April 4, 2020 By Michael Dorgan
A traffic safety advocacy group with ties to Transportation Alternatives has called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to ban all cars from being on the road unless they are for essential use during the pandemic.
Families for Safe Streets Calls, an advocacy group that receives guidance and support from Transportation Alternatives, said it is making the appeal in order to reduce the extra burden that car crashes are having on emergency services throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
The group said that some drivers are speeding–with less congested roads–leading to unnecessary crashes. Traffic has dropped sharply since March 22, when Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered the closure of non-essential businesses statewide and a ban on gatherings.
The traffic advocacy group argues that these crashes are avoidable and are putting extra pressure on an already overwhelmed hospital system.
“A ban on non-essential driving will reduce the number of crashes that take place, free up hospital beds, reduce 911 call loads, and expedite ambulances,” said Hsi-Pei Liao, founder of Families for Safe Streets Calls
“Without this step, reckless drivers will continue to place undue burden on a healthcare system which is already operating at capacity,” he said.
Using the tagline “lower the baseline,” Families for Safe Streets Calls want to reduce the number of hospital visits that are not related to the pandemic.
The group points to two crashes that took place last week that could have been avoided.
On Monday, a 59-year-old woman was left in critical condition after being struck by a driver in a hit and run crash in Kew Gardens.
Then on Thursday, a 45-year-old man died after the car that he was driving struck two vehicles on Jamaica Avenue near the Van Wyck Expressway. The drivers of the other vehicles were left in serious but stable conditions.
“Traffic crashes are preventable. But when our streets are nearly empty like they have been for the last few weeks, some drivers take the opportunity to speed,” Liao said.
“Speeding is the leading cause of crashes, and our healthcare system cannot handle any additional strain right now,” he said.
Liao said that the city should focus on lowering the amount of non-coronavirus related hospitalizations with the same vigor as it has been using to “flatten the curve.”
“In order to make sure our hospitals can direct whatever resources they can muster toward the pandemic, we must do everything we can to eliminate preventable emergencies,” he said.