Since the Covid pandemic hit New York City in March 2020, traffic deaths have skyrocketed, just as they have across the country. Locally and nationally, these deaths have paralleled the same double-digit trajectory upward as homicides and drug-overdose deaths. In 2019, 220 New Yorkers died on city streets, near the record low of 206, set the year before. In 2021, 273 people died, a nearly one-quarter increase in two years. In 2022, as of late May, 93 people have died, down slightly from last year, but 12 percent above pre-Covid levels.
s in many areas of public safety and public health, New York City started the pandemic with an advantage. In 2019, the city’s 220 traffic deaths—whether people in cars, or pedestrians, or cyclists—represented a per-capita rate of about 2.6 per 100,000 residents, just a small fraction of the 11.1 per 100,000 killed nationwide. Among large, urbanized areas, New York stood out for safety, as well. In Miami-Dade County in 2019, for example, the rate was 11 per 100,000; metro Atlanta’s rate was similar. Even among denser northeastern and mid-Atlantic cities, which have long had lower traffic-death rates than the sprawling south and west, New York performed slightly better than Boston, with its 2.8 traffic deaths per 100,000, and much better than Philadelphia, with its 5.7 deaths per 100,000.
Pre-pandemic, New York’s falling traffic deaths made it a national outlier. Between 2011, when traffic deaths hit a modern low nationwide, and 2019, such fatalities across the country rose by 11.9 percent, to 36,355 annually. In Gotham over this period, by contrast, they fell 12 percent. The difference in pedestrian casualties was especially striking. Nationwide, pedestrian deaths began rising in 2010, after having fallen, reasonably steadily, for at least three decades. By 2019, annual pedestrian deaths had risen from their 2009 low by more than half. But in New York, pedestrian deaths fell by 21.5 percent over the same near-decade.
Author(s): Nicole Gelinas
Publication Date: Summer 2022
Publication Site: City Journal