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2019 traffic deaths higher in North, Northeast Philly than the rest of the city

A makeshift memorial is shown near the location where a mother and three young sons were struck and killed while trying to cross a busy highway after dark, Wednesday, July 17, 2013 in Philadelphia. A fourth son was injured in the crash Tuesday night on Roosevelt Boulevard, a major artery that divides neighborhoods in north and northeast Philadelphia.  (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

A makeshift memorial is shown near the location where a mother and three young sons were struck and killed while trying to cross a busy highway after dark, Wednesday, July 17, 2013 in Philadelphia. A fourth son was injured in the crash Tuesday night on Roosevelt Boulevard, a major artery that divides neighborhoods in north and northeast Philadelphia. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

Just before midnight on April 20, a driver in a 2019 Camaro sped down Red Lion Road and crashed into two cars waiting to turn north on Bustleton Avenue. Those cars then collided with three other vehicles, creating a six-car chain-reaction crash in the busy Northeast Philadelphia intersection.

The driver who caused the initial crash fled the scene. Five people, including a pregnant woman and two children, were taken to the hospital. The couple in the SUV, which flipped over completely, never made it out of their car

Their names were Juan A. Lopez Rivera and Carmen Montalvo Ruiz. They left behind two children, Cynthia and Jonathan, along with parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren. 

Only hours before, Lopez Rivera and Montalvo Ruiz had been dancing at a relative’s birthday party. Family members said they realized there was something wrong when the couple was no longer returning their text messages.

“I lost my parents,” Cynthia Lopez Montalvo told NBC10. “They were my life.”

Lopez Montalvo’s parents are a single data point on a map released by the Bike Coalition of Philadelphia, based on open data from the city’s records. The map of all fatal traffic crashes in 2019 to date shows that traffic deaths are highest in North and Lower Northeast Philadelphia.

The concentration of traffic deaths in the city’s North and Northeast neighborhoods isn’t just this year.

Half of all traffic deaths and severe injuries occur on just 12% of Philadelphia streets, according to five years of PennDOT data from 2012-2016. That 12%, collectively called the High Injury Network, informs Vision Zero’s primary focus when it comes to engineering roads, building crosswalks, and changing traffic signals. 

It also indicates that traffic violence is concentrated specifically in areas like North Philadelphia, Kensington, and Hunting Park — historically low-income neighborhoods and communities of color

The Vision Zero program was originally adopted to reduce the number and severity of traffic deaths in the city. But the program’s most recent update reported an alarming spike in 2018 traffic deaths; a map of these deaths shows a similar concentration of incidents in North and Northeast Philly.

The update also identifies “seniors, children, and people walking and bicycling” as the most vulnerable roadway users, both within the High Injury Network and outside of it. Vision Zero is currently working to reduce traffic speeds, install protected bike lanes, and install new road markings, signs, and intersection timers to protect these users.

The driver who caused the April crash in Bustleton was later identified as Shekroz Mamaatkulov, 25, of Warrington, Pa. He was arrested in Camden and charged with involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault by vehicle, and homicide by vehicle, among others.

According to the Bike Coalition’s annual fatality tracker, there have been 45 traffic deaths in 2019 as of October 7. Of the 45, six have involved bringing charges. Fourteen are still pending investigation.

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