New York City launched a $4 million public service campaign Monday to warn drivers about the dangers of speeding amid a disturbing rise in traffic fatalities.
Traffic deaths citywide have reached their highest level in eight years. A total of 64 people have died from traffic-related collisions through the third week of April, compared to 61 during the same period last year. Of those deaths, at least 26 were vehicle drivers or passengers.
“This is a real crisis,” said Mayor Eric Adams at a press conference in East New York, Brooklyn, one of the areas where the city plans to target its ad campaign. The neighborhood had 35 traffic deaths and more than 300 serious injuries since 2017.
Ydanis Rodriguez, the city’s transportation commissioner who appeared alongside the mayor, said that the majority of crashes in the city involve drivers who have suspended licenses, were driving while intoxicated or were speeding.
The new billboard, attached to a bridge for an elevated subway line, features a blurred body of a pedestrian hurling backwards from a car.
That image and similar ones will run on a variety of media platforms, including TV, radio and newspapers, along with bus shelters, LinkNYC kiosks and gas station pumps.
The campaign will run in nine languages. Of the total $4 million spending, $1.5 million will go toward community and ethnic media.
“Wherever you live, whatever your language may be. We're going to get the message out,” said Adams, who added that he was directing police officers to target traffic violators.
Although skeptics questioned whether a campaign focused on drivers rather than street design would have sufficient impact, Danny Harris, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives, which focuses on pedestrian safety, noted that the city’s latest campaign was part of a broader package of initiatives.
“As New York City faces four years of rising traffic violence, we need to use every possible tool to keep New Yorkers safe," Harris said in a statement to Gothamist.
With the pandemic resulting in reduced use of mass transit and higher car usage, the mayor has pledged to make transit safety a priority under his administration. Late last month, he announced more than $900 million in funding for the creation of new bus and bike lanes. Prior to that, he promised to redesign 1,000 intersections across the city with pedestrian safety in mind.
Transit officials are also lobbying Albany lawmakers to give the city control of the city’s streets, also known as “home rule,” which would include the ability to expand the use of speed cameras as well as set speed limits.
In 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a law that lowered the speed limit on most city streets to 25 miles per hour from 30 miles per hour, but only after winning state approval to do so. The change was a centerpiece of de Blasio’s Vision Zero campaign, which sought to dramatically reduce car fatalities by 2024.
Rodriguez said he was planning to visit with state legislators on Tuesday to gain their support on giving the city greater authority.
He made a point of showing the mayor that transit officials had added a new subtitle—“Building a safer city”— to the ongoing Vision Zero campaign. The message tracks with Adams’ broader focus on public safety.
“This goes along with your leadership, to be sure that we improve safety across all areas,” he said.