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DiNapoli: Motor vehicle fatalities rise sharply in NY

June 27, 2024 Special from the NY State Comptroller's Office
New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli during a news conference in 2016. Photo: Mike Groll/AP
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Motor vehicle fatalities in New York state rose 25.8% from 2019-2022, with fatalities at the highest level in a decade in 2022, even as the number of vehicle miles traveled, licensed drivers and traffic accidents have declined, according to a report released today by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. 

“Traffic fatalities in New York have grown at an alarming rate since the pandemic,” DiNapoli said. “While there are fewer drivers on the road and vehicle safety features have greatly improved, more fatal crashes are occurring. As New Yorkers hit the road for the Fourth of July holiday and summer vacations, let’s drive cautiously and arrive safely.”

There were 1,175 traffic fatalities in New York in 2022, which was the highest number since 2013. Nationwide traffic-related deaths grew by nearly 17%, while New York’s fatalities soared by 25.8% between 2019-2022. This increase coincides with a seven percent decrease in vehicle miles traveled and a 12.5% decline in traffic accidents in New York in this period.

Most fatal car crashes occur on urban roadways, which increased by 68% in New York since 2017. In 2022, Long Island led the state in the number of deaths (164 in Suffolk and 81 in Nassau). Regionally, North County had the highest per capita fatality rate in 2022 at 12.9 per 100,000 people, while New York City was the lowest at 2.9 per 100,000 people, likely because it has a large number of residents who do not own vehicles.

Graphic courtesy of NYS Comptroller's office
Graphic courtesy of NYS Comptroller’s office

Three out of four vehicles involved in fatal crashes were passenger vehicles and light trucks in 2022. Overwhelmingly, in fatal accidents, occupants who were not wearing a seat belt or helmet were killed (64%). Approximately one in three deaths in New York involved speeding, and another one in three involved a driver with a blood alcohol content above the federal legal limit of 0.08. There was a 45% increase in fatalities involving drivers above the legal limit from 2019-2022.

The federal and state governments have numerous safe highway efforts underway. For example, New York was allocated nearly $641 million over five years from the federal government for the Highway Safety Improvement Program. The enacted state budget for State Fiscal Year 2024-25 also included Sammy’s Law, which allows New York City to reduce its speed limits. DiNapoli’s report notes that other states have advanced policies that New York could consider and urges policymakers to consider giving more local governments the ability to adjust their minimum speed limits to help reduce traffic fatalities in the state.

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