DOT’s ‘LOOK!’ campaign gets mixed reviews


| aaltman@queenscourier.com |

Photo courtesy of the DOT
Photo courtesy of the DOT

A newly-launched Department of Transportation (DOT) campaign urges drivers and pedestrians to keep their peepers on the street.

The first in a series of safety initiatives, the LOOK! campaign highlights the importance of vigilance on the road by establishing pavement markings depicting the word “LOOK.” Each insignia features eyes drawn into the Os, staring in the direction of oncoming cars to alert walkers to the flow of traffic. The rear advertising panels of MTA buses will feature driver-tailored signs, reminding motorists to stay alert while behind the wheel.

A DOT spokesperson said the signs will cost a total of $60,000.

“New Yorkers are driven to distraction with their smart phones, and the simple act of looking can prevent thousands of crashes and injuries every year,” said DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. “LOOK! is a message to all New Yorkers that safety is in the eye of the beholder and everyone needs to keep an eye out for each other on our streets.”

According to Michael Murphy, a representative from Transportation Alternatives, Queens has seen 55,320 accidents over the past 12 months — some of which caused 75 fatalities. According to the DOT, half of all New Yorkers killed last year by cars at the crosswalk had a green light.

The LOOK! markings currently adorn crosswalks at 110 intersections and bus kiosks citywide and will be expanded to nearly 200 intersections and more than 300 buses. According to the DOT, the signs will be placed at locations with a history of accidents including Steinway Street and 34th Avenue in Astoria, Queens Boulevard and 67th Road in Woodside and 71st Avenue and Austin Street in Forest Hills.

Flushing resident Frankie Alberto believes the signs are a great idea. The 31-year-old, who said he doesn’t text behind the wheel and limits texting while walking, said many motorists and pedestrians are overly engrossed in their gadgets while en route.

But some Queens residents feel the signs won’t catch pedestrians’ attentions in the right way.

“[The signs] will make me laugh at their ingenuity, and then I’ll continue to do whatever it was that I was doing,” said 22-year-old Shiv Galav from Holliswood. “Just like I wouldn’t respond to an ad against jaywalking. If anything I’ll probably trip, stumble, and slam into a pole looking at these ads. Hardly helpful.”

Murphy said that while the signs are a good first step, increased accidents are not due to lack of awareness, but instead diminished enforcement by the NYPD.

“Illegal driving is responsible for 60 percent of crashes fatal to pedestrians and bicyclists,” said Murphy. “If certain drivers can’t operate their vehicles without killing and injuring the people around them, it’s a police issue. But the police aren’t keeping up with it.”

Murphy said current legislation, such as the Crash Investigation Reform Act, could assist in preventing future collisions.

Additional reporting by Sweetina Kakar