Local activists urge caution in cheering fatality stats

Maureen Landers knows a bit about traffic fatalities. In April,2009, the founder of Bay Ridge Advocates Keeping Everyone Safe(B.R.A.K.E.) could have become one, when she was struck by amotorist while crossing Fourth Avenue at 78th Street.

Landers questions if the all-time lows for citywide trafficfatalities in 2011 trumpeted by Mayor Michael Bloomberg andDepartment of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khanat a December 29 press conference

That driver who struck me down in a crosswalk got back in hercar and drove away, while I was taken to the hospital, Landersrecalled, adding: The city doesn’t track those numbers and theydon’t make those numbers available. If it’s a fatality, the policewill investigate it. Otherwise, the driver will go on theirway.

Doris Cruz, chair of Community Board 10’s TransportationCommittee, wonders if there was enough interagency sharing of data,something she describes as being a problem in the past.

I’m not sure how those statistics are accumulated, since therehave always been disagreements between the police and theDepartment of Transportation, Cruz said.

Although she supports the improvements DOT has made in the lastdecade – a period in which the city reports a 40 percent decline intraffic fatalities – Cruz said that the work may have focused on afew problem areas, leaving many local traffic issuesunresolved.

There have been some areas with very bad [traffic] fatalitiesand they’ve addressed them, but anyone would tell them, more needsto be done, she said.

However, according to Assemblymember Dov Hikind, who spent muchof last year battling with the DOT to remove several traffic islands he said blocked ambulance passage to Maimonides MedicalCenter, the 2011 numbers speak for themselves.

When the statistics look as good as they do, that meanssomething has been accomplished, and the administration deservescredit for that, Hikind said.

State Senator Marty Golden agrees. [It] proves that many of thetransportation safety measures offered by the city of New York areworking, he said.

But Landers wonders if the reason for 2011’s drop in fatalitiesis due to the improvements in medical treatment, especiallycompared with 1910, when the city began keeping records ofautomotive deaths.

I would question how much the numbers are actually down, shesaid. Obviously, medical care is not where it was 100 years ago,so I don’t think the numbers are meaningful.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz points out that forthese statistics to really carry weight, they needconfirmation.

Our city has made great strides in making our streets safer,but in order to get a complete, unbiased view of just how far wehave come and what still needs to be done, these and otherself-reported statistics should be verified by an independentagency, not only to ensure their accuracy, but to put them in theproper context as to what they actually mean, Markowitz said.

While Councilmember Vincent Gentile acknowledges that thefigures do not close the book on such matters, he feels the newstatistics are a positive sign.

It shows we are heading in the right direction, Gentile said.From initiatives such as pedestrian countdown signals and speedbumps to community outreach and public education efforts about howto prevent accidents by sharing the road safely with other types ofvehicles, we’ve remained focused on making our streets safer foreveryone who uses them.

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