This holiday season, the NYPD is giving motorists on Queens Boulevard in Rego Park a little something extra. It’s a different type of lighting display aimed at keeping last minute Christmas shoppers safe as they walk across the busy thoroughfare.
The large, electronic sign lights up the meridian of the boulevard at the intersection of 63rd Drive. The sign cautions drivers to “Drive Carefully” and “Yield to Pedestrians.”
Queens Boulevard stretches more than half the length of the borough. Its central location has made the thoroughfare one of the city’s busiest, and not just for motorists.
Queens Boulevard is home to many New York City subway stations and also boasts a thriving commercial shopping area. Both, provide the surrounding sidewalks with plenty of foot traffic.
The busy street has long been a dangerous crossroads for pedestrians. Known citywide for its high accident rate, Queens Boulevard has earned the nickname “The Boulevard of Death.”
City officials have spent nearly a decade trying to tame it after 72 pedestrians were hit between 1993 to 2000.
According to a study conducted by the Department of Transportation, traffic fatalities in 2009 were down nearly 35 percent from 2001. However, walkers are still at risk. The same study shows that more than a quarter of pedestrian incidents are caused by the driver’s failure to yield. They are also 10 times more likely to die than a motor vehicle occupant in the event of a crash.
Speed is the most likely cause of pedestrian death, according to the city’s Department of Health. It accounts for nearly 26 percent of the accidents, despite the city’s modest speed limit of 30 mph.
The DOT has already widened the street’s meridians and increased crossing times in an effort to help increase safety on the boulevard. The next step for the agency is a pilot program to reduce the limit to 20 mph. That plan is set to be introduced next year in a single as-yet undisclosed neighborhood.