Governor's Traffic Safety Committee

Highway Safety Strategic Plan

Highway Safety Strategic Plan 2007






In preparing its FFY 2007 Highway Safety Strategic Plan (HSSP), New York continued a performance-based approach to the planning and management of the state's program.  The intent of New York's strategic planning process is to implement a data-driven approach in identifying problems and setting priorities for the state's highway safety program.

The top priorities of Governor Pataki's 2007 highway safety program are increasing the use of occupant restraints; the reduction of unsafe driving behaviors, including speeding and impaired driving; improving the safety of pedestrians; and stemming the rise in motorcycle fatalities.  This document outlines the major highway safety problems that have been identified and presents short-term and long-term performance goals for improvements in these areas.  In addition to comprehensive statewide goals, specific goals and objectives for each major program area have been established.  Brief descriptions of the current status, goals, and objectives of the statewide highway safety program and the major program areas follow.

At the time this Highway Safety Strategic Plan was prepared, 2004 was the most recent complete set of crash data available.  Preliminary 2005 data were also available for fatal crashes and fatalities.  In setting goals related to fatal crash and fatality data, the 2005 fatal crash and fatality data were used as the base.  In setting goals related to injuries, the 2004 data set was used.  Goals and performance objectives related to tickets used 2005 data as the base.


Statewide Highway Safety Program


The goals of New York's comprehensive statewide highway safety program are to prevent motor vehicle crashes, save lives, and reduce the severity of injuries suffered in crashes.  The Governor's Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) provides leadership and support for the attainment of these traffic safety goals through its administration of the federal 402 program and various incentive grants awarded to New York under the new Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act:  A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU).

The planning process for this year's Highway Safety Strategic Plan (HSSP) was enhanced through its coordination with the development of a data-driven Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP) for New York State.   A crucial part of the HSSP performance-based planning process is problem identification which is accomplished through analyses of crash, fatality, and injury measures such as those presented below.  These performance measures are tracked to determine progress toward the specific goals set for the statewide highway safety program.

  2002 2003 2004 2005* 2007
Fatalities 1,509 1,477 1,495 1,407 1,387 1,285
Fatal Crash Rate/100 million VMT 1.04 1.00 1.00 n/a 0.96 0.90
Mean Severity of Injury (MSI) 1.26 1.26 1.27 n/a 1.25 1.20


Over the four years, 2002-2005, the number of fatalities declined nearly seven percent, dropping from 1,509 to 1,407.  The fatal crash rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) declined from 1.04 in 2002 to 1.00 in 2003 and 2004; in all three years, New York's fatal crash rate was well below the national level.  As indicated by the MSI, the severity of injuries suffered in crashes remained relatively constant over the three years, 2002-2004.


The overall goals of New York's highway safety program are to prevent motor vehicle crashes, save lives, and reduce the severity of the injuries suffered.  In FFY 2007, a comprehensive approach will continue to be taken with strategies implemented in all of the major highway safety program areas.  The effectiveness of the collective efforts will be assessed through changes in fatality and injury measures.



Impaired Driving


Alcohol and other drug-impaired driving continues to threaten the safety of all roadway users in New York State.  As part of its long-term commitment to improve highway safety, New York conducts a vigorous campaign to fight impaired driving.  Enhanced and innovative enforcement efforts have been successfully coupled with increased public information and education to produce very positive results in recent years.  New legislation and other countermeasures recently incorporated into New York's impaired driving program are contributing to the state's efforts to lower the involvement of alcohol in fatal crashes.

In 2005, Governor Pataki signed two new laws increasing the penalties for drivers who kill or seriously injury someone while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  Vasean's Law eliminates the requirement for prosecutors to prove criminal negligence, making it easier to charge drunken drivers with felony vehicular assault or vehicular manslaughter.  Under a second law, drivers who leave the scene of a serious injury or fatal crash can now be charged with a Class D felony that carries a maximum sentence of two and one-third to seven years in prison.  Also implemented in 2005, the Driver Responsibility Assessment Act requires drivers who are convicted of specific serious traffic violations, such as chemical test refusals, to pay an assessment to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

These laws enhance previous legislation establishing stricter penalties for certain repeat alcohol offenses.  In addition, new legislation targeting the worst impaired driving offenders has recently passed both houses of the New York State Legislature and will be sent to Governor Pataki for his consideration.  This omnibus DWI reform legislation addresses a wide range of issues, including high BAC operators, persistent offenders, and alcohol-related homicides that include certain aggravating factors.  The legislation would create a new offense "Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated" and would increase the penalties even further for offenses that meet certain criteria.

