Tuesday, September 30, 2008

City Announces Expanded Traffic Enforcement Unit

Speeders Beware, New Haven Independent, 9/30/08

Police Chief James Lewis said he created the squad in response to neighborhood outcry over abused traffic laws.

“If you lose a loved one in a traffic accident, it’s just the same as if you lose a loved one in a homicide,” Lewis said.

The squad plans to use tips from neighbors to guide where it will use its resources, Sydnor said. Neighbors are encouraged to report dangerous driving, illegal dirt bikes or other non-emergency traffic complaints at the city traffic safety hotline at 946-6956. Tips can also be sent to
this email address, or reported on SeeClickFix.

Police have gotten over 200 traffic tips since launching the hotline in early July, said Lt. Joe Witkowski, second-in-command of the city’s patrol unit. Callers can leave anonymous messages reporting the plate number of anyone seen driving dangerously. From those complaints, the city has sent out 50 postcards warning drivers to obey the law, and advising them, “People are watching you,” Witkowski said. Police said they plan to expand the enforcement unit when new recruits hit the streets early next year. Sydnor didn’t have a firm number on how many officers would be added.

New Haven Adds Traffic Officers, NBC30-TV, 9/30/08

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- New Haven police are increasing traffic enforcement in the hopes of cutting down on serious crashes. New Haven police are adding to its staff of eight to 10 officer to enforce traffic regulations and target problem spots. How many officers will be added is not known.

Sgt. David Sydnor, who will lead the unit, said he wants to change the habits of the drivers by strictly enforcing motor vehicle laws. Police will look for people who drive too fast, run red lights and fail to stop for pedestrians. The additions to the unit come after several serious crashes including one on Longwharf in August where a drag racing spectator was hit and killed. Residents who have attended town hall meetings recently requested that police do more to keep all streets safe.

"It's our position that if you lose a loved one in a traffic accident, really it's just as traumatic as if you lose a loved one in a crime of violence like a shooting," Chief James Lewis said.

The expanded unit will shift into gear next week.

Narcotics Unit Revived, Yale Daily News, 10/1/08

Lewis also announced Tuesday the creation of a traffic enforcement unit to be led by Sgt. David Sydnor. The unit, which will initially consist of eight to 10 officers, will attempt to combat problems such as speeding, driving through red lights and pedestrian violations. Sydnor said he hopes to expand his team once the new class of academy recruits arrive in early 2009.

The NHPD’s new traffic unit comes on the heels of the Yale Police Department’s recent traffic and pedestrian safety initiatives, including, most notably, the written warnings issued to students who jaywalk on the streets of New Haven.

Sydnor said there were no specific areas or hotspots being targeted by his unit. Rather, he said, traffic enforcement has truly become a citywide issue. Collecting and analyzing data will help the unit focus on what areas to target, Sydnor said. But for Sydnor, the fight for stricter traffic enforcement is a personal one. In 2006, his nephew survived a brutal car accident that led to two other fatalities.

“Whether it’s a homicide or a motor-vehicle accident, it doesn’t matter,” Sydnor said. “There’s no difference.”

Friday, September 26, 2008

WTNH: Connecticut hit-and-runs largely unsolved

WTNH, Sept. 26, 2008: The number of fatal hit-and-run accidents fluctuates year to year. Many of this year's deadly cases remain unsolved despite offers of a reward.

Margaret Ricco talks about the pain of losing her stepson in a deadly hit-and-run more than 10 years ago. "It doesn't go away. There's no justice, there is no accountability," she said. In 1994, 24-year old Richard Ricco was hit and killed while crossing the Tomlinson Bridge in New Haven. That case remains unsolved. "He's gone and nobody's sorry about it. Nobody cared, that's what hurts," Margaret said.

A West Haven family is also feeling that hurt, because Anna D'Agostino, 74, died yesterday after being hit by a car while walking along Beach Street. Police are now circulating flyers to get help in finding the driver in that accident.

"There are a couple of vehicles that were on video footage that we are now looking at and each piece of evidence puts us one step closer to solving this case," said West Haven police officer, Angelo Moscato. There have been other unsolved hit-and-runs this year. Back in June, 11-year old Gabrielle Lee was crossing Whalley Avenue in New Haven, when she was hit and killed. In Hartford, a hit-and-run which left Angelo Torres severely injured was caught on tape. "It just really upsets me that there are families out there that are going through this -- it's awful," Margaret said.

