Vision Zero Street Teams raise awareness in Bensonhurst

The Department of Transportation (DOT) had eyes for Bensonhurst and Bath Beach this week as the third season of Vision Zero Street Teams – safety personnel with the DOT along with local NYPD officers – kicked off in the neighborhood on Monday, April 11.

According to the DOT, the street teams take to city neighborhoods on a rotating basis during this Vision Zero awareness event in an effort to reinforce the message of safe driving and smart choices behind the wheel and on the streets. In Bensonhurst, they set up camp at 65th Street and Bay Parkway.

“The idea of street teams is that we go out as a joint effort, NYPD and DOT, to educate the public,” said Kim Wiley-Schwartz, assistant commissioner for education and outreach with DOT, noting that neighborhoods are chosen based on crash history and pedestrian/motorist rates. “We focus a lot on drivers but we also talk to cyclists and pedestrians about the things that  we can do differently to make the traffic environment more safe.”

Since its inception in 2014, some of those Vision Zero safety measures have helped to reduce traffic fatalities considerably, leading Mayor Bill de Blasio to dub 2015 the “safest year ever on New York City streets.” In 2016, initiatives will include a 1,000-mile bike network, an additional $115 million investment in street redesign and traffic-calming measures on key thoroughfares citywide, a pilot project to reduce left-turn collisions, increased use of speed-enforcement cameras and more intensive safety education in collaboration with the DOT in elementary and middle schools, according to DOT.

“As part of our Vision Zero efforts that helped make last year the safest ever on city streets, motorists in Bensonhurst and around the city will be reminded by our street teams to drive more carefully,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “Working closely with our partners at the NYPD, we are underscoring a pre-enforcement message that maintaining a safe speed and yielding to pedestrians will ensure that everyone gets home safely.”

“The Street Teams are an example of the collaborative effort moving us towards the goal of Vision Zero,” added NYPD Transportation Chief Thomas Chan. “The Police Department works in partnership with the Department of Transportation to provide educational outreach directly with neighborhoods experiencing collision-related incidents. The basic formula of traffic safety education, followed by traffic enforcement, promotes the need for the public to join in this collaboration to save lives.”

Honing in on why this outreach program is crucial to Bensonhurst specifically, Wiley-Schwartz discussed the area’s senior population.

“We’re focusing on this precinct because we’re really doing outreach in areas where we know [there are] high concentrations of older New Yorkers,” said Wiley-Schwartz. “So we really are trying to get the word out, particularly to drivers that, when they’re in areas where there are older people, they need to drive as if their own grandparents lived there.

“[We’re] really just trying to raise awareness,” she continued. “We find as we make people more aware that the choices that they make behind the wheel really matter, it contributes to the lowering of traffic fatalities and injuries.”

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