Massive Challenges in Cutting Los Angeles’ Road Deaths

Article Excerpts

The city of Los Angeles’ ambitious program to reverse a rising trend of traffic deaths and eliminate road fatalities by 2025 is having unintended consequences in communities sensitive to increased traffic enforcement and mistrustful of street improvements….

Los Angeles embraced an international initiative to cut traffic fatalities started in Sweden called Vision Zero as it tries to grapple with traffic crash fatalities that have risen by 43 percent between 2015 and 2016.

With an average 6.27 traffic deaths per 100,000 residents each year, L.A. has the highest traffic death rate of any major city in the country. Last year, 260 people died in L.A. street crashes, about 30 fewer than died in homicides in the city in 2016….

…many of the most dangerous streets in the city are concentrated in low-income communities of color like South L.A….

Los Angeles Department of Transportation

“Black lives matter, right? I think they matter in a lot of ways,” said Harris-Dawson, who has championed the Vision Zero effort….

During recent budget negotiations… the council eventually agreed to allocate about $27 million to Vision Zero-related projects, a nine-fold increase over the previous year’s funding, but still less than the $80 million that the Department of Transportation said is needed to meet the program’s stated goal of reducing traffic deaths by 20 percent this year.

In early June… [Harris-Dawson] invited community members to offer their feedback on proposed safety measures like longer pedestrian signals and curb bulb-outs that force cars to make wider, slower turns….

One major component of the plan is proving especially controversial: increased policing of traffic violations. There is concern that this part of the Vision Zero plan could do more harm than good in neighborhoods like South L.A.

The city is spending an extra $1.5 million to beef up traffic policing on the most dangerous streets, which are concentrated in low-income communities of color….

[Tamika] Butler has argued that an emphasis on traffic stops will sow more fear and distrust of law enforcement in neighborhoods where relations are already strained….

Lt. Dave Ferry with the Los Angeles Police Department said if giving tickets is needed to save lives, his department will do that. “We’re not gonna pick and choose where we do lifesaving measures like traffic enforcement,” he said….

But Butler wants to see L.A. go further in addressing community concerns by following the lead of cities like Portland. That city’s Vision Zero plans prioritize street redesign and education rather than increased traffic enforcement because of concerns over racial profiling.  [And] in San Francisco, police are directed to focus on the five most dangerous driving behaviors, like running red lights….

The full article is here, from 89.3KPCC



All credit to Los Angeles for setting themselves a demanding road death reduction target, but with respect, an attempt to “eliminate road fatalities by 2025” when the city currently “has the highest traffic death rate of any major city in the [USA]” and is trying “to grapple with traffic crash fatalities that have risen by 43 percent between 2015 and 2016,” seems more than a little bit over-optimistic.

It must be remembered, perhaps, that most-reliably-successful two countries in the developed world — Sweden and the UK — have been working long and hard towards their current very low death rates for at least the last 30 years, so for L.A. to do significantly better than that, by actually zeroing the deaths in just eight years, would appear highly-improbable.

One of the biggest hurdles facing any significant progress by the USA in this direction is that of driver safety culture, but I feel obliged to reiterate my belief that in America the root of this problem is perhaps as bad within the road safety community as it is among the public.  Despite certain references to other countries that have vastly lower rates of road deaths than here in America, it seems to me that there has always been a very stubborn determination that the workers concerned are going to do things their own way, irrespective of what the relevant other countries have established by way of research and best practices.  I’m very aware that this sounds like a sweeping statement so let me stress that I do not think for one minute that it applies to all road safety people in America — there are some truly top people out there — but I do think it applies to too many people!

Eddie Wren, CEO & Chief InstructorAdvanced Drivers of North America


Author: EddieWren

Eddie Wren is the CEO and Chief Instructor at Advanced Drivers of North America. His driver safety background is given at:

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