In 2003, the state reported 11 fatal hit-and run-accidents. There were seven in 2004, ten in 2005, ten in 2006 and nine in 2007. Since 1994, the Governor's office has authorized that rewards be offered in seven hit-and-run cases, but of those, only two have been solved and paid. The reward didn't help solve Richard's and the five year statute of limitations to prosecute the driver has run out. "It just leaves you in this great limbo, never knowing there is going to be any justice done," Margaret said.

The rewards offered by the Governor's Office range from $10,000 to $50,000. Anyone with information D'Agostino's case is asked to contact the West Haven Police Department at (203)937-3900.

Time to demand a Vision Zero for Connecticut (Op-Ed)

Why Tolerate 42,000 Traffic Deaths A Year?
April 30, 2008, Originally published in the Hartford Courant

The tragic death April 20 of Mila Rainof, a Yale medical student, who was struck while crossing an intersection at South Frontage Road and York Street in New Haven and later died from her injuries, brings home the great danger inherent in our transportation system and the need to set higher safety standards.

Each year, more than 42,000 people die in crashes on America’s roads. That’s some 117 of us every day. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for every age from 2 through 34. In Connecticut, 300 of us are killed a year. Who among us does not have a friend or relative who was seriously injured or killed in a car crash? And yet, while these numbers remain the same year to year, we and our politicians all remain remarkably silent about road safety.

This is because crashes seem to be a force of nature, a fact of life -- they happen and we call them accidents. Unlike with a war or a crime, there so often doesn’t seem to be any human agency behind motor vehicle crashes. There is something unsatisfying about blaming a jaywalker or someone traveling a few miles above the limit. Who hasn’t been guilty of a similar offense themselves? We are all fallible, after all. Yet such thinking evinces a general failure to look at the bigger picture. Blame may be assigned to users or it may not. But a transportation system should be built with the recognition that its users will be fallible and with the premise that mistakes should not be fatal.

In 1997, the Swedish Parliament adopted a plan called Vision Zero. Its goal is to reduce deaths and serious injuries from motor vehicle crashes to zero by 2020. Imagine that: zero!

The plan calls for changing behavior and practices among everyone from drivers and pedestrians to police, traffic engineers and licensing agencies. Along with traditional measures such as getting tough about seat belts and drunken driving, the plan involves replacing traffic lights with traffic circles (you can run a red light but not much can be done about a traffic circle) and installing medians along the main roads. Raised crosswalks are now being constructed in dense, pedestrian areas. Speed limits are being lowered while the driver’s education program is reconsidered.

The Swedes fashion Vision Zero as an “ethical approach to road traffic.” At first this sounds strange -- what does traffic have to do with ethics? But our failure to link the two is precisely the problem: Long ago we decided that we would not tolerate industrial accidents or, more recently, deaths in commercial aviation.

We mobilized large campaigns to prevent these and we’ve been fantastically successful. Yet why should we continue to tolerate massive numbers of lives being cut short by our ground transportation system?

In fact, how could we fail to take “an ethical approach” to a system that kills and injures so many?

If Sweden, a country of roughly 9 million, can strive for zero traffic deaths, there is no reason that Connecticut, a state of 3.5 million, cannot as well. Sweden has recently realized that it may take beyond 2020 to achieve zero deaths, but it has not used this as an excuse to stop working relentlessly toward its ultimate goal.

The decision to adopt Vision Zero is first and foremost a political one: We and our representatives need to send a message that the only number of traffic deaths that is ethically acceptable is zero.

Such a message can and will lead to an ever-decreasing number of us being killed in traffic. It would require all agencies in government to look at what they can do to save lives. It may well even force us to re-examine our commitment to the automobile as the mainstay of our transportation network.

It would recognize that while some accidents may always happen, fatal ones need not. It’s time to demand a Vision Zero for Connecticut.

Erica Mintzer, 27 is a student in the Yale School of Medicine class of 2009. Hunter Smith, 25, is in the Yale Law School class of 2010. Thomas Harned, 26, is a transportation planner and a master’s candidate in research, statistics, and measurement at Southern Connecticut State University in the class of 2008.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Woman Killed by Hit and Run in West Haven

WTNH TV-8, 9/25/08: West Haven, CT: A 74-year old woman died at an area hospital after being struck by hit- and-run driver this morning in West Haven. Anna D'Agostino was struck around 6:15 a.m. near 2nd Ave. and Beach Street, near Captain's Galley Restaurant. Becky Shutle knows the area in which D'Agostino walks and says drivers aren't always cognizant of walkers. "In the summer, police put out signs saying pedestrians have the right of way but even then the drivers rarely stop," she said.

