New York is entering the new year riding a crest of good news. On average, we’re living longer and healthier lives than ever. We’re also the safest big-city in the nation, and safer from crime, fire, and traffic fatalities than at any time in modern memory. And we’ve got good reasons to hope that these trends will continue in 2012.
Let’s start with life expectancy. Babies born in New York City, in 2009, can now expect to live an average of 80.6 years. According to the city’s Department of Health, that’s almost three years longer than newborn life expectancy was in the year 2000. It’s also nearly two-and-a-half years longer than the comparable national average. Life expectancy for adults is up too. For 40-year-olds, it now averages 82 years. That’s nearly two years longer than life expectancy for 40-year-olds nationwide. Our lifespan gains are also greater than those of people living in counties with other major cities across the nation have seen.
There are two big conclusions to draw from this hopeful news. The first is that many of the aggressive steps we’ve taken to improve public health, such as encouraging New Yorkers to quit smoking and also to get tested and treated for HIV, are big factors in adding years to our lives. The second thing to remember is that these life expectancy figures are averages. If you carry out those New Year’s resolutions to watch your weight, exercise, and stop smoking, the chances are that you can live even longer.
There’s lots of good news on the public safety front, too. The NYPD and FDNY have just given New Yorkers the safest decade on record. The number of murders in our city last year was the third lowest ever. It was also the 10th consecutive year that we’ve recorded fewer than 600 murders. While even one murder is one too many, keep in mind that before 2002, we hadn’t seen as few as 600 murders a year since the early 1960s. During the past 10 years, we’ve decreased crime overall more than 34 percent.
We’ve also just closed out 10 years with an average of 88 fire deaths per year. That’s by far the safest decade since the FDNY started keeping records. Over those 10 years, we’ve made average response time to fires 20 seconds faster than it was during the previous decade. During 2011, ambulances cut their average response time to life-threatening emergencies to six minutes, thirty-one seconds – a new record low.
We’ve also made our streets safer than ever. Thanks to better engineering, education, and enforcement, we ended 2011 on track to having the fewest traffic fatalities on record. Over the past 10 years, we’ve cut traffic deaths in the five boroughs by 40 percent. That means that today, our rate of traffic fatalities is roughly two-thirds lower than the national rate. Now let’s all get 2012 off to a safe start by remembering to drive responsibly as this New Year’s weekend comes to a close.