By Patrick Hedlund
DNAinfo News Editor
LOWER EAST SIDE — Citing statistics that show more New Yorkers have been killed by cars than guns over the past decade, a group of transportation advocates gathered at one of Manhattan's deadliest intersections to call for the implementation of more traffic-calming measures to reduce pedestrian fatalities.
A new report by the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy in partnership with Transportation Alternatives showed that 317 New Yorkers on average are killed in traffic-related incidents each year, in addition to the 3,774 who suffer life-altering injuries on average each year.
The report, called "Vision Zero," also showed that speeding vehicles represent the chief factor in fatal crashes.
Last month, a 51-year-old woman was struck and killed by a garbage truck near the intersection of Essex and Delancey streets, which Transportation Alternatives identified as the most dangerous on the East Side.
Standing Tuesday at the same corner — which saw 119 crashes involving motor vehicles and pedestrians/cyclists between 1998 and 2008, according to the group — advocates stressed the city's moral obligation to address the issue.
"What we've got here is a nightmare," said Mary Beth Kelly, whose husband, Dr. Carl Henry Nacht, was killed riding his bicycle near the Hudson River in 2006. "We've got to wake up from it."
Kevin Chatham-Stephens, a pediatrician at Mt. Sinai Medical Center, noted that vehicle crashes mark the single highest cause of death for children in the city, including half of all fatalities among African American youths.
"These are preventable injuries and preventable deaths," he said.
The report calls for broad-based policy changes in the city administration, including the formation of executive committees and working groups to coordinate street safety initiatives; more collaboration between the Department of Transportation and NYPD to identify and handle enforcement strategies; the implementation of more 20 mile-per-hour zones; and the installation of speed detectors throughout the city using fixed and mobile traffic surveillance cameras.
"It's about creating streets that don't kill people," said John Petro, a policy analyst with the Drum Major Institute, adding the city needs to create more traffic-safety measures like pedestrian plazas. "We need to be more ambitious."
David Shephard, who lost his fiancé to a speeding driver on Baychester Avenue in the Bronx in late 2009, fought back tears while stumping for more safety improvements.
"No family should have to endure the pain and sorrow that me and other people have had to suffer," he said. "The human cost is tremendous."