Traffic accidents in 2021 throughout New York City reached their highest levels in nearly ten years. Many blame the rising death toll on lax traffic enforcement. Others focus on the failure of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero program, which intends to decrease traffic deaths and injuries but has, in fact, seen massive increases in both. Of course, the increase in vehicles on the streets also contributes to the rising hazardous nature of New City streets, particularly those from a new scooter rental ride-share program.
Due to this rather spectacular failure, the Mayor announced on November 4, 2021, the return of the city’s annual Dusk and Darkness campaign aimed at keeping pedestrians and cyclists safe during fall and winter evenings. Urging the legislature to permit 24-hour traffic cameras, the Mayor announced that stepped-up enforcement will take effect in the city’s streets, particularly in the evening and nighttime hours.
The increasing likelihood of involvement in an accident means that there is also an increased likelihood of serious injuries resulting from those accidents. This article will look at some of the primary accident types and the factors in the increase in accidents. Further, this article will look at ways that a New York City car accident attorney can help you if you or a loved one has been the victim of one of these accidents.
Types of Accidents
Mayor de Blasio was originally voted into office in part on his pledge to make New York City’s streets far safer than they had ever been. Yet, the summer of 2021 saw 77 traffic fatalities, the highest total of any summer since de Blasio began his ambitious drive for traffic safety. At the same time, more pedestrians died on New York City streets in the summer of 2021 than had died in the previous three summers combined.
Among those suffering the most are delivery workers and those living in the Bronx. The Bronx, for example, was the location for half of the city’s cyclist deaths this year. For whatever reason and for whatever it means, the death tolls are rising at the same time that statistics indicate that police are enforcing traffic laws less aggressively. Drivers received less than half the traffic tickets in 2020 than they received in 2021. Although some of the credit for the decrease goes to the pandemic and the related reduction in traffic, nonetheless, it is a stark decrease in enforcement.
A variety of accident types have contributed to the growing problem.
Although 2021 began with a very low vehicle accident count in the first quarter, due in part to continued traffic reductions based on the pandemic, the year went on the feature more traffic accident deaths than any year since de Blasio took office. De Blasio blamed the pandemic for the increase, noting that far fewer people were using public transportation and thus increasing the number of vehicles on the city’s streets.
New York City was not alone in increased motor accident deaths in the past year. Over 42,000 people died in the United States in 2020 motor vehicles accidents. The spike was the largest single-year spike in almost 100 years and occurred at a time when traffic decreased by well more than ten percent. This year has proven to be on the same pace. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration expects that 2021 will end up with the highest totals since 2006.
Motorcycle accidents in New York City are not as common as car accidents, but they are far more likely to feature fatalities. Indeed, an individual riding a motorcycle is nearly forty times more likely to die in an accident than a passenger in a car. This higher incidence is in part because of the riders’ lack of physical protection but also because of their relative lack of visibility in turn lanes and traffic.
One of the more alarming issues relating to motorcycle accidents in the city is the number of unlicensed individuals riding unregistered vehicles. Deaths remained very high in the first three quarters of 2021, with 75 percent of those who died not having proper licensing and 70 percent were riding on unregistered vehicles. So poorly qualified were these drivers that a large number of the accidents were single-vehicle crashes featuring a loss of control. The rapid growth in the number of alternative motorized vehicles such as electric bikes is adding to the problem.
Bicycle accidents, very much influenced by the reduced numbers going into offices, continued to be very high although slightly lower than in 2020. The only death in a bicycle accident so far in 2021 occurred in the Bronx, which continues to be among the most dangerous areas of the city. Clearly, bicycle accidents remain an unresolved problem in New York City.
The pandemic heavily influenced pedestrian dangers on the street. The lack of people working in the City, combined with the lack of foreign tourists, reduced pedestrian traffic fatalities. Yet, as the mayor’s office admits, New York City streets are more dangerous for pedestrians than they were when de Blasio took office and are currently at their highest level in nearly a decade. A pedestrian is dying on the city’s streets at the rate of one every three days.
Factors in the Increase
The increase in traffic deaths is not, of course, a single factor problem, arising totally out of failures by the de Blasio administration. There are many reasons that accidents in the city are up. Some of these reasons follow.
Empty Streets – Reckless Drivers
Many people took advantage of the eerie emptiness of the early pandemic streets to engage in reckless behavior on city streets. Mad motorcyclists sped down empty streets, while younger drivers, self-medicating and then driving, were involved in many accidents. Speeding tickets, especially those for over 100 MPH, surged, with speed serving as a factor in virtually all of New York City’s fatal crashes last year.
