New York Daily News: City Council Expected to Approve Bill Requiring NYPD to Make Traffic Statistics Public
By John Lauinger
February 16, 2011
The City Council is expected to approve legislation Wednesday that would force the NYPD to report traffic statistics to the public just like it does for major crimes, the bill's author said.
Councilwoman Jessica Lappin told the Daily News she has the votes needed to pass the bill - ending a legislative battle that began last spring when the NYPD opposed an early version of the bill.
The bill will require the NYPD to post on its website information on car accidents, fatal accidents and crashes between a vehicle and a pedestrian or a bicyclist. There will also be data on summonses handed out for moving violations. The information will be updated monthly.
People will be able to search the data by intersection. Lappin said she hopes the information will lead to safety improvements at accident-prone locations.
"Knowledge is power. We are giving communities the power to make their streets safer," said Lappin (D-Upper East Side/Roosevelt Island).
"This will shine a spotlight on dangerous intersections."
Mayor Bloomberg will sign the bill into law if the council passes it, a mayoral spokesman said Tuesday.
The advocacy group Transportation Alternatives recommended the measure in a 2009 report. The group's executive director, Paul Steely White, said city residents want to know how dangerous the city's streets are and how the NYPD polices them.
"In making all of that more transparent, I think it will help our city focus on more effective traffic enforcement and more effective prevention of injuries and fatalities," he said.
The NYPD, however, opposed Lappin's bill when it was first introduced.
The department's Chief of Transportation, James Tuller, testified at a hearing of the council's Public Safety Committee last April that reporting the information would drain "valuable and diminishing" police resources.
He said it was assumed the public will gain a benefit from the information.
"We respectfully suggest that such an assumption is misplaced and that publishing the data required by the bill would not further our mutual goal of making the city's streets safer," Tuller argued, according to a transcript of the hearing.
But the former NYPD Chief of Transportation, Michael Scagnelli, testified at the same hearing that the legislation wouldn't burden the NYPD.
"The simple fact is that this information already exists in a form that could be easily released," he said.
Scagnelli, who is retired from the NYPD, added that going public with the data would show "the dire need for more traffic-safety solutions to be applied on our streets."
The NYPD's top spokesman, Paul Browne, did not respond to an email Tuesday seeking comment on Lappin's bill.
Earlier this month, the city Department of Transportation released statistics showing that the number of fatal accidents on city streets has dropped steadily over the last decade.
Last year, 269 people died in roadway crashes in the five boroughs - slightly above the record-low of 258 fatalities in 2009.
"This historic era shows how far we've come on safety, but the statistics also bear a warning that we can't let up in our work to build safer streets," DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said in a statement.
A statistic buried deep inside a November 2010 Health Department report on DOT data revealed the city's streets remain dangerous - even for pedestrians who obey traffic laws.
Out of the 770 pedestrians killed on city streets from 2005 to 2009, about 19% - or roughly 150 deaths - were people crossing at an intersection with the "walk" signal in their favor, according to the Health Department report.
Councilman James Vacca, who chairs the council's Transportation Committee, said two other traffic-related bills will also be brought to a vote on Wednesday.
The first would require the DOT to keep monthly stats on the number of bicycle accidents taking place on city streets - including accidents where bicyclists collide or a bicyclist slams into a pedestrian.
The second would force the DOT to provide reports to the public when it researches but declines to adopt a community request for a stop sign or a traffic signal.
Vacca (D-Bronx) said he agrees with Lappin's belief that making traffic data public will lead people to push for roadway improvements.
"Too many neighborhoods have too many unsafe traffic conditions because communities have not had access to the ammunition they need to make their case for improvements," he said.