Monday, September 22, 2008

YDN Op-Ed: Mobilize tonight for safe streets


"Here is New Haven, the Safe Streets Coalition, a citywide coalition of students, residents and elected officials who are advocating for safer, livable streets — formed last spring after the tragic deaths of Mila Rainof MED ’08 on South Frontage Street and 11-year-old Gabrielle Lee on Whalley — has been a model of what we can do as a community. Today, at 6:30 p.m in City Hall, the Coalition will testify at a public hearing on street safety. For the good of all of us in New Haven, we hope they will succeed. ...

Now the challenge rests with each one of us to carry on the work started by the Coalition and advocate for broader change in New Haven and beyond. Even those who think that they’re invincible rely on the public protections established by community organizers, and community change requires community action."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Notice: Safe Streets Listserv on Livable Streets

We are writing on behalf of supporters of the New Haven Petition for Safe Streets. The petition has been signed by over 1,800 individuals and has been officially endorsed by nearly 100 community management teams, business improvement districts, neighborhood organizations, nonprofits, religious organizations, businesses and elected officials in New Haven.

Although this grassroots campaign is only a few months old, by working together and reaching out across the city, we have already achieved several major successes at the local and state level. We hope that you will continue to advocate for safe, livable, walkable, bikeable, and transit-friendly public spaces that can be enjoyed by users of all ages and abilities -- and that positively contribute to our economy, public health, environment and quality of life.

In order to issue occasional updates and critical advocacy alerts, we are inviting supporters to join a new, high-tech listserv on the Livable Streets Network. Our plan is that you will receive no more than one email per month from this site, which will replace the informal email system that has existed up to this point. We will also use this site as a repository for electronic files as the campaign develops over time.

Accepting this invitation is very simple. Please visit the following link. You simply need to create a username (any name you like) and password, and confirm your email address. http://www.livablestreets.com/projects/new-haven-safe-streets-coalition/request-membership

Our coalition coordinators would also encourage you to attend the public hearing on proposed "Complete Streets" legislation this Monday, September 22nd at 6:30PM at City Hall, 165 Church Street, New Haven. For details on the proposed legislation, see our most recent coalition update here or click here to read the full text.

Traffic a major concern in Dixwell and Newhallville

Reporting from the New Haven Register on last Thursday's joint Dixwell and Newhallville Community Management Team meeting: http://www.nhregister.com/articles/2008/09/19/news/a3-nenewhallville.txt

“Traffic is terrific. How are we going to get out” if the Forest City project come to fruition?” asked Lisa Hopkins from the Dixwell neighborhood.

After the meeting, Michael Piscitelli, the city’s traffic czar, said funds are in place for new traffic signals at 11 intersections in Newhallville, with about half already installed.

In the end, Condon offered the management teams as the best conduit for information and a proven method of advancing neighborhood projects. The first issue to be tackled will be more traffic planning.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Quinnipiac River Residents Lobby for Long-Delayed Safety Project

At its monthly meeting yesterday, the Quinnipiac River Community Group (QRCG) also voted to endorse the New Haven Petition for Safe Streets. Article here: http://www.newhavenindependent.org/archives/2008/09/this_is_an_emer.php

For details, please see a more in-depth article, and comments, here:

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Yale Daily News Op-Ed: Do not delay safer streets


... To where, then, should the administration turn its immediate attention? Here are five areas of concern:

1) Trumbull and Prospect, arguably the most terrifying intersection at Yale, is a disaster waiting to happen. Vehicles zoom around the bend with minimal regard for students, even though hundreds pass through on their way up or down Science Hill. The University promised to add a crosswalk here, but this improvement should have been completed before the school year began. For now, confusion reigns.

2) The stretch of Elm Street between Howe and College should be marked as a pedestrian-priority zone, and crosswalk indicators should be added to the intersection at High Street, between Old Campus and Rose Walk — one of the most frequented intersections on campus.

3) Although Mila Rainof MED ’08 died after a collision at South Frontage Road and York Street, danger still abounds around Yale-New Haven Hospital.

