Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that pedestrian safety improvement projects are beginning on roads across New York State as part of a $110 million multi-agency initiative to utilize engineering, education and enforcement campaigns to enhance pedestrian safety across upstate New York and Long Island. The plan seeks to reduce pedestrian fatalities in New York State by 20 percent by 2021. Along with engineering improvements, a law enforcement blitz in June resulted in nearly 4,500 interactions by police agencies with pedestrians and motorists. A new pedestrian safety public service announcement began airing recently encouraging pedestrians to be visible when walking after dark, and comes in advance of Daylight Saving Time ending.
"Ensuring the safety of both motorists and pedestrians is paramount to securing safer and more walkable communities across New York," Governor Cuomo said. "With this initiative, we work to improve pedestrian safety, visibility and access on roads across the state while educating both drivers and pedestrians about their responsibilities on the road."
As part of the public education component, the State Department of Transportation will place portable electronic variable message signs along select corridors that are targeted for pedestrian safety upgrades. The VMS, which will be displayed from the morning of Friday, Nov. 3 through the afternoon of Tuesday, Nov. 7, will read: See and Be Seen, Watch for Pedestrians.
Contracts are in planning phases all across the state, with some work starting this fall. The work is part of the Governor's five-year, $110 million New York State Pedestrian Safety Action Plan, which calls for a systemic approach to proactively address safety issues and minimize the potential for crashes through engineering, enforcement and education.
Pedestrian safety site evaluations began last year on state-owned roadways, including at 2,000 crosswalks without traffic signals and 2,400 signalized intersections. This year, NYSDOT is working to provide funding for local governments to implement pedestrian safety improvements on local and county roads. Funding will be announced in the spring of 2018.
At signalized intersections, high visibility crosswalk markings and additional signs will be installed. Signalization will be enhanced with extended crossing times, countdown timers that tell pedestrians how many seconds they have to cross the street and leading pedestrian intervals that help make pedestrians more visible to motorists by giving them a head start before traffic can turn onto the street. Up to 400 locations will receive enhanced treatments as warranted, including refuge islands and attention-grabbing light beacons.
The Pedestrian Safety Action Plan was launched in 2016 and takes a three-pronged approach to improving safety during a campaign that will run through State Fiscal Year 2020. It is being implemented cooperatively by the New York State Department of Transportation focusing on engineering improvements, the State Department of Health through public education and awareness, and the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee coordinating increased law enforcement in 20 "focus communities" that have the highest number of pedestrian crashes. The plan targets improvements in communities outside of New York City. The city has an established pedestrian safety program that receives millions in federal funding from NYSDOT.
Analysis of crash data included in the plan determined that an average of 300 pedestrians are killed and 15,000 injured by motor vehicles in New York State each year and more than 25 percent of motor-vehicle-related fatalities are pedestrians. Sixty-one percent of the contributing factors to these crashes were related to driver actions, including driver inattention and failure to yield right of way. The top two pedestrian actions that contributed to crashes were pedestrian error and pedestrian failure to yield right of way.
The Governor's Traffic Safety Committee provides education for law enforcement and justice officials, organizes an annual pedestrian safety law enforcement blitz, and encourages police agencies to apply for traffic safety grants in the 20 communities with the highest number of pedestrian crashes. The enforcement blitzes focus on educating motorists and pedestrians about the rules of the road with the goal of improving safety for both drivers and pedestrians.
The 2017 law enforcement crackdown and education campaign was held in June. During the two-week operation, local police in upstate New York and on Long Island patrolled busy pedestrian corridors and issued warning notices, tickets and informative tip cards to both motorists and pedestrians found violating the law. Police handed out 1,135 warning notices that detail State laws pertaining to pedestrian safety. They issued 266 tickets to motorists and 143 tickets to pedestrians for violating these laws.
State Department of Motor Vehicles Executive Deputy Commissioner and Acting Chair of the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee Terri Egan said, "Engineering, education, and enforcement are equally important when it comes to keeping New Yorkers safe, and the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee is proud to do its part to ensure that drivers and pedestrians understand and obey the rules of the road. We will continue to work with local law enforcement officers and our sister state agencies to ensure that Governor Cuomo's Pedestrian Safety Action Plan is a success."
The State Department of Health recently released their second public service announcement about pedestrian safety, encouraging pedestrians to be safe and visible when walking at night. Forty percent of pedestrian crashes occur after dark, with most crashes occurring in November. Over the last year, DOH has worked to engage local traffic safety boards, schools and others in public outreach, and to provide training for safety organizations.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "Teaching pedestrians how to stay safe both during the day and night is critical to public health and safety. We're proud to partner with the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee, the Department of Transportation, and our other state agency partners on this life-saving initiative, and will continue to stress the importance of education and awareness in this effort."