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Home  »  Personal Injury   »   An In-Depth Look At Car Crashes In Los Angeles

An In-Depth Look At Car Crashes In Los Angeles

May 22, 2020

Have you heard of “Vision Zero?” it’s Los Angeles’ bold plan to eliminate deaths from traffic accidents entirely. It’s an ambitious goal, but when you stop and look at the rate of car accident fatalities in our city, the numbers are beyond sobering — they’re absolutely tragic. In a county as centered around automotive transportation as LA, are we doomed to accept a certain number of car accident injuries each year? Or is there a better way?

Los Angeles County Car Accident Death & Injury Statistics

If you’re not aware of the number of car accident injuries and deaths per year in Los Angeles county, prepare yourself for a number that will absolutely knock the wind out of you. In 2017, the year we’ll be using as our data set for this article, 92,020 Angelenos were injured or killed as the result of a traffic collision, out of about 60,000 total accidents. So, how many car accidents in Los Angeles per day does that work out to? If you define an accident as a serious crash involving injury or a fatality, that’s 164 accidents per day — a staggering number that puts the magnitude of this problem into perspective.

In 2017…

  • 7,271 of these automobile accidents involved alcohol
  • 294 involved an underage driver who was illegally intoxicated
  • 2,501 involved a 21+ driver who was intoxicated
  • 4,992 involved motorcycles
  • 6,412 involved pedestrians
  • 577 involved pedestrians under 15 years old
  • 827 involved pedestrians over the age of 65
  • 3,757 involved bicycles and bicyclists
  • 249 involved bicyclists under the age of 15
  • 18,675 accidents were directly due to excessive speeding
  • 9,133 happened during nighttime hours (9pm to 3am)
  • 8,475 were classified in LAPD police reports as hit-and-runs

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) is well aware of these unacceptable figures, which rank Los Angeles as one of the most dangerous, deadly places to be a driver, motorcyclist, bicyclist, or pedestrian in the United States of America. Although initiatives like Vision Zero take aim at this problem in hopes of mitigating it even by a few percent, the reality is that this is an ingrained, societal problem in our city that will take massive action and cooperation to overcome.

Still not convinced? What do you think the leading cause of death for Americans aged 8 to 34 is? That’s right, it’s automotive accidents. It will take all of us working together — the county, the citizens, the police, and the lawmakers — to start to de-escalate these numbers and save lives, health, money, and congestion across our great county.

LA County Traffic Statistics

To get a sense of the real scope of this problem, we first need to understand — truly understand — the extent to which Los Angeles’ infrastructure is built around car and motorcycle transit just from a daily lifestyle standpoint. Yes, you probably already know certain facts like the 405 being the most congested freeway in the country, or the massive numbers of registered drivers in LA. But sometimes, putting a finer point on these perceptions can really drive home the true extent of Los Angeles’ reliance on motor transit and the prevalence of motor vehicle traffic injuries in Los Angeles County.

  • Over 90% of accidents in Los Angeles county are due to driver error
  • There are approximately 6 million registered vehicles in LA county alone
  • The 5, 10, 105, and 405 are the worst freeways for accidents
  • Almost 100 million miles are driven by Los Angeles drivers each year
  • LA county has more registered vehicles than the vast majority of US states
  • Of the 527 miles of freeway in LA, almost 400 of those miles are in dire need of repair
  • Common car accident injuries are often devastating and not of the “minor” variety due to speed at collision

LA County Pedestrian Accident Statistics

A pedestrian accident is defined as one in which a victim is walking or running on foot, and is not riding in a vehicle (or even a bicycle). These are people attempting to use their city as it is meant to be used, as a place to roam about and experience world-class restaurants, museums, park facilities, and more. These are people who should have the reasonable expectation of being free from harm inflicted by those traveling in massive metal machinery at a rapid rate of speed. Yet, they are injured and killed in unbelievable numbers in our county, with statistics that make the mind reel at the unspeakable tragedy that unfolds on our streets year after year.

  • Approximately 14% of all traffic accidents involve at least one pedestrian
  • Yet, 33% of all fatalities resulting from car accidents are pedestrians
  • New York City and Los Angeles have roughly equivalent numbers of pedestrian deaths, despite NYC having 3x the population and far more pedestrian activity. This suggests something is inherently wrong with the driving culture and sense of responsibility behind the wheel in LA
  • The California Office of Traffic Safety is monitoring these statistics in hopes of designing an actionable plan to mitigate the numbers
  • People die every day because a driver is distracted, particularly because drivers are preoccupied with their phone and not paying attention to the road

LA County Bicycle Accident Statistics

Many, if not most modern cities consider the bicycle one of the premier ways to get around town. Relatively inexpensive, lightweight, good for your health, and even fun – the humble bike has been around for over a century and continues to be an environmentally friendly option for transportation. Yet, in Los Angeles, we have been unable to fully embrace this method of movement for one main reason: it’s particularly deadly to be a bicyclist in LA county.

