Testimony of Paul Steely White, Executive Director, Transportation Alternatives, Intro. 120, "The Saving Lives Through Better Information Bill" to New York City Council
May 28, 2010
Good morning. My name is Paul Steely White and I am the Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. We are a non-profit advocacy organization with over 8,000 dues paying members and over 35,000 active supporters working for safer streets for New York City pedestrians and cyclists. Our organization strongly supports the Saving Lives Through Better Information Bill. This legislation will improve transparency in government, enable government agencies to more precisely and efficiently focus their limited resources, and it will ultimately improve the safety of millions who walk, bike and drive in New York City.
As the Executive Director of an organization to whom elected officials, media and civic groups frequently turn to in their search for information about summonsing for dangerous driving violations or crash records, I can say that the data we currently have on hand is woefully insufficient. Right now, the only way for a New Yorker to obtain information about traffic-related crashes or summonsing activity for dangerous driving is to send a Freedom of Information Law request to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. That data is often two years-old. Think about it: right now, community groups and elected officials like yourselves are often forced to make decisions that directly affect life and death, based on information from 2008, at best.
Let there be no doubt about how in-demand and indispensable this information is. Back in 2004, Transportation Alternatives launched a website called CrashStat.org. Today, any New Yorker can go online to that website and see a map of crashes involving bicyclists or pedestrians on their street between 1995 and 2005. We built this site because of an overwhelming demand for crash data from schools, residents, community groups and members of the press who were working to quantify and reduce the dangers on their streets. CrashStat was a start, but it's inadequate in its ability to inform policy decisions, or enable residents and elected officials to have a clear picture of what has happened on their streets in the past week, the past month, the past year or even the past five years.
Intro. 120 will enable government agencies and citizens to direct resources in a much more efficient and transparent way. This is an era of doing more with less, where we must find ways to direct shrinking enforcement resources and limited capital dollars for street improvements to the areas where they will make the biggest impact. And this data will enable City agencies to justify their decisions and priorities in a more transparent and readily understood way. Whatever limited resources are required to enable the systematic publication of existing crash and summonsing data--data which is presently collected and regularly disseminated internally within the NYPD Traffic Division--will pale by comparison to the ultimate gains made in efficiency and safety. For those who question whether the current fiscal situation makes Intro. 120 prohibitive, consider that every traffic fatality costs tax payers roughly $3 million in medical costs, litigation, emergency response and other associated costs.
Today, you'll be hearing from more than just transportation advocates. You'll be hearing from emergency room doctors, representatives of our senior communities, former law enforcement officials and families of crash victims to name a few. What each of these diverse constituencies have in common is that they fully support this legislation and will be working together to see to its ultimate passage.
And, I am particularly happy to report that as of late yesterday, the office the Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is also getting behind this legislation.
We are firm believers that the regular, timely publication of crash and summonsing data could prove nothing less than transformative for the city. As you consider the passage of the Saving Lives Through Better Information Bill, I hope you will consider some numbers. 256: the number of New Yorkers who lost their lives in traffic-related crashes last year. 72,000: the estimated number of pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicle passengers injured in traffic-related crashes in New York last year. This information is falling through the cracks, and with it, our opportunity to save lives with more scientific,data-driven policy.