CBS New York investigates Vision Zero’s impact on traffic deaths across Tri-State Area

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NEW YORK — Despite a federal investment of more than $2 billion over the last couple years on traffic safety projects, about 40,000 people are dying on Untied States roads every year.

CBS New York’s Jenna DeAngelis takes a closer look at one of those efforts — “Vision Zero” — and its impact across the Tri-State Area.

“He was a ray, a whole ray of light,” Porscha McLaurin said.

Jayden McLaurin‘s family says he shined on and off the basketball court. The 16-year-old loved advocating for his community and dreamed of becoming a lawyer.

“He was gonna grow into something phenomenal,” Porscha McLaurin said.

But he never got that chance; Jayden was struck and killed while riding an electric Citi Bike in Astoria last April.

His loved ones channel their grief into advocacy with the group Families for Safe Streets.

“These streets need to be safe, and enough is enough,” said Elizabeth McLaurin, Jayden’s grandmother.

Jayden was among the 30 cyclists who died in 2023, making it the deadliest year for cyclists in the city since 1999. Twenty-three of those fatalities involved electric bikes, according to the Department of Transportation, prompting a new e-bike campaign.

City transportation leaders also tell us there are more cyclists on the road than ever before — a 154% increase since 2008. That means there were far fewer on the road in 1999 when cyclists’ deaths spiked.  

Education, enforcement and engineering are the focus areas of Vision Zero, a program launched in 2014 with the goal of zero traffic deaths.

“During this period of time, we had eight of the ten safest year in the history of New York City,” DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez says overall traffic deaths declined more than 12% and pedestrian deaths decreased 45%.

Over the past decade, the DOT installed more than 200 miles of protected bike lanes and redesigned streets.

“You look at streets like Queens Boulevard that was called the ‘Boulevard of Death’ for years and years and years, and now it is so much safer,” said Alexa Sledge, with Transportation Alternatives.

Advocacy group Transportation Alternatives says it wants to see more urgency and equity in the Vision Zero rollout.

“We’re seeing a lot more infrastructure improvements and street redesigns and community boards than our whiter and wealthier areas,” Sledge said.

“Vision Zero has been centered around equity,” Rodriguez said.

Meanwhile, the city of Hoboken, New Jersey just marked a significant milestone — seven consecutive years without a traffic death.

“Not only that, but injuries are down, serious injuries are also down, so in all categories we’re trending downwards and that’s really because of no silver bullet,” Mayor Ravi Bhalla said.

Bhalla showed us some of the changes, including infrastructure at intersections to keep cars from parking too close to the crosswalk.

“Creates a lot more safety in terms of sight lines for pedestrians and for motorists,” Bhalla said.

And the speed limit in Hoboken is now 20 mph.

“We’re not done yet, but I think were trending in the right direction,” Bhalla said.

“We’re 10 years into Vision Zero. What’s the focus for the DOT for the future now?” DeAngelis asked DOT Commissioner Rodriguez.

“Change the culture on how drivers drive in our street,” Rodriguez said.

The commissioner feels the more than 2,000 speed cameras citywide help with that.

“Ninety-six percent of those who drive in New York City, after they get a second ticket at a red light camera, they don’t get a third one,” he said.

The DOT supports legislation in Albany to renew the red light camera program, set to expire in December, and also expand it. Transportation leaders also back a bill to crack down on repeat offenders.

“I have a legislation that says if you get five red light camera violations in a 12-month period, the registration of that vehicle should be suspended,” Sen. Michael Gianaris said.

The McLaurin family tells us they want to see stricter penalties — for Jayden, whose name will forever reside on the intersection outside his home.

“A breath of fresh air. As if he’s still here,” Porscha McLaurin said.

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