NY City Officer Dies of Crash Injuries – Uncounted by NHTSA

NY City Officer Dies of Crash Injuries – Uncounted by NHTSA

January, 2015

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:
Victim Dies A Year After Crash
The recent tragic death of a crash victim highlights how NHTSA ignores thousands of crash deaths each year.

“An MTA officer succumbed Monday to injuries he suffered when he was struck last year by a car on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the agency said.

Thomas Choi, 62, is the first officer to die in the line of duty in the 81-year history of MTA Bridges and Tunnels, also known as the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority.

Choi was struck when he was removing barrels while reopening the Brooklyn-bound lower level of the bridge on Oct. 20, 2013. The lower level of the bridge is closed on weekends from midnight until about 8 a.m.

He was treated at Staten Island University Hospital and Seaview Rehabilitation Center but never regained consciousness, the MTA said.

“Officer Choi dedicated himself to serving and protecting everyone who travels the bridges and tunnels that unite New York, and all of us at the MTA join in mourning him,” MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast said in a news release. “We send our deepest condolences to his family.”  See


NHTSA Does Not Count Such Crash Deaths

Would this Officer’s death be counted by NHTSA in FARS 2013 files when the crash occurred, or in the 2014 files when this Officer died a year later? The answer from NHTSA is that in neither year would his death of crash injuries be counted.  NHTSA only counts deaths of crash injured people if they die within 30 days of the crash.   So how many crash victims die after 30 days and are not counted by NHTSA?  The National Safety Council estimates that about 800 – 1,000 crash victims die of their “in traffic” injuries more than 30 days after the crash.

The National Safety Council also counts “not in traffic” crash deaths that occur in driveways, parking lots, and on private roads that NHTSA does not currently include in FARS.  Add these two NHTSA practices of  minimization of crash deaths and one finds a NHTSA policy undercount of nearly 3,000 crash deaths per year – nearly 10 American crash deaths per day.  Source: http://www.nsc.org/learn/safety-knowledge/Pages/injury-facts.aspx
Inline image 1

NHTSA Misses Many Crash Deaths
NHTSA’s failures are symbolized by the classic NY Times art showing three NHTSA crash test dummies that don’t see, hear, or speak evil:Inline image 1

For decades, the Center for Auto Safety in its “Missing In FARS” campaign has documented defective data collection of crash deaths by NHTSA.  See http://www.autosafety.org/campaigns/24
NHTSA, under criticism for more than a decade of failures to protect Americans, politically prefers to downplay the problem.   The most recent example of NHTSA “not seeing” or “not speaking” is its failure to mention the effects of the Great Recession in declining crash deaths obvious in the above graph.  Here is NHTSA’s latest press release: “WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today released the 2013 Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data that shows a 3.1 percent decrease from the previous year and a nearly 25 percent decline in overall highway deaths since 2004. In 2013, 32,719 people died in traffic crashes.”  Seehttp://www.nhtsa.gov/About+NHTSA/Press+Releases/2014/traffic-deaths-decline-in-2013
Pedestrian Safety in NYC
NY Times reports some promising news for NYC, but perhaps a little premature in view of the time lag between injury and death: “In 2014, 132 pedestrians died in traffic accidents, the lowest total for a year since the city began keeping records a century ago, officials said. There were 180 pedestrian deaths in 2013, the highest number in a decade.

Overall traffic fatalities fell last year to 248, from 293 the previous year, according to preliminary data from the city. There were 20 bicyclist fatalities in 2014, an increase from 12 deaths in 2013, and 37 motorcyclist fatalities last year, down from 42 deaths in 2013. Motor vehicle fatalities remained the same, with 59 deaths in each year.

The decline in pedestrians’ deaths comes as the city continues to put in place Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan, a set of proposals intended to eliminate traffic deaths. Modeled after a Swedish approach that treats all road deaths and serious injuries as inherently preventable, the plan has an ambitious goal of eliminating traffic deaths by 2024. The city lowered its default speed limit to 25 miles per hour, from 30 m.p.h., and increased enforcement of speeding laws, among other initiatives.

“There is no question we are moving this city in the right direction, thanks to stepped up enforcement by the N.Y.P.D., strong traffic safety measures by the Department of Transportation, new laws passed by our legislators and the work of New Yorkers fighting for change,” the mayor said in a statement this week.”  See 


Let us work in the new year so that fewer crash victims occur.   A good start for NHTSA would be for NHTSA to do better at counting crash deaths.



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