The number of alcohol-related fatalities has fluctuated over the four years, 2002-2005.  Between 2002 and 2003, the number of fatalities decreased from 363 to 295, followed by an increase to 382 in 2004.  In 2005, there were 369 alcohol-related fatalities.  The number of persons injured in alcohol-related crashes decreased from 8,910 in 2002 to 8,004 in 2003 and then increased slightly to 8,024 in 2004.


  2002 2003 2004 2005** 2007
Alcohol-Related Fatalities 363 295 382 369 320 270
Alcohol-Related Injuries 8,910 8,004 8,024 n/a 7,800 7,500



The primary goals of the impaired driving program are to reduce the numbers of alcohol-related traffic fatalities and injuries.  These goals will be accomplished by increasing enforcement of the impaired driving laws, conducting training programs for police officers on underage alcohol sales enforcement, conducting training for prosecutors, and raising public awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving.  A variety of programs targeting underage drinking drivers will be supported; the expertise and resources of the NYS Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) and other agencies will be enlisted to enhance these efforts.  Strategies that target repeat offenders will also be emphasized.



Police Traffic Services


As traffic volume and vehicle miles traveled continue to increase, police agencies are faced with ever greater challenges in enforcing the traffic laws.  A proven strategy for success, and a long-held doctrine of the traffic safety community, is that a combination of highly visible enforcement and public information and education is needed to achieve and sustain significant improvements in highway safety.  These strategies have the added benefit of encouraging positive behavior such as safety belt use and reductions in aggressive driving.

Although traditional enforcement strategies are successful with the general driving population, different approaches are required for some groups, especially those who intentionally disregard the laws and become adept at avoiding apprehension, posing a high risk of injury or death to themselves and others.  This group includes recidivist and high BAC drunk drivers, aggressive drivers, those who continue to drive with a suspended driver's license (aggravated unlicensed operation), and those who refuse to wear safety restraints.  For these drivers, highly publicized selective enforcement efforts and targeted PI&E are needed.  Such programs targeting impaired driving, seat belt use and aggressive driving have been very effective in New York; the GTSC continues to support these successful ongoing programs, as well as the development of innovative strategies to address these problems.

Speeding continues to be one of the biggest challenges facing law enforcement and poses a serious risk to all users of the state's roadways, including occupants of the speeding vehicle, other cars, trucks and motorcycles, as well as pedestrians.  Law enforcement continues to address speeding in traditional ways using radar technology, which has dramatically improved over the years, as well as through new and innovative means.  "Low profile" patrol cars, first developed by the State Police in the mid-1990s, continue to be incorporated into the fleets of local police agencies and have proven to be highly effective in apprehending speeders and other aggressive drivers.

Speeding in work zones is of particular concern because of the dangers it poses to those working at these sites.  On July 14, 2005, Governor Pataki signed the Work Zone Safety Act which provides for increased police presence in work zones to enforce posted speed reductions; increased deployment of radar speed display signs in work zones; a 60-day license suspension for drivers convicted of two or more work zone speeding violations, in addition to the double minimum fine assessed under the current law.

New York is also participating in NHTSA's new Tri-State Speed Initiative implemented in summer 2006 in cooperation with New Jersey and Connecticut.  This initiative is a high-visibility speed enforcement and public information campaign that targets speeding in the New York City metropolitan area on non-Interstate highways, specifically in high-crash areas.  The Tri-State Speed Initiative includes a month-long enforcement mobilization of state, county and local police agencies.

Under Governor Pataki's leadership, New York was among the first states to address the problem of aggressive driving, and the Governor proposed legislation to increase the penalties for dangerously aggressive driving.  A recent New York State law requires that a component of instruction on road rage must be included in the 5-hour driver prelicensing course, PIRP courses, and the driver's license manual, and questions on this topic must be included on the written driver's license test.  The GTSC continues to support aggressive driving enforcement by the New York State Police, the New York City Police Department, and other local police departments.

