Wednesday, May 28, 2008

New Haven Register article, WFSB coverage of Safe Streets Coalition

WSFB TV news story:

Article (printed below):

New Haven Register, Wed, May 28, 2008

Safety coalition calls for increased enforcement and harsher penalties for violators

By Elizabeth Benton, Register Staff

NEW HAVEN ­— A coalition of cyclists and traffic safety advocates are pushing for increased traffic enforcement with an eye toward a 90 percent reduction in injuries by 2015.

As of Tuesday evening, the Petition for Safe Streets had the signatures of about 150 people vowing to respect traffic laws and advocate for safer streets.

The online petition calls for strict immediate enforcement of the city’s 25 mph speed limit, as well as stop light, stop sign, bicycle lane, crosswalk and cell phone related infractions, and higher penalties for moving violations, aggressive driving and motor vehicle assault.

By the end of 2008, the petition seeks 15 mph to 20 mph speed limits in areas with dense concentrations of pedestrians and bicyclists, including streets surrounding Yale-New Haven Hospital, the Hospital of Saint Raphael and the Chapel Street shopping district.

Ultimately, the petition aims to achieve a 90 percent reduction in traffic-related injuries and fatalities by 2015, and asks for quarterly public reports on traffic enforcement and an annual evaluation of safety efforts.

“One of my big hopes is that this could become sort of a road map for the relationship that the new police chief will have to this topic of traffic safety,” said petition sponsor Alderwoman Erin Sturgis-Pascale, D-14.

“There is a prevailing regional attitude the streets in New Haven are lawless and you can get away with things … It’s like street anarchy. There’s no expectation you are going to be punished for bad behavior. It’s not acceptable,” said Sturgis-Pascale.

Petition supporter state Sen. Toni Harp, D-New Haven, said state lawmakers are considering legislation that would pass money generated by traffic enforcement into municipal coffers, rather than gathering it into the state general fund.

“There would be more of an incentive for municipalities to actually pay attention to traffic violations,” Harp said. “I do think that to make New Haven safe for bikers, we have to slow down a little bit.”

City Department of Transportation, Traffic & Parking Director Michael Piscitelli could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

But Officer Joe Witkowski, deputy patrol resource coordinator for the police traffic division, said officers issued over 9,000 traffic infractions in 2007 and made over 400 DUI arrests.

“Those are not piddly statistics ... I’d like to do more, I think we could do more,” he said.

The petition is the brain child of Elm City Cycling’s Mark Abraham, who drafted the online petition in recent weeks with the support of several community groups, including the newly formed Yale Traffic Safety Group. The petition will be submitted to Mayor John DeStefano Jr.

“The end goal is to build awareness about traffic safety,” Abraham said. “There needs to be a combination of better enforcement and better statistics.”

The petition can be seen at:

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