In 2013, 156 pedestrians were killed on New York City streets. In the first 12 days of 2014, seven out of the eleven people killed in traffic-related incidents were pedestrians struck by vehicles, an early, alarming trend for an administration that pledged to work towards bringing traffic fatalities down to "Vision Zero."
According to police data obtained by the Daily News, the 156 pedestrian fatalities in 2013 was the highest number in three years (compared with 142 and 152 in 2011 and 2012 respectively). The number of children killed by vehicles has also nearly doubled between 2011 (7) and 2013 (13). Saturday's death of 9-year-old Cooper Stock, who was killed on the Upper West Side by a cab driver, was the first child to die in traffic in 2014.
The Post has a thorough accounting of how cab drivers commit vehicular fatalities and injuries with a minimum of police scrutiny: In the past five years, 21 cabbies have killed or injured pedestrians, and only one has been charged with a crime.
Before he was chosen as police commissioner, Bill Bratton attended a forum in November pledging to take the "broken windows" policing theory and apply it to traffic safety.
George Kelling, one of the professors who coined the term (and who was just hired by Bratton as a consultant), said at the forum that part of the problem was that the culture of automobiles has colored the NYPD's perspective on traffic fatalities.
“The thing that happened when we put police officers in cars is that they lost contact with the community," Kelling said. "In some respects we became the enemy of the communities, which seems to be a struggle here right now."
At a press conference after Bratton was sworn in as commissioner, Mayor de Blasio made sure to bring up the department's renewed commitment to investigating and preventing traffic fatalities. "Intensive focus on traffic issues is one of the issues the mayor has asked us to look at," Bratton told reporters.
While the NYPD has been reluctant to target speeding and other driving infractions that are major causes of death and injury, and they have failed to conduct a preponderance of thorough collision investigations, the District Attorneys will also have to change course for de Blasio to achieve his goal.
"The administration doesn’t regard any fatal crash on our streets as inevitable," mayoral spokesman Phil Walzak said. "We are developing both immediate and long-term solutions to address and prevent these tragedies.”
The NYPD's Collision Investigation Squad contacts the DA at the outset of the majority of its investigations, and the DA advises them whether or not to make an arrest. This practice is unusual and has resulted in drivers going unprosecuted when evidence suggests that they have committed a crime.