Testimony of Paul Steely White, Executive Director, Transportation Alternatives
Good morning. Thank you Chair Vacca, Chair Vallone, and members of the Committees for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Paul Steely White and I’m the Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. We are a 40-year old non-profit, with over 100,000 activists in our network, dedicated to improving the safety of New York City’s streets. I’m here today to implore that the NYPD use data driven enforcement in order to save lives in New York City.
New Yorkers rely on the NYPD to achieve its mission to “enforce the laws, preserve the peace, reduce fear, and provide for a safe environment.” This is a weighty burden in a city as large as ours, which faces public safety threats ranging from international terrorism to iPhone theft. The challenges seemingly multiply and intensify every year, continually straining the Department’s limited resources. The NYPD currently places too much emphasis on traffic infractions that do not to cause road casualties, such as tinted windows, broken headlights and broken taillights. Today, we encourage the Department to make more efficient use of its limited resources by focusing on those violations that are most likely to injure and kill New Yorkers, such as speeding and failure to yield.
Every year in New York City, more people are killed in traffic crashes than are murdered by guns. Just in the last few weeks, communities has been devastated by the death of a 58-year-old woman killed in a hit and run on Queens Boulevard after leaving work; the death of a 13-year-old boy who was hit along with four other middle schoolers when an SUV driver jumped onto the sidewalk by their school; and the death of a man selling water on the sidewalk, killed when a driver mounted the curb – to name a few.
The deaths of these New Yorkers are tragic and are preventable. Just as our City has made it a priority to tackle gun violence, the City needs a serious plan to address traffic injuries and deaths. That plan must start with data. We know that 60% of fatal traffic crashes are caused by drivers who break the law. According to Police Department data, in 2011 one-third of fatal crashes were caused by drivers who drove at unsafe speeds or drivers who failed to yield the right of way. Yet in 2012 and in 2013, fewer violations were issued for these two offenses than for window tint and broken headlights, neither of which has ever been cited as a cause of a fatal crash.
The leading causes of traffic death and injury and the NYPD’s traffic enforcement priorities don’t match-up. Here are a few examples:
• Projections for 2013 show that the NYPD is on track to issue nearly 100,000 tickets for window tint, a violation which is responsible for zero traffic deaths or injuries in our city.
• Speeding is the number one cause of traffic related deaths, accounting for 55 deaths and more than 2,700 injuries last year, yet it is woefully under enforced. In 2012, 66 of the city’s 76 precincts failed to issue more than one speeding ticket, on average, per day.
• Failure to yield is among the most frequent causes of pedestrian injury and death, but to date this year it ranks only as the 15th most ticketed offense.
The NYPD must focus its limited traffic safety resources on data driven enforcement, targeting the violations that make our streets unsafe and dangerous.
Transportation Alternatives applauds the Council Committees on Transportation and Public Safety for holding this hearing. We hope the Council will continue its leadership and keep this issue in the spotlight under the next administration.
We encourage the Council to work with the NYPD and the public to development traffic safety and enforcement priorities based on the greatest threats to public safety and public health. Given the NYPD’s limited resources, it is essential that the Department use data to target the traffic violations that are most likely to cause death and injury.