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Preventing Vehicle-Pedestrian Injuries

November 13, 2012 | Michael Barasch

Although New York City’s stats have improved a bit over the past few years, New York City still has the largest share of pedestrians dying in traffic accidents of any metropolitan area in the country — pedestrians make up 31 percent of all traffic fatalities. Every year, more than 250 pedestrians die in NYC after being hit by automobiles.

In New York, pedestrians nearly always have the right-of-way. Where there is no traffic light, drivers should yield to pedestrians. Drivers must always yield to pedestrians accompanied by guide-dogs or using a cane even when they cross against the light. Pedestrians always have the right of way on sidewalks, even at exits from parking garages or parking lots. While pedestrians should yield the right-of-way to vehicles on the road if they do not have a crosswalk, sign or signal mid-block, drivers are still required to yield to the pedestrian if not yielding would put the pedestrian in danger.

With these laws on the books, what steps can New York take to reduce the number of pedestrian deaths even further?  The Federal Highway Administration lists seven highly effective steps to improve pedestrian safety.

  • Leading pedestrian intervals — pedestrians have a brief head start in crossing the street before the light changes and turning vehicles put them at risk
  • Pedestrian countdown signals — walk/don’t walk signs that indicate how much time remains before the light changes
  • In-street pedestrian signs — flexible signs placed in the median or center line
  • Activated flashing beacons — flashing lights near a crosswalk that alert drivers when activated by a pedestrian
  • Rectangular rapid flashing beacons — two LED flashers placed on either side of a pedestrian warning sign that flash back and forth
  • Call buttons that confirm the press — call buttons that give some feedback, through emitting sound or lighting up
  • Danish offsets combined with high-visibility crosswalks, advance yield markings and “Yield Here to Pedestrians” signs

New York City should consider implementing some or all of these measures at its most dangerous intersections to help bring our pedestrian fatality and injury rates even lower.

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