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sion estimates that 1,470,000 will be licensed in 1924, and at least 1.765,000 in 1925.
As I have said before, while the number of cars has increased, there is no corresponding increase in the mileage of streets and highways, and if we are to continue to add 250,000 more cars to a given mileage of streets and highways year after year, congestion must become more pronounced and the chance of accident increased. That the problem be solved rightly is of vital interest to every man, woman and child in the State who either drives a car, rides in one or makes use of the streets and highways. Not all drivers or any considerable percentage of them are incompetent, careless or reckless but one reckless driver out of 1,800,000 leaves the other 1,799,999 drivers at his mercy, to say nothing about the other ten million odd people — men, women and children whether or not they own, operate or ride in automobiles or walk upon the public thoroughfares of the State. Statistics for the past show that there are sufficient incompetent and reckless drivers to place everybody in jeopardy.
I think we are all in accord with the statement that we have not in this State adequately dealt with this problem in the past. We have used 75 per cent of the revenues from automobile licenses, which amount to about twenty million dollars per annum, to meet the current expenses of the State; the balance we have returned to the localities, and aside from using the automobile as an object or special taxation, little or no attention has been paid by the State to its regulation, which is the underlying theory for imposing the license fee. In the past we have viewed the whole subject in terms of dollars and have neglected the preservation of human lives and property. In order to study it from that viewpoint, some statistics will be required. I will give them to you as briefly as I can, consistent with the importance of making a comparison.
It is recognized by everyone familiar with the facts that of our eastern States, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Connecticut have made substantial progress during the past three years in gaining control over the motor traffic problem. I will select Massachusetts for comparison because in area, population, number of motor vehicles and the general situation, it lends itself to fair comparison. The figures are as follows: Item
N. Y. 1. Population 1919
3,835,000 10,332,000 2. Population 1922
3,936,000 10,650,000 3. Licensed motor vehicles 1919
260,881 571,662 4. Licensed motor vehicles 1922
461,513 1,009,825 5. Fatalities due to motor vehicle accidents, 1919 ....
1,361 6. Fatalities due to motor vehicle accidents, 1922.
NOTE.— Fatalities are on the basis of Vital Statistics Reports which differ somewhat from unofficial figures seen in the public press.
Up to and during 1919, Massachusetts had been proceeding as New York is now, without a forward looking policy designed to control the motor vehicle problem but at or about that time she changed her policy and made the regulation of motor vehicle traffic more severe, invested more money in the protection of human life and reduced preventable accidents. Whether or not she has fully accomplished the desired result is beside the question. Nevertheless, from the six facts previously stated, the following conclusion must be arrived at:
(a) That the percentage of increase in population and in number of motor vehicles is substantially the same for both states.
(b) That in 1922, 32 fewer people were killed by motor vehicles in Massachusetts than were killed in that state in 1919 - in percentage language, a 6 per cent decrease.
(c) That in 1922, 364 more people were killed in New York by motor vehicles than were killed in 1919 — in terms of percentage, an increase of 26.7 per cent.
(d) That if New York had done that which Massachusetts did in 1919 and pursued the policies as effectively as did Massachusetts, thereby reducing in 1922 by 6 per cent the 1919 fatalities, the number of people who would have lost their lives in New York state by reason of motor vehicle accidents in 1922 would have been 1,279 — not 1,725 – a difference of 446, which number is here characterized as 446 preventable fatal accidents, due to inertia on the part of the state. If motor vehicle bureau fatality figures be used for Massachusetts and the unofficial figures accumulated by the New York State Automobile Association be used for New York, the result is more startling - 853 preventable fatal deaths are indicated.
(e) That applying another statistical method, that of the ratio of fatalities to 1,000 motor vehicles, we find the Massachusetts ratio to be 1.08 per cent. deaths for each 1,000 cars, which, if applied to the number of New York motor vehicles, produces 1,091 deaths in New York in 1922- or 634 fewer than actually did occur. If this theory is the sounder, and any statistician will assert that it is, then the failure of New York state to adopt a vigorous policy, as did Massachusetts,
cost 634 New Yorkers their lives in 1923. Neither the Vital Statistics Bureau of New York nor that of Massachusetts is able to give final and complete figures with respect to 1923 motor vehicle accidents. Nevertheless, their records are sufficiently complete to indicate 1893 fatalities in New York and 556 in Massachusetts. T'hese facts, in connection with those heretofore stated, lead to the conclusion:
(f) That 471 unnecessary and preventable deaths occurred in New York in 1923 due to its failure to deal as successfully with the motor vehicle problem as did its sister state of Massachusetts.
(g) That during the four years 1920 to 1923, 1470 New Yorkers were killed in preventable motor accidents. With the aid of these facts and these experiences, it is possible to picture what will happen in the future unless New York corrects its policy. Assuming that during the ten years commencing with 1924 and ending with 1933 fatalities in these two states increase as they have during the four years ended with 1923, then 11,186 more people will be killed in New York than would be so killed if the rate of increase in New York did not exceed that of Massachusetts. The preventable deaths will range from 588 in 1924 to 1657 in 1933.
Nothing has been said of other than fatal accidents, but it follows, as a matter of course, that accidents resulting in personal injuries and loss of or injury to property shows a proportionately bad record for New York. At least 55,000 such accidents occurred in 1923, resulting in the loss of millions.
