New York City alerts drivers that as spring nears and clocks change , pedestrian crash danger shifts from evenings to mornings
Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced that “Dusk and Darkness,” the fall and winter traffic-safety campaign to reduce the seasonal surge in evening crashes involving pedestrians, had resulted in 23 fewer New Yorkers lost between November and February compared to the previous year, a 26 percent decline. He also alerted drivers to the dangers posed next week by the arrival of daylight savings time. Clocks will move ahead one hour at this Sunday, March 12, and the Mayor noted the lost hour of sleep and reduced morning visibility require everyone to exercise extra care and caution.
“As clocks spring forward this weekend, New Yorkers all know that we lose a precious hour of sleep, but the dangers caused by the clock change are less well known,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “What we know about the spring is that just one lost hour of sleep, combined with newly dark mornings, make for a new reality. The Dusk and Darkness initiative we began last October made a big difference keeping New York pedestrians safe in the fall and winter evening hours. Next week, the mornings will be darker, so drivers need to be alert and make allowances for themselves as well as for their fellow commuters walking to work and for kids making their way to school.”
In October 2016, the Mayor announced a multi-agency Dusk and Darkness campaign, based on a close analysis of year-over-year crash trends, which had showed that the earlier onset of darkness in the fall and winter was highly correlated to an increase in traffic injuries and fatalities (see “heat map”). Prior to 2016, severe crashes involving pedestrians increased by nearly 40 percent in the early evening hours compared to crashes outside the fall and winter.
In response, DOT, NYPD and other agencies collaborated on a first-ever major education and enforcement campaign. With a new TV ad campaign, drive-time radio announcements and palm cards distributed to over one million drivers, DOT’s “Your Choices Matter” messaging effectively reached more New Yorkers.
Meanwhile, NYPD stepped up enforcement, especially between , focusing on those violations with the greatest effect on pedestrian safety. During the Dusk and Darkness campaign, officers wrote 19,056 violations for failure-to-yield, a 17.1 percent increase over the previous year and 57,430 violations for speeding, an 11.4 percent increase. Overall, for all Vision Zero-related offenses (which also include disobeying a sign, improper turns and illegal cell phone use), the NYPD wrote 243,943 violations, an over 10 percent increase from the previous year. The enforcement and education efforts together helped contribute to a dramatic decrease in seasonal fatalities – 66 fatalities between November and March 7 compared to 89 deaths in the same period the previous year, a 26 percent decline.
While the data show that the dangers to pedestrians are far more pronounced in the fall and winter evening hours, the week after clocks spring forward in March also poses safety challenges, particularly during the morning hours. According to DOT crash data over five years (2010-2014), a comparison of the week before the daylight savings change to the week after the change shows a 10 percent increase in fatalities and injuries. In the morning hours (between), the week-to-week increase was 30 percent. Sleep scientists and researchers have also shown a clear correlation between semi-annual daylight savings changes and a rise in motor vehicle collisions. A 2001 article in the journal Sleep Medicine, entitled “Fatal Accidents Following Changes in Daylight Saving Time (DST): The American Experience,” Jason Varughese and R.P. Allen studied two decades of collision data and concluded that crashes showed a “significant increase…immediately following the spring shift to DST.”
“We are encouraged by the results of our first-ever Dusk and Darkness campaign, which showed a dramatic decrease in roadway fatalities this winter during DOT's and NYPD's concerted campaign of targeted education and enforcement,” said Commissioner Polly Trottenberg of the Department of Transportation. “We will continue our Dusk and Darkness campaign again next fall. In the meantime, while we welcome the spring, longer days and warmer weather, we want to alert those who drive in morning darkness next week to make smart choices behind the wheel.”
“The collaborative effort in drawing awareness to the decreased visibility associated with Daylight Savings is not over,” said NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas M. Chan. “We need our drivers to continue to remain conscious of the dangers which coincide with the time change, especially during the morning hours. Motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians must stay alert when navigating thoroughfares and making their way to their early morning responsibilities. It is only through this mindfulness that we will be successful in our Vision Zero goals.”
On social media next week, DOT will offer tips for drivers, including admonitions to drive defensively and to expect the unexpected, especially in mornings, which will be significantly darker than they are this week.
As of March 8, there have been 33 traffic fatalities to date this year in New York City. In 2016, the year with the fewest deaths in New York City’s recorded history, there had been 41 fatalities by the same date.