For New Yorkers, A Near-Universal Experience of Traffic Violence
30 Percent of New York Voters Have Been Injured in a Traffic Crash; 70 Percent Know Someone Who Has Been Injured Or Killed
In New York City, a person is killed in a traffic crash every 36 hours. These are pedestrians trying to cross unsafe streets, drivers and motorcyclists navigating urban avenues built to encourage speeding, and cyclists relying on bike lanes that are unprotected, disconnected, or entirely missing.
The victims of traffic violence are parents, children, spouses, and elders. They are our neighbors, our friends, our teachers and nurses, and the workers who deliver our food. From one crash or one death, the list of those affected ripples out.
Until now, our understanding of how far that ripple reaches has been largely anecdotal. The number of New Yorkers’ lives touched by traffic violence appeared not in data but in countless stories of New Yorkers who had been injured in a traffic crash, or known someone killed.
Now, according to a new poll commissioned by Transportation Alternatives and conducted by the Siena College Research Institute, there is inarguable math to the monstrous effect of traffic violence.
In a poll of 805 NYC voters, the Siena College Research Institute found that 30 percent of respondents have been injured in a traffic crash themselves, and a full 70 percent of respondents reported knowing someone personally who has been killed or injured. More than a third of low-income New Yorkers surveyed suffered injury — the highest rate among any economic group surveyed. Respondents who identified as Black reported experiencing traffic violence in greater numbers (35 percent) than white (31 percent), Hispanic/Latino (25 percent), or those who identified as “other races” (18 percent).
The effects of traffic violence are even more pronounced in the boroughs where the City of New York has made the least effort to reduce car-use, facilitate walking and biking, and make streets safe for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians. For example, Staten Island, a borough where residents need to rely on cars significantly more than others, also hosts the fewest traffic calming pedestrian plazas and the fewest protected bike lanes of anywhere in the city. There, 88 percent of respondents know someone who was killed or injured in a traffic crash, and nearly half (48 percent) have been injured in a traffic crash themselves.
Considering the prevalence of traffic violence in New Yorkers’ lives, it is perhaps unsurprising that a majority of New Yorkers want something done about the problem. Our poll found that a supermajority — 79 percent of those polled — consider traffic crashes to be a serious or very serious problem. Meanwhile, more than half of New Yorkers surveyed had heard little or nothing about Vision Zero, indicating that the benefits of the City’s street safety initiative has not reached far enough and that significantly more permanent street improvements must be embarked upon across the five boroughs
This November, New York City will undergo a seismic political reordering, with voters choosing a new Mayor, Comptroller, and at least 30 of 51 City Councilmembers. These poll results make it clear that no candidate can afford to run for office without a plan to address New York City’s unsafe streets. Traffic violence impacts the lives of nearly every New Yorker. For candidates in the 2021 election, this should be a wake-up call: Every New Yorker needs to hear your response to the traffic violence epidemic.