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NYC unveiling 'bare bones' approach to crosswalk safety

From Chris Boyette, CNN
When a radar gun detects a speeding car approaching an intersection, the crosswalk figure will change to a pixilated skeleton.
When a radar gun detects a speeding car approaching an intersection, the crosswalk figure will change to a pixilated skeleton.
  • The signs complement a city ad campaign on the 30 mph speed limit for streets
  • A pedestrian hit by a car going 40 mph has a much greater chance of dying, city points out
  • The city also will test a "slow speed zone" where the speed limit is cut to 20
  • U.N. secretary-general commends city's new traffic safety initiatives

New York (CNN) -- In an effort to reduce speeding, New York City will introduce new LED warning signs outfitted with a clear reminder to drivers of the possibly deadly consequences of driving too fast through crosswalks: a skeleton and the words, "Slow Down."

The digital warning signs will be set up as speed boards, with Doppler radar detecting the speed of oncoming traffic, according to the Department of Transportation.

Oncoming motorists will see the 30 mph speed limit and the familiar walking figure indicating a crosswalk. But when the radar gun detects a speeding car, the crosswalk figure will change to a pixilated skeleton that will flash alongside the reminder to ease off the gas pedal.

The city, in a news release, cites research claiming that a pedestrian hit by a car traveling 40 mph or faster has a 70 percent chance of being killed, while at 30 mph the chance that the pedestrian will live is 80 percent.

"Safety is one of those things that's hard to define, yet it's something that's impossible to live without," said New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. "And there is no clearer example of a threat to our safety than speeding, which is why we are focusing on many fronts to reduce its dangers."

The speed boards are intended to complement the Department of Transportation's "That's Why It's 30" ad campaign. In April the DOT introduced standard speed boards in areas most notorious for speeding, the city said. Officials hope the new speed boards, with their skeletal cue, will prompt drivers to mind the speed limit.

In addition to the new speed boards, the Department of Transportation announced a second new component to their safety initiative: This summer in the Claremont section of the Bronx, officials plan to introduce the first "slow speed zone" in the city. These 20 mph areas reflect the need for even slower traffic in certain places because of schools, residences and other neighborhood characteristics.

According to a city news release, Claremont will serve as a test community, with the city hoping to soon implement more "slow speed zones" across the five boroughs.

New York City is far from alone in its efforts to amp up traffic safety. A year ago, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring 2011-2020 the Decade of Action for Road Safety. At a news conference Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon joined Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Sadik-Khan in announcing the new traffic safety initiatives.

The secretary-general spoke of the need for heightened safety on roads around the globe, and praised New York City's efforts.

"I commend Mayor Bloomberg for the steps he has taken in recent years to make the streets and highways of New York City safer, not only for drivers and their passengers, but also for pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists," Ban said.

Bloomberg noted that since 2004, "there have been fewer traffic fatalities each year on our streets than any time since 1910, which was the first year these kinds of statistics were kept.

In a news release, the city said its traffic fatality rate is less than one-third of the national rate. Of the country's next 10 largest cities by population, New York boasts half the traffic-related fatality rate.