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11 People Have Been Killed by Cars and Buses Since Halloween

By Jeff Mays | November 9, 2015 10:27am | Updated on November 9, 2015 3:31pm
 Even though eight people were struck and killed by motor vehicles over the last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio said his Vision Zero plan to end traffic fatalities is working.
De Blasio Says Plan to Reduce Traffic Deaths Works In Spite of Deadly Week
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CITY HALL — Mayor Bill de Blasio said his Vision Zero plan to end traffic fatalities is working — even as 11 pedestrians were struck and killed by motor vehicles over the last nine days.

"It has been a tough week, a very, very tough week," de Blasio said during a City Hall press conference Friday when the pedestrian death toll for the week before was eight.

"It's a reminder of why Vision Zero is here to begin with."

Over the weekend, three more pedestrians were fatally struck, including Luisa Rosario, 88, who was killed by a yellow taxi early Sunday as she crossed West 109th Street at Columbus Avenue in a marked walkway with the green light.

The cab driver, Salifu Abubkar, 73, of The Bronx, remained on the scene and was subsequently arrested and charged with failure to yield to a pedestrian, according to the NYPD.

Also killed were an 86-year-old woman crossing eastbound at West End Avenue and West 64th Street on Friday night and a 68-year-old man who tried to run across the street at 130 St and S. Conduit Avenue in South Ozone Park on Saturday night.

Neither victim was initially identified by police, and investigations of both crashes are ongoing.

Last week, three people, including a 10-year-old girl, were killed when a car careened onto the sidewalk and into a crowd of trick-or-treaters in Morris Park on Halloween. The man driving that car may have suffered a seizure, officials said.

In Bedford-Stuyvesant, MTA bus driver Paul Roper, 48, was charged with fleeing the scene of an accident on Nov. 3 after he struck and killed 70-year-old Carol Bell as she was walking north on Sackman Street and crossing over Fulton Street.

In Hunts Point, 55-year-old Floria Burton was crossing the street at Bryant and Seneca avenues near her home around 8:30 a.m. Thursday when she was struck and killed by a commercial dump truck. Witnesses said she was on the phone and did not see the truck.

Another woman, Aglaia Gouaris, 84, was struck and killed by a commercial bus driver, who then ran her over with the bus' front tires around 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Main Street and Kissena Boulevard in Flushing. The driver did not stop but was found by police who are investigating.

"The people we are losing are our grandparents, our parents, our children," de Blasio said. "Their stories have been so painful."

Queens Councilman Peter Koo called the hit-and-run at Kissena Boulevard "another senseless death caused by a vehicle" that his community had to endure.

"The city must do more to prevent these tragedies and private buses and bus stops must be more vigorously regulated," Koo said in a statement.

Caroline Samponaro, deputy director for Transportation Alternatives, said the recent spate of pedestrian crashes are troubling.

These last stretch of crashes have been a wakeup call. This is a public health epidemic," said Samponaro.

De Blasio said the declining number of traffic deaths overall is proof that Vision Zero — which lowered the city's speed limit to 25 from 30 mph and made it a crime to hit pedestrians who had the right of way — is working.

From the beginning of the year until Nov. 8, there have been 192 traffic fatalities, 107 of which have been pedestrians. Last year at this time there were 226 fatalities, including 119 pedestrians. That's a 15 percent reduction in total fatalities and 10 percent decrease in pedestrian fatalities, the city said.

The number of speeding and failure-to-yield tickets issued by the NYPD is also on the rise.

As of Oct. 19, the NYPD has issued 104,460 speeding tickets, up from 92,324, an increase of 13 percent. In 2013, 67,845 speeding tickets had been issued to date, according to the mayor's office.

Failure-to-yield tickets, which de Blasio said received "little attention" before Vision Zero, have increased to 31,282 from 27,393, a jump of 14 percent. In 2013 the figure was 10,895.

In the areas where 140 speed cameras have gone up, speeding has declined by two-thirds, de Blasio said. And 75 streets and intersections, the most ever in a single year, were redesigned in 2015.

"We're changing people's behavior, slowly but surely, by constantly reminding our fellow New Yorkers of their responsibility behind the wheel," the mayor said.

At a press conference outside City Hall on Monday, de Blasio doubled down on his assertion that Vision Zero was working because drivers were now seeing "real consequences" for speeding and reckless driving.

Police Commissioner William Bratton said the number of units investigating traffic accidents had increased and that the NYPD would now began focusing on precincts with the highest number of crashes.

Samponaro said the acknowledgement of the problem by de Blasio is "unprecedented" but the next step in Vision Zero should be an increase in automated enforcement, including speeding and red light cameras as well as failure to yield cameras because "the problem has become larger than we can manage alone."

The city needs permission from the state to increase the use of those tools.

"There has to be a framework to scale up this life-saving work," said Samponaro. "Until we get to zero deaths we are not doing enough."