The table below shows the trends in the involvement of speed and other aggressive behaviors in fatal and personal injury crashes.  In each of the three years, 2002-2004, the proportions of fatal and personal injury crashes for which the police reported failure to yield the right-of-way, following too closely or unsafe speed to be a contributory factor remained constant; failure to yield the right-of-way was a factor in approximately 17% of the crashes, following too closely was a factor in 14% of the crashes, and unsafe speed was a factor in approximately 11% of the crashes.


  2002 2003 2004 2007
Police-Reported Crashes 158,867 142,287 133,314    
Failure to Yield the Right-of-Way 26,208 23,462 21,987 21,500 20,875
Following Too Closely 21,799 19,331 18,470 17,950 17,225
Unsafe Speed 15,991 15,319 14,615 14,330 13,950



The primary goal of the police traffic services program is to decrease the number and severity of motor vehicle crashes by deterring aggressive driving and other risky behaviors, including speeding.  In addition to routine and selective enforcement approaches, training programs will be conducted for police officers, probation officers, judges, and prosecutors.  Additional initiatives targeting specific issues, such as aggressive drivers, scofflaws, unlicensed drivers, and commercial vehicle operators will also be explored.



Motorcycle Safety


Motorcycling continues to grow as both a sport and a mode of transportation in New York.  In 2005, the number of motorcycle registrations reached a new all-time high of 272,779.  With the large increases in the price of gas and steady motorcycle sales, this growth trend is expected to continue.

New York's Motorcycle Safety Program, created through legislation signed by Governor Pataki nearly ten years ago, provides instruction and field training to improve the riding skills of motorcyclists.  The program, which is administered by the Motorcycle Association of New York State (MANYS), now offers rider education at 20 public training sites and nine military or police facilities around the state; more than 13,000 students were trained in 2005.  The program also includes a public information and education component aimed at heightening the awareness of all motorists to motorcycles.  The summer 2006 public awareness campaign sponsored by the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee also focuses on encouraging motorists to be aware of the presence of motorcycles on the roadways.

Motorcycle crashes have been on an upward trend since 2002; between 2002 and 2004, crashes involving a motorcycle increased from 4,269 to 4,509 and preliminary data for 2005 indicate that the number of motorcyclists killed in crashes increased from 139 in 2002 to 161 in 2005.  Unsafe speed was the contributing factor most commonly reported in motorcycle crashes.  As a result of these increases, the GTSC has identified motorcycle safety as a priority for FFY 2007.


  2002 2003 2004 2005* 2007
Motorcycle Crashes 4,269 4,284 4,509 n/a 4,300 4,070
Motorcyclists Killed 139 153 148 161 148 140


Young motorcycle operators continue to be overrepresented in fatal and personal injury motorcycle crashes:  almost 9% of the motorcyclists involved in fatal and personal injury crashes were under 21 years of age, but less than 1% of the licensed operators are in this age group.   In addition, 28% of motorcyclists involved in fatal and personal injury crashes were 21-29 years of age, but only 6% of the licensed operators are in this age group.

New York will use available Section 2010 funding to enhance the delivery of its Motorcycle Safety Program; for example, improving the availability of training opportunities for program providers and instructors.


The primary goals in the area of motorcycle safety are to reduce the number of motorcycle crashes and fatalities.  Objectives include continued expansion of motorcycle rider education opportunities, increased motorist awareness of motorcyclists on the roadways, and the identification of motorcyclist behaviors that are contributing to crashes.  The strategies that will be used include public information and education and research initiatives.  Public information and education activities will stress the need for the motoring public to be aware of motorcyclists.

Research efforts in the next year may include assessments of the extent to which persons continue to operate motorcycles without the proper license and the extent to which unsafe driving behaviors, such as speeding and impaired driving, are contributing factors in crashes.


Pedestrian, Bicycle, In-line Skating, Non-Motorized Scooter and Skateboarding Safety


Pedestrians, bicyclists, in-line skaters, non-motorized scooter operators, and skateboarders are among our most vulnerable roadway users.   When involved in crashes with motor vehicles, these highway users almost always suffer more serious injuries than vehicle occupants.  Crashes involving pedestrians account for approximately one-quarter of all fatal crashes and approximately 10 percent of all injury crashes.  The injuries sustained in these crashes often require extensive medical treatment and/or lengthy rehabilitation.  Treatment and rehabilitation for older injured pedestrians may be even more protracted, resulting in increased costs.  For these reasons, GTSC has identified Pedestrian Safety as a priority for FFY 2007.

