Vision Zero and the Pedestrian Accident “Head Start” Program – Part 1
Part 1 – Watching Your Step: New York City’s Expanding Initiative to Reduce Pedestrian Accidents and Pedestrian Injuries by Giving Pedestrians a “Head Start” at Crossing NYC Streets.
Upon taking office in 2014, Mayor Bill DeBlasio rolled out his “Vision Zero” plan, a comprehensive set of initiatives designed to improve pedestrian and driver safety on New York City Streets; and setting the noble, but extremely lofty, goal of eliminating all traffic deaths by 2024. The New York City Department of Transportation, by its commissioner Polly Trottenberg, is the New York City agency spearheading the “Vision Zero” initiative. The “Vision Zero” initiative is designed to address all aspects of traffic safety within New York City, and has been largely successful in making New York City’s streets safer since it began approximately three years ago. Though there are some problems with the “Vision Zero” plan (for example, the creation of criminal liability for every traffic accident involving a death, regardless of whether or not the incident was purely accidental, which raises complex constitutional problems which are not addressed in this article), but overall it appears to be an effective scheme to improve safety and reduce injuries from automobile accidents in New York City. You can learn more about the “Vision Zero” plan directly from the City of New York here.
The most-recent element of this broad safety plan to be rolled out involves changing the timing of pedestrian signals at intersections to give pedestrians a “Head Start” so that they can get out of the way of turning vehicles at intersections in New York City. All too often, pedestrians who are doing everything the right way when crossing the street (looking in all directions before entering a crosswalk, and only crossing when the signal is in their favor) are struck by negligent motorists, especially motorists turning across a pedestrian crosswalk. Although nothing, realistically, can prevent all pedestrian injuries, this new initiative is a step in the right direction toward improving pedestrian safety from accidents and avoiding serious injuries to pedestrians as they walk the streets of New York City. The New York Times recently explored this particular new initiative in detail, and you can read the article here.
What Is a “Head Start” For Pedestrians Under the New Safety Plan?
The pedestrian “Head Start” works like this: At each intersection in which the plan is implemented, the timing of the pedestrian “Walk/Don’t Walk” signals are changed so that, instead of the pedestrian signals synchronizing perfectly with the traffic signals which govern vehicular traffic (e.g., “Red/Yellow/Green” traffic lights, “Red/Yellow/Green” turning arrows, etc.), the pedestrian “Walk” signal is illuminated several seconds before the vehicles are given a “Green” light. Under the plan, depending on the particular geometry of a specific intersection, the pedestrians are given a “Head Start” of approximately between seven and eleven seconds.
The purpose of this “Head Start” is to allow the pedestrians this extra time to cross the street before the vehicles begin moving. This is intended to reduce the likelihood that vehicles, which may be turning across a crosswalk, will make contact with pedestrians and injure them. The theory – which this author believes is a very good theory, given my extensive experience representing victims of pedestrian accidents involving cars turning across crosswalks – of this plan is that New York City pedestrians are much less likely to be hit by cars turning across a crosswalk if they are further across the crosswalk when the vehicles begin to move and turn. The truth of the matter is that, because the shortest and clearest path for a vehicle to turn across a crosswalk (and, thus, the most common route taken by turning vehicles) usually involves the part of the crosswalk closest to where the vehicles and pedestrians are stopped and waiting for a light to change, if pedestrians are given more time to clear this area before cars begin to move and turn, accidents will occur less frequently as pedestrians will be out of the way of turning cars by the time the cars are allowed to begin moving.
In our next installment of this post, we will further explore the new “head start” rules and New York City’s Vision Zero program and further explain how our Bronx car accident lawyers can help you use these rules in your case to hold negligent drivers responsible if they cause a serious pedestrian accident in which you are injured. Call us today at (718) 354-8000 to discuss your case with our team of expert Bronx car accident attorneys in a no-obligation free consultation.