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Looking behind statistics of Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights crashes

In response to Home Reporter articles revealing the shockingly high number of car crashes taking place on the streets of Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, local officials and transportation safety advocates are making a concerted effort to look behind the statistics to determine why the collisions are happening.

In the latest development, state Sen. Andrew Gounardes, a Democrat who represents Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst and other Southwest Brooklyn neighborhoods, announced the formation of a task force to look into factors contributing to car crashes.

The Southern Brooklyn Pedestrian Safety Task Force will meet bi-monthly and will develop proposals for solutions. The task force will “bring actionable and measurable changes to our community,” Gounardes predicted.

Denise Cangemi, a local resident who has previously worked with Gounardes on such issues as speed cameras in school zones, said the task force is necessary.

“Negligent drivers care more about getting somewhere fast than the safety of their friends, neighbors and community members. The creation of this task force will help to develop real solutions to hold people accountable,” Cangemi said.

The formation of the task force comes on the heels of new efforts by the 68th Precinct to step up enforcement of reckless drivers. The increase in enforcement was in response to astounding numbers of car crashes in the area that were first reported by this newspaper.

On one day alone, Jan. 14, 2019, there were 17 car crashes in the Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights area, police said.

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.

Councilmember Justin Brannan, a Democrat who represents Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and parts of Bensonhurst, wrote to Police Commissioner James O’Neill last month to request that additional cops be put on the streets. Brannan also asked the Department of Transportation to conduct a public educational outreach to remind drivers and pedestrians of the rules of the road.

In addition to reckless drivers running stop signs or texting while driving, car crashes may be happening because of the configuration of streets and the placement of stop signs. Intersections that are controlled by all-way stop signs, for instance, may confuse drivers who are not sure who has right of way.

Behind the statistics, there are human lives that are changed by the trauma of a car crash or the experience of being hit by a vehicle.

Here are a few examples:

A 47-year-old woman was seriously injured when she was struck by a speeding car that spun out of control at Fourth Avenue and 85th Street on July 15, 2018. The car jumped the curb and rammed into the victim as she was walking down the street. The victim suffered a fractured pelvis, several broken bones, rib fractures and a scalp laceration, police said.

In another crash, an alleged drunk driver made a U-turn at Fifth Avenue and 86th Street, lost control of the car, and smashed into the storefront of the American Greetings card store at 8511 Fifth Ave on June 2, 2018. He was not injured, but he was arrested when he refused to take a breathalyzer test, according to police.

On May, 10, 2018, a 63-year-old woman driving an SUV at 73rd Street and Ridge Boulevard struck and critically injured a 29-year-old man riding a bicycle.

The task force put together by Gounardes will include residents, pedestrian safety advocates and other stakeholders. Gounardes did not announce a date for the first meeting, but said that once it gets going, the panel will provide community residents with regular updates on its progress on social media and on his website.

Gounardes said that while he is pleased to see the NYPD paying increasing attention to the issue of pedestrian safety, more needs to be done.

“What we need is not just a ‘few’ more speed cameras and countdown signals to be put in place, but a complete overhaul,” he said.

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