4) The stretch of Grove Street between SSS and Payne Whitney should be rethought. Cars move quickly, and pedestrian visibility is dim: curb extensions and crosswalk signs could do the trick.

5) Other intersections that need in-street crosswalk signs include Mansfield and Sachem, Hillhouse and Trumbull, Whitney and Trumbull, and Whitney and Audubon.

... Waiting could prove a fatal error. Improvement should — no, must — come this month. Anything less at a university of Yale’s standards and wealth is unacceptable.

Also see yesterday's news article: http://www.yaledailynews.com/articles/view/24990

Monday, September 8, 2008

NY Times Op-Ed: No Need for Speed

Today's NY Times features an op-ed from the vice-chairman of medicine at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, reprinted here (and excerpted below):

SPEEDING is the cause of 30 percent of all traffic deaths in the United States — about 13,000 people a year. By comparison, alcohol is blamed 39 percent of the time, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But unlike drinking, which requires the police, breathalyzers and coercion to improve drivers' behavior, there's a simple way to prevent speeding: quit building cars that can exceed the speed limit.

The technology to limit car speed has existed for more than 50 years — it's called cruise control. In its common application, cruise control maintains a steady speed, but a minor adjustment would assure that vehicles, no matter the horsepower, never go past 75 miles per hour. This safety measure should be required of every new automobile, the same as seat belts, turning signals, brake lights and air bags.

Sure, it would take us longer to get from here to there. But thousands of deaths a year are too great a cost for so adolescent a thrill as speeding.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Safe Routes for Seniors in New Haven

Over the past few months, signal timing issues have been raised as an area of major concern in many of New Haven's neighborhoods -- specifically, that crossing phases are not long enough for elderly and disabled residents to safely cross the street. The city must pay much more attention to signal timing and ensure that the streets are accessible and safe for all users: particularly residents of more limited means, who disproportionately suffer injuries in traffic-related incidents.

Here are some other ideas for what streets should ideally look like, based on comments from elderly pedestrians:
  • The street should be as flat as possible, with minimal convexity for drainage and a smooth transition from the curb to the street.
  • Large streets would have wide median refuge areas with benches. Refuges should be as large as possible and contain such things as plantings and shelters.
  • All bus stops near senior centers would have shelters and benches.
  • Drivers would be prohibited from turning during the first 10 seconds of a traffic signal phase. This time is needed by seniors to ascend the curb and begin a safe crossing unobstructed by turning vehicles.
  • Drivers would be required to stop 15 feet before a junction. This would require moving the stop bar back away from the crosswalk and placing a tactile surface on the stop bar. To further protect elderly pedestrians, where appropriate, the crosswalks would be built up or "raised" to line up with the curb. The addition of a raised crosswalk forces drivers to reduce their speed at the intersection.
  • On busy commercial streets and bus routes, all curbs would be extended into the crosswalk to create better views for pedestrians and drivers.
  • On streets where there is more space than is needed to move traffic, the street would be put on a "road diet," that is lanes or parts of lanes would be reclaimed for wider sidewalks, planted medians, and/or bicycle lanes.

Source: http://www.transalt.org/campaigns/pedestrian/safeseniors

Friday, September 5, 2008

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Neighbors Complain about Dangerous Intersection

Residents feel that this dense urban neighborhood should have walkable, pedestrian-friendly streets with thriving local retail and schools that are easy to walk to: not speedways. Excerpt from http://www.wtnh.com/Global/story.asp?S=8934093:

New Haven (WTNH, September 1, 2008): Residents in a New Haven neighborhood say crashes have become all-too-common at one intersection, and they're looking for the city to fix the problem. A mangled fence is a reminder of the car that crashed just feet away from gas lines and landed inches from Temika Mitchell's apartment window Sunday night.

"I'm worried that it won't be the brick next time," Mitchell said. "It will go through the window. My kids' room is right here."

Folks living near Orchard and Henry say it's been one accident after another at this intersection. They blame it on speeders who ignore the traffic signals. After midnight these lights start blinking red in one direction, yellow in the other. Myra Smith believes those flashing lights make for a dangerous combination.

"So you have got going people who are just speeding full speed ahead, not knowing that there are cars coming this way and there is a straight strip going, and you got two people speeding and that's where our accidents come from," Smith said.

Alderman Katrina Jones, who represents this area, told News Channel 8 she is planning to discuss the issue with officials with Traffic and Parking to see what can be done about the blinking light to make that intersection safer.