City launches initiative to keep drivers, pedestrians safe during ‘deadliest time of year’

NEW YORK — The Department of Transportation launched a new campaign Thursday to keep drivers and pedestrians safe as the days get shorter.

Statistics show a 40 percent increase in traffic-related deaths for this time of year.

In an effort to save lives, the city announced the "Dusk and Darkness Safety Initiative."

The plan is designed to protect New York pedestrians and drivers as it gets darker during the evening rush hour.

The program is part of the Vision Zero campaign, which aims to end traffic fatalities and injuries in New York City.

"Dusk and Darkness" will be run jointly by the NYPD and the NYC Department of Transportation. Chief of NYPD Transportation Thomas Chan and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg announced details of the initiative at a news conference Thursday morning.

"Our traffic safety teams from the precincts have been redeployed to target enforcement hours between 1600 and 2100 hours or 4 p.m., and 9 p.m.," said Chief Chan.

Trottenberg says this is about so much more than just writing tickets, it's about saving lives.

"If you would just slow down a little bit, be just that much more careful when you take that turn, you really could save a life," said Trottenberg.

Amy Cohen with Families for Safe Streets was in attendance of the meeting.

In 2013, her 12-year-old son, Sammy Eckstein, was killed when he went out into the street to get his soccer ball. She turned her heartbreak and pain into action and formed the organization to raise awareness.

"Speeding kills," said Cohen. "Getting drivers to slow down, particularly in the fall, particularly at dawn and dusk, is the most important thing to do to save lives so other families don't suffer as we do."

Sammy was killed right in front of his house. The speeding driver didn't see him in the early evening hour.

Vision Zero is a hallmark of the de Blasio administration.

So far, there have been mixed results since the launch in 2014.

Last year, the number of fatalities dropped but in 2016 they've gone up.

Statistics show 2015 was the safest year on record with a total of 179 total fatalities, 97 of them pedestrian deaths.

But this year hasn't fared so well. As of October 26th, there have already been 192 fatalities in 2016 with 114 of the deaths being pedestrians.

Trottenberg admits they could do better.

"Obviously the numbers aren't where we want them to be. We don't know yet how the numbers will be by the end of the year but that's part of why we felt it was so important to come out as we get into the last quarter," said Trottenberg.

A big part of the Dusk and Darkness Safety Initiative will be police enforcement.

Cops will target drivers during the evening rush hour who speed, fail to yield to pedestrians, text and block bike lanes.

NYPD and DOT have designated Friday, Oct. 28th, "Day of Awareness."

They will be at 14 high accident risk locations in all five boroughs.

NYPD and DOT street teams will be educating and engaging drivers and other New Yorkers at different Vision Zero priority areas including: Co-op City, at the Hub and along the Grand Concourse in the Bronx; in Washington Heights, near Grand Central and Penn Stations and along Canal Street in Manhattan; in Jamaica Center, on Main Street, Flushing and along Queens Boulevard in Queens; in Downtown Brooklyn and along Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn; and near both Staten Island Ferry Terminals.