int. 0805-2023. We all deserve to feel safe and know that leaving our homes and simply crossing the street does not run the risk of injury or fatality–that should be the bare minimum expectation, and I will continue to fight to ensure we make this a reality. As a driver, I know that our society is too focused on infrastructure for the vehicle, and the driver, who is the most privileged on the road even as we pose the most danger, and that has to begin to change. I want to thank the families who are here, and specifically my staff member who is here on her time, Fabiola, who lost her own son and has turned that into amazing purpose. So I want to thank you for all you do in making sure our office stays as an ally in helping with this issue.

Thank you.

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