Bay Ridge officials scramble for answers as crash stats explode

The unusually high number of car crashes in the Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights area of Brooklyn is starting to get some serious attention from city officials.

In the wake of the revelation that 17 car accidents took place in the course of just a single day, Jan. 14, Councilmember Justin Brannan and Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann unearthed even more troubling statistics as officials scrambled to come up with ways to get drivers to obey traffic laws and investigate whether changes to transportation infrastructure are warranted.

There were 3,312 car crashes in Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018, 400 more than the average number of collisions in other Brooklyn neighborhoods during that same time period, according to Brannan, who said the statistics show a serious public safety problem on local streets.

Another shocking statistic was revealed by Beckmann. In 2018, 569 motorists driving within the territory covered by the 68th Precinct were issued tickets for driving without a license.

“That number was astounding to me,” Beckmann told this newspaper. “It’s a big concern that a lot of unlicensed operators are traversing the streets of our district.”

Brannan tweeted that he had contacted the New York Police Department (NYPD) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) and that over the next few weeks, “We’ll have education and enforcement initiatives to combat reckless and distracted driving.”

Both NYPD and DOT “get it,” Brannan tweeted, adding that the agencies understand the real danger lurking behind the statistics. “This is about life and death,” he wrote.

Beckmann, who has been district manager of the community board for 15 years, said she has never seen things this bad. “In terms of number of calls coming into our office reporting speeding cars, this is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” she said. “There is a lot of carelessness out there.”

Beckmann, who grew up in Carroll Gardens, speaks from a perspective of having many years of experience in city government. Prior to her tenure as district manager, she served as a top aide to Stephen DiBrienza, a city councilmember who represented Carroll Gardens and Park Slope for many years starting in the late 1980s.

It’s not clear why there are so many accidents in Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights. Cell phones and electronic devices could be factors that distract drivers, but local officials pointed out that cell phones are everywhere, not just in Southwest Brooklyn.

Other factors could be at play.

Spectrum News NY1 reported that one of the 17 car crashes that took place on Jan. 14 happened at 11th Avenue and 74th Street in Dyker Heights, an intersection with a four-way stop that might be confusing to drivers who don’t know when they’re supposed to yield.

Beckmann said she agreed with Brannan that a combination of enforcement and education is required to address the situation.

Brannan told NY1 that in requesting more NYPD enforcement, he isn’t referring to parking tickets but that he would like to see more summonses issued to speeding drivers.

CB 10 Chairperson Doris Cruz recently formed a special subcommittee to delve into the numbers of car crashes. The Subcommittee on Street Safety held its first meeting on Jan. 7.

Among other things, the subcommittee will be looking at problematic intersections with a high volume of car accidents.

One problem that Beckmann said she has noticed has to do with something called “daylighting space” on corners. Drivers are prohibited from parking too close to a stop sign at an intersection. “You’re supposed to leave some daylight between your car and the stop sign so that a car approaching the corner can have good visibility to see if there is oncoming traffic,” she told this newspaper.

The community board has heard complaints from residents who charge that drivers routinely ignore the rules and park right underneath the stop sign.

Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann says in her 15 years working for the board, she has never seen traffic conditions as bad as they are now. ebrooklyn media/file photo by Paula Katinas

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