New York City and its greater metropolitan area is the most densely populated region in the United States. You might not be surprised, then, to learn that hundreds of pedestrian accidents happen there every year. But is New York really a more dangerous place for pedestrians to be than anywhere else?
How Many Pedestrian Collisions Happen Each Year?
After reaching a historic low in 2009, NYC pedestrian accidents steadily rose to an unnerving apex. In 2013, a record 299 walkers or joggers died from motor vehicle collisions, and between two and three hundred have died each year since. Injury figures are far higher, and approximately 3,000 pedestrians are admitted to NYC hospitals each year for vehicle-related injuries, many of which are serious or life-threatening.
What Is Vision Zero?
Since its troubling 2013 season, NYC officials have implemented a policy known as Vision Zero, which, as the name suggests, aims to reduce fatalities to zero. The policy is based on a previous one that decreased fatalities in Sweden by 50%, but its results in New York thus far have been somewhat less dramatic.
Most years since the project began, deaths have decreased by under a third. In some cases, they have increased. In the first quarter of 2022, for example, accidents increased by a stunning 44%, leaving officeholders baffled.
Vision Zero is an ambitious project by all accounts. Its architects espouse a philosophy that pedestrian-motor-vehicle accidents are not and should not be accepted as inevitable.
According to a statement on the Vision Zero website, the city has already implemented sweeping prevention measures, including:
- Enforcing traffic camera violations
- Educating public drivers, such as bus drivers, on pedestrian behavior
- Reducing speed limits in crowded areas
- Increasing penalties for violations
- Building safer walker and bike paths
Even this public statement, however, notes that more progress is still needed.
How Does NYC Stack Up Against Other Cities?
Anyone who has ever walked, jogged, or biked New York’s most crowded streets knows that safety risks abound. With so many people out, accidents seem destined to happen. But this simple fact has long confused news outlets and public safety officials.
While concerned sources eagerly rank NYC as the most dangerous city in the U.S. for pedestrians, some consider the city may be among the safest, since your chances of sustaining a serious injury there are comparatively low.
According to a comprehensive MoneyGeek data analysis, the most dangerous place to be a pedestrian is Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Perhaps interestingly, most of the top 20 dangerous cities are in warm states like California and Florida, in which many walkers are likely to be outside all year. None of the worst offenders are in New York State.
Per capita, NYC ranks next to Green Bay, Wisconsin and Minneapolis, Minnesota in on-foot fatalities.
It’s important to note, however, that per capita isn’t the only legitimate way of viewing risk. You might consider per-mile injuries or fatalities to be equally as valuable for deciding how to protect yourself. Per mile, New York is undoubtedly one of the most dangerous places to be.
Of course, your chance of getting into an accident has nothing to do with anyone else’s, no matter what statistics you read. You should, therefore, always be vigilant when walking, jogging, or biking in the city.
Why Do Vehicle-Pedestrian Accidents Happen?
The most common causes of accidents have changed significantly over the past twenty or so years. New York is an ever-evolving city, and both its physical layout and human behaviors are starkly different than they used to be.
Cell Phone Use
More drivers and pedestrians use cell phones than ever before. The best current data suggests that texting can triple your chances of getting in a motor vehicle accident. But while texting or using apps and driving is illegal in most places, texting and walking isn’t. Busy city streets like those in NYC and its greater area can be very dangerous for distracted walkers.
While cell phone use is likely responsible for a large percentage of all accidents, it is very difficult to police. Police usually catch irresponsible phone users by simply watching them.
Drivers staring at their lap illuminated by blue light may be obvious targets, but not everyone is so overt. Overhead cameras can help, but they can’t see everything, and they aren’t always admissible. Cell phone records are only helpful after a perpetrator has been caught.
Intersections and Confusion
The five boroughs are home to some of the most confusing traffic patterns in the country. While signs, lights, and crosswalks help mitigate some of the confusion, bikers and pedestrians don’t always follow the right of way. Similarly, drivers eager to get to or from work often attempt to take turns early and “time” through crossing walkers.
Human error can be hard to account for, but it’s a big reason for NYC accidents.
In New York State, police process a staggering 31 million instances of drunk driving per year. Statisticians can’t know just what portion of the population regularly drives intoxicated, but they estimate that probably around one in 500, or .002%, of drunk drivers get arrested. This means that approximately 15 billion instances of drunk driving go unnoticed in New York every year.
NYC has done a decent job at reducing drunk driving, but there’s clearly still a long way to go. Other forms of intoxication, such as opioid or amphetamine use may be nearly as harmful, and these violations are harder to prosecute.
The city that never sleeps is home to millions of shift workers, who often go on far fewer than the recommended hours of sleep per night. This can be as dangerous as drinking for your awareness both on and off the road.
It’s no secret that speeding causes more deaths than responsible driving, but most people only associate very high speeds (40 miles per hour or more) with fatal incidents. You may be alarmed to know that even low-speed impacts can cause death and lasting injury. At 25 mph, pedestrian survival diminishes to just 70%.
What Does a Pedestrian Accident Lawyer Do?
Accidents involving pedestrians can be more complicated than those involving two or more vehicles. Since drivers often inflict serious damage, pedestrians rarely think clearly in the immediate aftermath. Sometimes, the last thing on a victim’s mind is gathering evidence for a coming legal case.
An accident lawyer can help compile and present evidence against the at-fault party. This can involve collecting police reports, video footage, witness statements, or hospital records.
A lawyer can also help you deal with insurance companies. After an incident, insurance providers may offer you lowball settlements and pressure you to accept them. Sadly, they may also attempt to trick you into saying something that undermines or invalidates your case. A legal professional replaces you as an intermediary so you don’t have to worry about saying the wrong thing.
What Should You Do If You’ve Been in a Pedestrian Accident?
If you live in New York, your chances of being in an accident aren’t much worse than they would be in any other big city. But that’s little consolation if you’re one of the thousands of victims each year who suffer serious injuries from irresponsible drivers.
If you’ve had an accident, a lawyer can help you find compensation and peace of mind. If you’re in the New York metropolitan area, Call Celino Law today for a free consultation. We’ll work hard to give your case a fighting chance.
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