One of the targets that the Vision Zero initiative had when it launched was to decrease and ultimately eliminate the prevalence of bicyclist fatalities in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, since the program’s debut, fatal car crashes have increased over 30% and fatal bicyclist accidents have risen by 5%.

  • More than 60% of traffic fatalities involve a pedestrian or bicyclist
  • Vision Zero aims to have eliminated bicycle accident fatalities by 2025
  • Bicyclists are less than 1% of road traffic, but make up 3% of accident fatalities worldwide
  • 45,000+ bicyclists were hurt as the result of an accident in 2015
  • Los Angeles’ city layout is designed for massive car traffic, not bicycle and pedestrian traffic

LA County Motorcycle Accident Statistics

When you think of a motorcycle, you might acknowledge that it is inherently more dangerous than driving a car, if for no other reason that the fact that you’re not surrounded by a big metal cage to protect yourself. Rather, you’re quite exposed to the elements of the road and other drivers — and what might be a small tap or a fender bender in a car-to-car accident can turn deadly serious in an instant when there’s nothing to protect you from impact.

With all the aforementioned problems with LA county’s traffic grid, as you can imagine, motorcyclists are being injured and dying at an alarming rate in Southern California.

  • Most motorcyclists are hurt or killed making left turns
  • Daytime running lights can lower the incidence of motorcycle accidents
  • Brightly colored helmets and equipment can help motorcyclists’ visibility to other drivers
  • Many motorcycle accidents are the result of over-use of the bike’s rear brakes
  • More than 50% of motorcycle accidents involve a rider with less than 5 months riding experience
  • Lighter motorcycles are more likely to be involved in a serious accident than bigger ones; however, wrecks involving the larger bikes usually result in more serious consequences
  • Surprisingly, the majority of motorcycle accidents involve a rider going 30mph or less

Making the Streets of LA Safer For All

With all of these statistics that are difficult to stomach, it can feel defeating or hopeless to make headway against these depressing trends. However, we can each make a big difference in the lives of others if we commit to being good citizens on the road and on the street, every time we leave the house.

For Drivers:

  • Never drive your car and use your phone at the same time: this is a massive cause of serious injury and death, even if you think you can “handle it”
  • Pay attention to the road and be alert for conditions that can change in a moment’s notice
  • Drive defensively, never aggressively. Don’t give into road rage, and don’t be tempted to take your frustrations with other drivers out by driving in an out of control fashion
  • Limit your speed: a significant number of car accidents result from excessive speed

For Motorcyclists:

  • Always wear substantial protection when riding, including a good helmet and jacket/vest at a minimum
  • Slowly gain confidence during your first year of riding, and understand that this first period of being a motorcyclist is critical to your safety
  • Don’t over-rely on your rear brake: this is notorious for causing bike wrecks
  • Never assume that other drivers on the road see you, or will be watching out for your safety. Be proactive about riding in a way that assumes others are being careless

For Bicyclists:

  • Never ride your bike without a helmet: this is the number one thing you can do to give yourself a better chance of a positive outcome if you are in an accident
  • Similarly to motorcyclists, never assume that other drivers know you’re there or even care about your safety. Many LA drivers have disdain for bicyclists and will not give you adequate room on the road despite your rights
  • Wear bright clothing and use reflectors to ensure that you’re as visible as possible to everyone else on the road while you’re riding

For Pedestrians:

  • Always obey traffic signals and only cross the street when it’s safe. Unlike other cities, LA drivers are not used to jaywalking pedestrians, and will not be expecting you to dart into the street
  • Be extra cautious on street corners: many drivers pull into the intersection quickly when making a right turn, encroaching on the exact area that you may be walking
  • At any time that you’re in the street, be hyper-vigilant about your surroundings and the behavior of drivers in your vicinity. Being aware can buy you the extra split second necessary to avoid tragedy

As Angelenos, we’re all in this together. This is our city to share, to live, work, and play in — and we all deserve to live a full life that’s not cut short due to someone else’s carelessness or negligence. Ask yourself if you really need to respond to that text while you’re behind the wheel, or whether it can wait until it’s safe. In the event of unspeakable tragedy, what would you give to turn back time and put the phone down instead of glancing at a notification that could cost someone — or yourself — their life?

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