The pandemic did, for a time, reduce the numbers on the city’s streets. However, now there are more vehicles on the streets than ever before. Not only that, but far fewer people are using public transportation, which just exacerbates the problem. Police reluctance to perform and dislike of traffic enforcement also complicates any cure to the issue. The increase in congestion and the reinforced loop where congestion causes accidents that cause additional congestion made the city’s streets increasingly miserable over the past year. The city has looked at various plans to reduce the congestion, including congestion charges such as are used in London and automating illegal parking tickets.
Accidents blocking freeways
In any large metropolitan area that is bisected and dissected by limited access highways, accidents on those highways will create problems for the city through which they pass. Once an accident blocks a highway, drivers will exit as soon as possible and traverse around the accident through the local neighborhood. The problem is that these neighborhoods do not have the infrastructure to withstand the increased traffic and accidents thus increase.
Lack of Enforcement
One of the more significant factors in the increase in danger on the streets has been a reduction in traffic, encouraging reckless driving habits, and a reduction in enforcement that simply enhances the opportunity to drive recklessly on the city’s streets.
Fewer Police Personnel
The year 2020 saw a huge decrease in the city’s budget for the NYPD, and the reduced numbers of police officers impacted the rate of accidents in the city. The resulting $1 billion in budget cuts saw the cancellation of more than 1000 new hires and the shifting of certain activities away from the police department.
Inexperienced ride-share drivers
Ride-share drivers are mostly self-selected and, therefore, not subject to any particularly rigorous qualification check before undertaking their new career. Like all drivers, ride-share drivers are subject to distracted driving (increased by needing to follow navigation and new assignments) and the impact of their inexperience. Given that city streets have many reckless and adventurous drivers, inexperienced ride-share drivers are easily involved in accidents.
Increase in Bikes
The last year has seen tremendous increases in the number of bikes on New York City’s streets. Unfortunately, all these extra bikes present all the usual safety problems that bikes create in congested city traffic. Bikes weave in and out of traffic and are often ignored by or invisible to others on the road. Increasing the number of them on the roads simply increases these related issues and causes more accidents. The 2021 statistics for bike rider deaths bear out this unfortunate truth.
New Moped Rent Program
Three different companies are participating in Mayor de Blasio’s new moped rental program. Begun in 2020, newly offered vehicle rental programs intended to reduce congestion in the city actually resulted in a huge increase in accidents involving them. Lax law enforcement has seen the mopeds in areas where they are not supposed to operate, and several hundred accidents have been the result.
How Can a Car Accident Attorney Help
Given all this bad news about accidents on New York City streets, how can a skilled car accident attorney help you? If you or a loved one suffered injuries in an accident in New York City, you should consider consulting a car accident attorney sooner rather than later.
Getting Your Financial Recovery
Recovering from your injuries in a car accident is not just a matter of filing an insurance claim. Your attorney, experienced and knowledgeable in fighting for such recoveries, will know how to proceed and against whom. Your case may involve far more than just another driver. There can be third-party negligence, agency liability for ride-share drivers, failure to maintain vehicles, and so on. Each of these potential scenarios for your accident will help your attorney to determine who may be a potential adversary in your case and – ultimately – a contributor to your recovery.
Understanding Your Case
Car accident cases, especially in crowded urban streets, are seldom just a matter of who hit whom. Many city accidents involve multiple parties, and those parties often have multiple relationships, which can complicate the pattern of liability and recovery. Commercial vehicle drivers may be agents of companies with much deeper pockets than the standard insurance policy. Ride-share drivers have coverage under special rules that can affect your recovery. And there are maintenance and repair issues involving city vehicles and city streets that a lawyer will also consider. Your experienced car accident attorney will understand these relationships and their potential impact on your recovery.
Understanding Whether There Are Important Third Parties Responsible
Of particular importance in looking at liability in your case is the issue of third-party liability. The City, a construction company, or an equipment maintenance company may have failed in their duty in a way that contributed to your accident. If so, that third party may be partially liable for your recovery.
It’s Not Your Job
If you or your loved one suffered injuries in a New York City accident, the last thing you want to spend your time and energy on is trying to fight City Hall or a crowd of insurance companies. Instead of carrying your own case, contact a skilled and knowledgeable car accident attorney today. You are stressed—whether from your injuries and enforced absence from work or your worry about a beloved spouse or child—and shouldn’t spend your limited injury on trying to be a better lawyer than a lawyer will be.
Let an experienced attorney analyze your case and figure out who might be liable and how to recover for them. Let us decide who you might recover from and whether litigation is likely to be necessary. Doing so will allow you to focus your energy on your physical and emotional recovery while we concentrate on your financial recuperation. When you have the right car accident attorney on your side, you can have confidence that they are protecting your rights.