New York Mayor Bill de Blasio took office in 2014. That year, Vision Zero became the official city policy. The goal of Vision Zero is to eliminate all traffic deaths.

The program initially showed positive results. Traffic deaths in New York fell by one-third in 2018. But since then, traffic deaths have trended upward. In the first half of 2021, the traffic death rate has now reached the highest point since 2014, erasing seven years of progress.

Here is a quick overview of Vision Zero and some of the ways you can reduce the risk of a car accident in NYC.

Vision Zero’s Efforts

Vision Zero discarded the view of traffic deaths as unavoidable accidents and replaced it with a focus on prevention. The city then took the initiative to develop programs and policies designed to prevent traffic deaths.

Some of Vision Zero’s efforts include:

  • Expanding enforcement of traffic laws about speeding and failing to yield
  • Adopting new street designs configured for safety
  • Broadening public outreach to remind the public to drive safely
  • Passing greater penalties for dangerous drivers
  • Shifting control over road safety to city officials
  • Installing speed cameras in school zones
  • Improving training programs for MTA bus drivers and city workers

The city did not intend to have any single program to solve the traffic death problem. Instead, the city officials believed that small changes across the region’s many activities could improve traffic safety.

Vision Zero’s Results

For the first few years of Vision Zero, traffic fatalities in New York fell in every category. The number of people who died in car accidents fell from 60 in 2014 to 39 in 2018. Fatal pedestrian accidents fell from a high of 132 in 2014 to a low of 103 in 2017. Bicycle accident fatalities were cut in half between 2014 and 2018, and the number of motorcycle accident deaths fell from 37 in 2014 to 19 in 2016.

But the numbers have rebounded. And during the first half of 2021, every one of these numbers is on track to reach new highs by the end of the year.

What Might Happen Next

Traffic safety advocates do not blame Vision Zero for the increase in traffic deaths. The first few years of positive accomplishments prove that some of the initiatives under Vision Zero had some impact. No one has yet proposed a viable reason for the recent increases in traffic deaths.

Some organizations that are dedicated to traffic safety argue that Vision Zero did not go far enough. They believe that the city failed to maintain the rigor established early on in the program. 

Instead, they propose building on the accomplishments of Vision Zero by establishing additional programs to:

  • Expand the redesign of unsafe streets
  • Convert road space into areas for pedestrians and cyclists
  • Lower speed limits
  • Provide rights to crash victims and survivors in court proceedings
  • Expand the use of speed cameras beyond school zones
  • Strengthen the penalties for reckless driving
  • Reduce the legal limit for blood alcohol content
  • Require vehicles to leave at least three feet of space when passing bikes

For now, these programs remain proposals at the city and state levels. But many of these programs have become law in other states, so they may eventually become law in New York, as well.

Steps You Can Take to Avoid Becoming a Traffic Fatality

Statistics show that taking a few steps can reduce your chances of dying in a car crash. Some of these steps include:

  • Slowing down
  • Avoiding distractions
  • Wearing a seat belt
  • Driving sober
  • Reducing night driving

These steps will also help you avoid hitting pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists, making the streets safer for you and everyone around you.