Traffic deaths decreased in New York City yet again in 2015. The Department of Transportation says that 230 people died in crashes last year, down from 257 in 2014, and 297 in 2013. Raw NYPD data posted online shows that 236 people died in crashes in 2015, but the DOT's director of strategic initiatives Juan Martinez said that further investigation shaved away at the total after officials determined, for instance, that a victim's medical emergency preceded a crash, or a crash happened in a parking lot. The WNYC Mean Streets fatality tracker shows 242 deaths for the year, but a Transportation Department spokesman said that the project's reporters don't have the benefit of the city's follow-up investigations.
Discrepancies between the totals are nothing new. In late 2014, WNYC staffers were 11 1/2 months into their first year of tracking road fatalities using a combination of media reports, NYPD announcements, monthly NYPD statistical reports, and centralized NYPD data. They found then that police were failing to publicize deaths a quarter of the time, and that the totals from the monthly reports ran higher than those in the then-new public crash database. WNYC tallied 269 traffic deaths in 2014, 12 more than the city.
A DOT spokesman said that the year-end total will likely rise as investigations continue and, for instance, people hurt in crashes die of their injuries.
"These numbers are strictly preliminary and the agencies work closely with each other to reconcile statistics," the spokesman said in an emailed statement. "We believe them to be the most holistic and up-to-date as possible."
Whichever way you slice it, traffic deaths are at historic lows, and Mayor de Blasio is attributing the heightened safety to the increased traffic enforcement, road redesigns, and reduced speed limit of his Vision Zero initiative.
“We mean business," de Blasio said in a statement. "Vision Zero is saving lives, and we’re going to deepen these gains to keep New Yorkers safe."
As the New York Times notes, the official tally of 133 pedestrian deaths for 2014 increased to 139 as deaths were reclassified after the year's end, but remained the lowest on record. That's also down from what the DOT says were 183 pedestrian crash deaths in 2013, a decade high, according to the Times.
— Joanna Oltman Smith (@jooltman) January 2, 2016
The gains come after the installation of 140 speed cameras near schools, the lowering of the city speed limit to 25 miles per hour, and ramped-up traffic enforcement in some, though not by any means all, police precincts. Road redesigns, including one to the notorious Boulevard of Death, Queens Boulevard, have continued citywide, but the city has scrapped and delayed some proposed additions to the bike lane network and other overhauls when faced with community boards angry at the prospect of losing parking spaces and encouraging cycling. Newly emboldened road-safety activists have criticized the Department of Transportation's acquiescence to such neighborhood groups, and continue to demand more severe prosecution for reckless drivers.
"The irony is the more the mayor succeeds, the more we demand because it demonstrates that Vision Zero works," Transportation Alternatives director Paul Steely White told the Times. "So many streets are still untouched, and so many police precincts are still not prioritizing the most dangerous driving violations."