Responsibility for pedestrian, bicycle and wheel-sport safety is shared among several state agencies and there have been many examples of collaborative efforts in recent years. Creating Walkable Communities conferences were held in 2001 and 2004 and a third conference is being planned for spring 2007.  The purpose of these conferences is to promote the safe and healthy use of the state's transportation systems by people walking and bicycling.


The number of pedestrian fatalities remained fairly constant between 2002 and 2004, increasing by one each year; in 2005, five fewer pedestrians were killed than in 2004.  In all four years, nearly half of all pedestrian fatalities occurred in New York City.  In 2004, 15,678 pedestrians were injured in New York State.


  2002 2003 2004 2005* 2007
Pedestrians Killed (NYS) 326 327 328 323 318 298
  In New York City 156 162 155 155 152 135
Pedestrians Injured (NYS) 17,214 16,665 15,678 n/a 15,175 14,500



Over the four-year period, 2002-2005, there was a steady upward trend in the number of bicyclists killed in motor vehicle crashes from 34 to 46.  Approximately 40% of these fatalities occurred in New York City.  New York State's law requiring children under age 14 to wear a helmet was implemented to mitigate the severity of injuries in bicycle crashes.  Efforts to prevent bicycle crashes through education and increased public awareness for both bicyclists and motorists will continue.


  2002 2003 2004 2005* 2007
Bicyclists Killed (NYS) 34 38 41 46 42 36
  In New York City 18 16 15 20 18 15
Bicyclists Injured (NYS) 5,992 5,581 5,690 n/a 5,360 5,050



The primary goals of the pedestrian, bicycle, and wheel-sport safety programs are to reduce the number of persons killed and injured in crashes.  These goals will be accomplished by providing safety education to both the general public and specific target groups, developing and evaluating engineering solutions, and expanding helmet distribution programs.  Community-based programs will play a major role in these efforts.  Research and evaluation activities will be undertaken to assist in defining the scope and nature of the various safety issues, assess program effectiveness, and identify potential countermeasures.



Occupant Protection


More than 20 years ago, New York became the first state to pass a mandatory seat belt law.  All but one state has followed suit and occupant restraint use has risen nationwide to a level commensurate with its life-saving potential.   New York's seat belt use rate leveled off in the mid-1990s at about 75 percent.  It was at that point a new program, Buckle Up New York, was implemented.  In 2002, New York added the national "Click It or Ticket" message to its high-visibility, multi-agency, zero-tolerance enforcement and PI&E campaign.  As a result of the BUNY/Click It or Ticket mobilizations, unprecedented numbers of seat belt tickets were issued by the police and compliance reached an all-time high of 85% in 2003.  The use rate remained at 85% in 2004 and 2005; in 2006, the state experienced a small decline in seat belt use for the first time.

Child passenger safety is also an important component of New York's occupant protection program and an extensive statewide network of child safety seat technicians and programs has been developed.  In March 2005, new legislation was implemented requiring all children ages four, five and six to be restrained in an appropriate child restraint system; booster seats are the appropriate restraint for the majority of children in this age group.

The distribution of occupants among the various injury categories has remained relatively constant over the three-year period, 2002-2004. The proportion of occupants who were killed increased slightly from .22% to .29% and the proportion of occupants who suffered serious injuries increased from 2.4% to 2.7%.


  2002 2003 2004 2007
Fatalities 0.22% 0.26% 0.29% 0.25% 0.22%
Serious Injuries 2.40% 2.70% 2.70% 2.50% 2.25%


The Mean Severity of Injury (MSI) measure also indicates that the severity of injuries suffered by vehicle occupants covered by the seat belt law remained relatively stable at approximately 1.2 from 2002 to 2004.  In calculating the MSI, a weight of 4 is assigned to a fatality, 3 to a serious injury, 2 to a moderate injury, and 1 to a minor injury.


