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NYC Streets Continue to be Very Deadly

Citywide, per Department of Transportation data, 158 people have been killed in traffic fatalities as of August 16.

3:37 PM EDT on August 17, 2022

Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez launch a $4 million multi-platform, multilingual campaign to counter rising traffic violence and curb dangerous driving behaviors.

Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez launch a $4 million multi-platform, multilingual campaign to counter rising traffic violence and curb dangerous driving behaviors. (Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)

Just after 7:30 p.m. on Sunday night, as he was ending his delivery shift at DoorDash, 74-year-old Be Tran was crossing Myrtle Avenue in Ridgewood when he was struck by the driver of a black BMW. The driver fled down Seneca Avenue; Tran died in the street. 

"He was a really great person," Tran's daughter Tina told WABC News. "He taught me and my sister how to drive, lessons on how to be a good person in life. And he passed away, unreasonably. It's not fair. It's not fair at all."

An NYPD spokesperson told Hell Gate on Wednesday morning that no arrests have been made in the case.

Tran is one of the 37 people who have been killed in crashes in Queens this year, 16 of them pedestrians, according to Transportation Alternatives. Citywide, per Department of Transportation data, 158 people have been killed in traffic fatalities as of August 16. That figure is two fewer than at this point in 2021, but an increase of roughly 40 percent from 2018, the safest year of the Vision Zero era, when 112 lives were lost on city streets.

Ridgewood has seen 461 crashes since 2020, resulting in three fatalities and 561 injuries, according to Crashmapper—more than neighboring Glendale, which had 287 crashes and 1 death, but less than Bushwick, Brooklyn, which saw 1,709 crashes and three fatalities over that same time period.

"The overriding concern is driver behavior," said Laura Shepard, the Queens organizer for TransAlt, about what Queens residents tell her. "I hear constantly that drivers are out of control, the level of aggression. People want to see more streets redesigned faster." 

A few days before Tran was killed, another hit and run driver struck three people in Ridgewood, at Wyckoff and George, including a toddler in a stroller. All of the victims survived, but the police have not found that driver either, who reportedly had a suspended license. 

Hit-and-run drivers are rarely caught. As Streetsblog reported earlier this year, of the 93 hit and run crashes that occurred in 2021 that resulted in death or serious injury, police made 24 arrests, a closure rate just north of 25 percent; the police department has claimed that its homicide closure rate is around 80 percent.

Mayor Eric Adams's DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez has pledged to fix 1,000 of the city's most dangerous intersections in 2022, and recently told reporters they were around halfway towards meeting that goal. That’s in addition to the $900 million in streets master plan funding allocated by the city council for street redesigns. The DOT noted that nine fewer pedestrians have been killed this year compared to 2021, though there have been 12 cyclists killed in New York City in 2022, compared to 11 at this time last year.

Adams also announced a Vision Zero ad campaign this summer, urging drivers to slow down. Meanwhile, the NYPD has continued to confiscate mopeds and scooters; the vast majority of serious crashes are caused by drivers of full-sized automobiles. 

Nationally, traffic deaths are a surging epidemic, and 2021 was the deadliest year on record since 2005—42,915 people died preventable deaths. The first three months of 2022 have been even worse, according to Reuters: 9,560 people died on roads across America, the most in any quarter since 2002.

Another senseless death means another heartbreaking vigil. On Wednesday night, TransAlt, along with Queens State Senator and Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris, Councilmember Jennifer Gutierrez, and the Ridgewood Tenants Union will rally outside of Kings Juice Bar at 6 p.m., to honor Tran's life, and to call for safety improvements to the neighborhood.

"The majority of households in Ridgewood are car free. So you do have a lot of pedestrians, transit users, cyclists, bus riders, and a lot of the roads are not really designed with safety in mind," said Shepard.

The DOT says it has made 20 traffic control improvements to Ridgewood in recent years, and pointed to a Safe Routes to School project that will extend curbs around P.S. 071, P.S. 153, I.S. 093, and Grover Cleveland H.S.

“The circumstances of this tragedy are terrible, and we join the community in mourning the loss of Mr. Tran following this hit & run," a DOT spokesperson wrote in an email. "We will study this Ridgewood intersection for potential safety improvements.”

Tran's family has posted a GoFundMe to pay for his funeral expenses. "For those of you who knew him and those of you who didn’t, he was a kind, caring, charismatic, funny and extremely hard working individual even at the age of 74," Tran's daughter Anh wrote. "Dad, I miss you and love you so much."

This post was updated at 8:50 a.m. on August 18 to include comments from the DOT, and at 10:11 a.m. to clarify the types of vehicles being confiscated by the NYPD.

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