Our present treatment of the regulation of motor vehicles is as follows: The Tax Department issues licenses for cars and to chauffeurs (both state-wide) and to operators or drivers in Greater New York, but it has little power to withhold a car license and no power to revoke any license. The authority to revoke licenses is vested only in the Courts. The penal and regulatory features are left in the hands of state and local police authorities and with the State Commissioner of Highways.
The plan seems to be that the Tax Department shall limit its activities to those of a licensing agency which handles the mechanical work of issuing and recording licenses, and of collecting and accounting for the fees. The power to revoke licenses is placed elsewhere, even the authority to ask the State Police to aid in enforcement work is conferred upon the State Commissioner of Highways rather than the Tax Department. Such a plan cannot
. and will not result in successful, efficient administration.
I have thus far stated the situation as it is and I have indicated our manner and method of dealing with it. I have but a few major suggestions to make with regard to what, in my opinion, should be our future treatment of this subject, and I leave the detail of carrying it out to your Honorable Bodies. I believe, first, that there should be enacted a state-wide operator or driver license law. The right to drive an automobile in public thoroughfares is not inherent, it is a privilege which the state may grant or withhold. Not every person, regardless of age or sex, who has money or credit sufficient to buy a car is qualified to drive. The lives of other drivers, their passengers and the lives of pedestrians are placed in jeopardy unless qualification tests are applied before permission to drive is granted.
In preceding paragraphs certain statistical data are used to show that Massachusetts has since 1919 actually reduced the number of fatalities arising from motor vehicle accidents, although the number of cars in that state and therefore the opportunities for accidents have greatly increased. It so happens that the decrease
in fatalities was coincident with the introduction of the state-wide driving test as a condition precedent to the issuance of an operator or driver's license. It is unquestionably true that some of the magnificent results obtained in Massachusetts are directly attributable to this fact.
But to support an argument in favor of a state-wide operator license law, it is not necessary to rely on Massachusetts' experience alone. This is so because the State of New York decided to require operator licenses in New York City but not in the rest of the State. In 1919, 761 fatal motor vehicle accidents occurred in New York City and 600 in the remainder of the State. In 1923, 932 accidents happened in New York City and 961 in the remainder of the State. The increase in New York City was 22.47 per cent., and outside of New York City, 60 per cent. If the increase outside of New York had been at the New York City rate, 595 fewer people would have been killed upstate during the years 1920, 1921, 1922 and 1923. This (595 human lives) is the penalty paid for failing to make the operator's license law state-wide rather than limiting it to New York City as was done.
This point can be illustrated another way. Assume that the operator's license law had not been inaugurated for New York City and that its fatality rate had increased for the four years under consideration at the rate for the rest of the State - it is well to note that prior to 1919, New York City's rate was increasing more rapidly than the rate for up-state — then 653 more deaths would have occurred in New York City in the four years 1920 to 1923, inclusive. In other words, 653 people now living would have been sent to their graves but for the inauguration of the operator's license law in Greater New York.
With these known experiences, statistics enable us to look into the future. If, during the ten years commenced January 1, 1924, the State continues the present policy of requiring operators to be licensed in New York City but allows anyone to drive a car in other parts of the State, and the fatality percentages increase in the two sections of the State at the rates which have prevailed for the last four years --- a perfectly reasonable assumption - then 5371 people will needlessly be killed upstate in 1924 to 1933, in'clusive. We cannot say who they will be, but that that number of preventable fatal accidents will occur is a foregone conclusion, unless the State change its policy. The cost for each day's delay is one human life.
Increased efficiency in the police department of the City of New York is not taken into account. No doubt many of these 653 individuals owe their lives to the fact that the New York City police department has been progressive in all traffic matters, but it is assumed that the police authorities of other localities could have made the same strides had the need therefor been brought forcibly to their attention and had there been a state-wide operator license law.
My second suggestion would be the creation of a Central Bureau of Records in Albany, preferably in the Department of State Police, giving accurate information of all accidents with a provision in law requiring local authorities, whether administrative or judicial, to report all such accidents to the Central Bureau of Information, and insurance companies should be required to report all property damage so that the State may have on file in Albany an accurate history of every man and woman in the State who is licensed to drive an automobile. In Massachusetts, any person in an accident, whether injured or not, is required to report it to the State under penalty of forfeiture of license. It may be well to consider this.
My third suggestion relates to the matter of revocation of licenses. Nobody will contend that our Courts should not have the power to revoke the license of a chauffeur or operator. By all means they should have such power, but effective regulation of motor traffic will never obtain in this State until and unless the authority which issues licenses has full and complete authority to withhold, suspend or revoke licenses, subject of course, to the right of review of its decisions before the Courts.
I need hardly tell you that the preservation of life and property is one of the most important functions of government. With that in mind, I am satisfied that your Honorable Bodies will give this whole subject your best thought, to the end that our State may be in progressive step with our neighboring States, as far as this very important problem is concerned.
(Signed) ALFRED E. SMITH. Ordered, That said message be printed and laid upon the table.
A message from the Governor, at the hands of his secretary, was received and read in the words following: STATE OF NEW YORK EXECUTIVE CHAMBER,
January 14, 1924. To the Senate:
I hereby nominate as a Member of the Board of Commissioners of the Herkimer Home, Edward H. Teall, of Little Falls, who was heretofore appointed to such office during the recess of the senate and whose term is about to expire.
(Signed) ALFRED E. SMITH. Said nomination was referred to the committee on finance.