2002 2003 2004 2007
1.22 1.24 1.25 1.23 1.20



The primary goals of the occupant protection program are to decrease the number of vehicle occupants killed and to mitigate the severity of the injuries suffered.  Increasing compliance with the seat belt law is essential to the achievement of these goals. The strategies identified for accomplishing these goals include high visibility enforcement, research to identify target groups of motorists who do not comply with the law, public information and education, and child passenger safety training.



Traffic Records


The extensive us of performance-based program planning by agencies and organizations involved in traffic safety at all jurisdictional levels requires access to a variety of traffic records data.  Changes in demographics, traffic patterns and conditions of the highway infrastructure at both the state and local levels present significant challenges to the state's highway safety community in identifying the nature and location of traffic safety problems.  To develop appropriate countermeasures that meet these challenges, traffic safety professionals need data on crashes and injuries, arrests and convictions for traffic violations, and highway engineering initiatives. The need for accurate and timely data, together with an ever increasing need for data analysis support, is being addressed vigorously by New York through major improvements in the way it maintains and uses its traffic records systems.

Governor Pataki's continuing support of efforts to improve New York's traffic records systems is apparent in the progress being made in improving the state's accident and ticket records systems housed at the Department of Motor Vehicles.  It is also evident in the improvements made in the other traffic-related systems maintained by the Department of Motor Vehicles and those maintained by the Department of Transportation, Department of Health, Division of Criminal Justice Services, Division of Probation and Correctional Alternatives, and the Division of State Police.  The priority placed on accurate and timely data at the national level is reflected in Section 408 of the SAFETEA-LU legislation.  As part of New York's application for Section 408 incentive funds, an extensive inventory of the state's key traffic records systems was conducted and a comprehensive, multi-year Traffic Safety Information Systems (TSIS) strategic plan was developed.  It is anticipated that this plan will be implemented in September 2006 under the direction of the state's Traffic Records Coordinating Committee (TRCC) and the TSIS Coordinator.


The primary goals of the efforts undertaken in the area of traffic records are to continue to expand the capability to collect, retrieve, and disseminate traffic safety data electronically on both the local and statewide levels.  In addition, efforts to improve data linkage capabilities among traffic safety-related data systems at both the state and local levels will continue.  This will be accomplished through support for the implementation of technologies by enforcement agencies and the courts and by providing training in the use of these technologies.



Community Traffic Safety Programs


Community Traffic Safety Programs combine strategies from several traffic safety program areas to address local highway safety problems.  Communities within a county are encouraged to cooperatively develop a strategic plan which identifies and documents the county's highway safety problems; establishes performance goals, objectives, and measures; and proposes strategies that target the problems identified.  Because of the integral role local programs play in achieving the statewide highway safety goals, increasing the number of counties participating in the program continues to be a priority.

The strategies implemented under the individual community traffic safety programs will contribute to the attainment of the goals established for the statewide highway safety program.  In addition to funding local programs, the strategies in this area include the provision of public information resources, training for community program managers and staff, and the further development of inter-organizational and target group coalitions to address specific traffic safety issues.  Distracted driving and the role of human error in traffic crashes are among the issues that will be addressed in the coming year by a coalition of traffic safety partners.


Governor Pataki's Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) is responsible for coordinating and managing New York State's comprehensive highway safety program.  The GTSC takes a leadership role in identifying the state's overall traffic safety priorities; provides assistance to its local partners in identifying local highway safety priorities; and works with its partners to develop programs, public information campaigns, and other activities to address the problems identified.  In addition to the 402 highway safety grant program, the GTSC administers various incentive grant programs awarded to the state under SAFETEA-LU.  In administering the state's highway safety program, the GTSC takes a comprehensive approach, providing funding for a wide variety of programs targeting crash reduction through education, enforcement, engineering, community involvement, and greater access to safety-related data.


The GTSC's goals in the area of program management are to continue to improve the effectiveness of New York's highway safety program and the efficiency of its administration.  This will be accomplished by enhancing the GTSC's role in setting goals and priorities for the statewide program; exploring and expanding technology as a means of disseminating traffic safety information and improving communication with its customers; and providing direction, guidance, and assistance to support the traffic safety efforts of public and private partners.  The GTSC will also continue to coordinate and provide training opportunities for the state's traffic safety professionals and to support the use of evaluation as a tool in the state's highway safety program.