NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mayor de Blasio, the New York City Police Department and the Department of Transportation are cracking down on reckless driving this winter.

While winter may be the most wonderful time of year, it’s also one of the most dangerous. As shoppers and tourists take to the streets to experience the holidays in New York, traffic congestion and foot traffic also increases — leading to a 40 percent spike in pedestrian accidents during the busy evening rush, CBS2’s Magdalena Doris reported.

“I think that there’s madness all the time,” one woman told Doris. “They’re turning on a light and I have the right-of-way — sometimes they don’t stop, you have to be careful.”

On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio was joined by NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg to discuss the continuation of the Vision Zero “Dusk and Darkness” initiative, which aims to curb those alarming statistics.

“December is historically a perilous time of year on our streets,” O’Neill said. “More hours of darkness makes it more difficult to see for everyone. So, again, we’re calling on all New Yorkers to take on an active role in their safety.”

New measures under the initiative include increased police patrols in the evening hours between 4 a.m. and 9 p.m., as well as strategic enforcement of so-called “priority locations,” where there is more risk for pedestrian injury. 

“We’re focusing on the places where we have the greatest danger of crashes or the greatest danger to pedestrians in particular,” de Blasio said.

The NYPD will also crack down on failure to yield, speeding and red light violations, along with possible DWI drivers in the evening and night hours.

“We’re making sure there is stepped up enforcement, stepped up consequences on the kind of behaviors that put people in danger,” de Blasio said.

The DOT also plans to complete installations of new lighting upgrades at 1,000 intersections across the city.

In addition, some traffic signals have been slowed down to give pedestrians more time to cross streets.

Since Vision Zero was launched in January 2014, DOT statistics show that deadly crashes have gone down significantly, dropping from 240 year-to-date in 2014 to 204 in 2016.

However, in the last two years, pedestrian fatalities have gone up from 120 year-to-date in 2015 to 126 in 2016.

The mayor said while inattentive pedestrians can be hazardous, drivers are mainly to blame.

“I think the central point is the greatest danger comes from vehicles, and that’s where we need to put our energy, that’s where we need to put our focus,” he said.

Some drivers strongly disagreed, telling CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez that pedestrians are just as responsible for traffic accidents.

“Especially people who cross, they’re texting or they talk and they don’t care if you honk,” one driver said.

According to O’Neill, New York City has actually seen a decrease in pedestrian accidents in the past few weeks, with 14 recorded last month, compared to 30 recorded over the same period in 2015.

“We’ve had a double-digit decrease in fatal collisions,” O’Neill said. “This is a downward trend all of us here want to see carry through next month into the New Year and beyond that.”

On Tuesday, the NYPD also released public online access to its traffic data, so people can see when and where crashes are happening on a weekly basis.

“We want the public to see that in real time. We want the public to hold us accountable for the changes we have to make,” the mayor said.

Some drivers said they thought the plan was a good idea, if the crack down is applied fairly to everyone on the road.

“Hopefully it will work — it’s important and people should pay attention,” Margot Sinclair, of the Upper East Side, said. “It’s boring to wait for the light to change, but hey, the alternative isn’t so great.”

De Blasio said there will also be enforcement on bicyclists who don’t follow traffic rules, but admits more needs to be done to educate distracted pedestrians, 1010 WINS Juilet Papa reported.

For more information on traffic statistics, click here.


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