By Olivia Scheck
MANHATTAN — Prideful Manhattan jaywalkers will be pleased to learn that they account for fewer accidents than their signal-abiding counterparts, according to a surprising study of pedestrian safety released by the city on Monday.
Only 20 percent of the pedestrians killed or seriously injured in New York during 2009 were crossing against the light, compared to 27 percent who had waited for the walk signal, the study found.
Before pedestrian scofflaws rejoice, however, they should note that the jaywalkers who did get hit were 56 percent more likely to die as a result of the crash.
Along with jaywalkers, taxicab drivers were vindicated by the report, which found that the vast majority (79 percent) of pedestrian crashes involved privately owned vehicles. Even in taxi-heavy Manhattan, cabs accounted for only 16 percent of pedestrian accidents, according to the study.
For the city itself, the Department of Transportation report brought surprisingly good news about traffic safety. Despite New York's reputation as a pedestrian death trap, the Big Apple's traffic fatality rate was less than half that of the next 10 largest U.S. cities, the study said.
In fact, the DOT report found that New York pedestrians were safer in 2009 than ever before, with traffic fatalities down 35 percent from 2001.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose decision to turn several major thoroughfares into pedestrian plazas sparked anger among city drivers, was eager to claim credit for the reduction, promising further pedestrian-friendly measures.
Among the city's plans for future improvements are a pilot program to create a 20 m.p.h. speed limit for entire neighborhoods and the installation of 1500 new countdown cross-walk signals, which are sure to be ignored by many New Yorkers.