New York City Personal Injury Law Blog

How Changes to Road Designs Could Reduce NYC Traffic Deaths

Posted on Mar 31, 2016 in Car Accidents, Personal Injury

Last year, despite efforts to reduce the number of pedestrian deaths, there were high fatality rates in New York. City Limits, for example, reported that for the first 13 days of November, a pedestrian died every single day in the city as a result of an accident with a bus or car that was traveling too fast. In total, 18 people died before the end of November — one for each business day of the month.  Clearly, with so many pedestrians losing their lives, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero campaign did not achieve its goal of zero pedestrian fatalities.

City Limits suggested that the reason death rates remain stubbornly high is because of the way roads are designed. Road design is currently overseen by the Department of Transportation (DOT), which is focused on prioritizing effective traffic flow. A shift needs to occur so that the focus is not just on making traffic move, but also on making the safety of pedestrians a primary goal.

Until this occurs, deaths will continue to occur in high numbers and victims will continue to be badly hurt in traffic crashes. Victims of these pedestrian accidents, or surviving family members of those killed in fatal accidents, should understand what options they have for recovering crash compensation. A New York City personal injury law firm can provide assistance.

A Closer Look at the Use of Road Designs

When the Department of Transportation designs New York City roads, it uses a federal grading system that assigns grades according to Level of Service (LOS). The only metric that matters under the LOS system is keeping cars moving effectively. As a result, anything that could impede the free flow of traffic becomes a problem that is identified and addressed.

Under the system that the DOT uses, trees and other non-moveable items are classified as Fixed Hazardous Objects (FHOs) because they can cause damage to cars that strike them. Trees are thus confined to a vegetative containment zone, out of the path of vehicles that want to travel on the roads.  People are also considered obstacles that could damage cars, but they are classified as Moving Hazardous Objects (MHOs) to be kept out of the path of cars.

The tradition of centering road design around cars and arranging the roads for their use dates back approximately 100 years. Previously, people walked where they wanted, but there ultimately came a point in time when city lawmakers had to mandate that cars be preceded by a man with a flag to warn bystanders of the car’s arrival. Once the Model T became so widespread, the term jaywalking was popularized and jaywalking laws were created and passed, such that people had to wait on street corners to cross for the first time.

The shift to focusing road design on the needs of cars means the needs of pedestrians — and the safety of pedestrians — gets insufficient attention. However, the safety of walkers and bicyclists should be prioritized to bring down death rates.

Pedestrians and bicycle riders deserve to have safe streets too, but when driver negligence causes a crash to occur, victims should speak with a personal injury law firm to determine if they have legal recourse for recovering compensation for their accident. Call Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff today for help.

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