Vision Zero and the Pedestrian Accident “Head Start” Program – Part 2
Part 2 – 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.
This article is a continuation of our exploration of New York City’s new “Head Start” pedestrian accident reduction program instituted under the City’s “Vision Zero” traffic accident plan.
How Ubiquitous are “Head Start” Intersections in New York City?
According to the New York Times’ analysis, which relied on raw data published by the City of New York itself, as of November 2017, the pedestrian “Head Start” program has been implemented at 2,381 intersections throughout the five boroughs of New York City. Back in 2014, when Mayor DeBlasio took office and began his “Vision Zero” traffic safety plan, only 329 intersections had implemented the “Head Start” safety program. Over the course of the next year, the New York City Department of Transportation intends to add another 800 intersections to the “Head Start” program, an increase in the rate of implementation of over 100%. This will result in over 3,000 intersections being made safer under the “Head Start” program by the end of 2018.
How Does the “Head Start” Initiative Impact Existing Legal Responsibilities of Pedestrians in New York City and Personal Injury Lawsuits Involving Pedestrian Injuries?
The New York Vehicle and Traffic Law, the statute that governs the responsibilities of all who use the roadways and crosswalks within the State of New York, provides for certain rights and responsibilities of New York City’s pedestrians. Specifically, Article 27 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law governs the rights and obligations of pedestrians, and also is the key to understanding who is responsible when a pedestrian accident results in an injury. Section 1150 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law provides that pedestrians are obligated to obey traffic signals, just as motor vehicles must do when using the roads. Section 1151 provides the rules that establish the “right of way” of pedestrians crossing within crosswalks in New York City. The New York City Department of Transportation has also established “Traffic Rules” which apply to pedestrians within the City of New York and clarify some of the requirements spelled out in the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law.
Under Section 1150 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law, pedestrians are obligated to obey traffic signals, whatever they may be in a particular intersection, when walking and crossing the street. Section 1151 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law specifies that, once a pedestrian has entered a crosswalk (assuming that the pedestrian has obeyed the applicable traffic signals, as required by Section 1150, before entering the crosswalk), motor vehicles must yield to the pedestrian and allow the pedestrian to cross before the vehicle may enter/proceed across the crosswalk. Section 4-04 of the New York City Department of Transportation Traffic Rules provides further specifications regarding the rights and responsibilities of pedestrians and drivers when using crosswalks within New York City.
While the “Head Start” program does not explicitly change the laws and rules applicable to pedestrians crossing New York City streets, it is very likely to have an impact on how the rules are applied when a personal injury lawsuit involving a pedestrian injury is brought to court. This is because, under the current rules, once a pedestrian enters the crosswalk with the “Walk” signal in their favor, so long as the pedestrian has looked for oncoming cars (e.g., drivers who may be turning across the crosswalk) before beginning to cross, the pedestrian is free of negligence (and, conversely, the driver is one hundred percent responsible in most cases, with few exceptions) and their pedestrian injury claim is almost certain to be successful in court. Because the “Head Start” program will provide an extra seven to eleven seconds for pedestrians to begin crossing, and conversely will require that drivers intending to turn across a crosswalk wait an additional seven to eleven seconds before beginning to turn, pedestrians who are struck in crosswalks will be better able to demonstrate that they had the right of way under the law (they will be able to point to the fact that they had a “Walk” signal for quite some time before the driver who hit them was given a “Green” light, and will also be able to successfully argue that, when they began walking, the driver almost certainly had a “Red” light, given the timing of the lights at the intersection), and that the driver who hit them was negligent and in violation of the law.
Will the “Head Start” Intersection Accident Safety Plan be Effective in Reducing Pedestrian Accidents and Pedestrian Injuries in New York City?
According to the New York Times’ analysis and data from the City of New York, in 2016, the second year of Mayor DeBlasio’s “Vision Zero” initiative, total traffic accident deaths in New York City equaled 231 people. Of those 231 total traffic deaths, 148 of those were pedestrians. Compare this to the 139 pedestrian deaths in traffic accidents in New York City that occurred in 2015. However, for the year 2017, there have been only 86 pedestrian deaths due to traffic accidents as of the end of October, which represents a decline of 34 total pedestrian traffic accident deaths when compared to the same period in 2016. At this rate, a reduction in rate of pedestrian deaths due to traffic accidents by a factor of nearly 25% will be seen for 2017, which is a major improvement in pedestrian safety in New York City. It is thus likely, given the numbers and the fact that the City of New York has doubled the rate of implementation of the “Head Start” pedestrian safety program since 2016, that the program is having a positive impact in reducing pedestrian traffic accident deaths, and will continue to do so as it is more broadly implemented.
Our Bronx car accident lawyers have the skill and experience required to put these important safety rules to use in your case to hold negligent drivers responsible if you are injured. Call us today at (718) 354-8000 for a free consultation with an expert Bronx pedestrian accident attorney.