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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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%.
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.
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.
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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