In order to address Los Angeles’ high number of traffic fatalities, the Department of Transportation (LADOT) has teamed up with the global road safety group known as Vision Zero. LA authorities hope that this project will reduce the number of traffic fatalities by 20 percent in 2017.This will undoubtedly reduce the number of personal injury, hit and run, and wrongful death lawsuits in LA as well.
Vision Zero was founded in Sweden and has since spread to numerous major U.S. cities. As one law firm put it, Vision Zero Los Angeles “is an ambitious road safety project that’s being implemented in Los Angeles with the goal of zero traffic fatalities by 2025.” The staff at Vision Zero does this by working closely with law enforcement, local government agencies, and schools to promote safe driving habits.
Los Angeles officially announced it was teaming up with Vision Zero in August of 2015. That’s when Mayor Eric Garcetti put Executive Order No. 10 into effect. This order announced the city’s partnership with Vision Zero and ordered various agencies to analyze and implement safety measure on all of LA’s streets. This order also announced the goal of reducing traffic fatalities by 20 percent in 2017 and totally eliminating them by 2025.
Although Vision Zero admits that making mistakes is a part of being human, Vision Zero strongly believes it’s unacceptable for any driver’s mistake to result in the death of a pedestrian. Actions can be taken to prevent these tragedies, and Vision Zero believes it can make even the busiest cities 100 percent safe for pedestrians.
The main issue Vision Zero observes in all fatal car crashes is speeding. Researchers have shown that a pedestrian hit by a car going 40 miles per hour only has a 20 percent chance of surviving, whereas a pedestrian hit by a vehicle traveling 20 miles per hour has an 80 percent chance of surviving. This fact, along numerous others, is a major reason why Vision Zero emphasizes speeding restrictions.
A major part of Vision Zero’s program is keeping a close eye on statistics from whatever city it’s working with. In the case of Los Angeles, Vision Zero releases a detailed Safety Study every year detailing both the progress and the areas of traffic safety that need improvement.
Unfortunately for LA, there are still many problems related to traffic fatalities. Los Angeles currently has the highest transportation death rate in the USA. The latest collision death rate per 100,000 people put LA at the top, with a rate of 6.27. The second city on the list was Chicago at 5.34, followed by Portland with a score of 5.31.
Vision Zero’s study showed that pedestrians were 16 times more likely to die from a car crash than someone in a vehicle. Although people who are walking or bicycling in the city were involved in only 14 percent of total collisions, they represent 50 percent of all traffic deaths.
In terms of city finances, LA spends $280 million on collision fatalities annually, which comes to about $948 for each Los Angeles citizen every year. Some of the fees incurred by the city include property damage, emergency services, and medical expenses.
The most at-risk group in the city today is pedestrians. Vision Zero estimates the probability of dying from a car crash while walking through LA is as high as 3 percent. The second highest at-risk group includes motorcyclists at around 2 percent. Bicyclists come in third around 0.5 percent, and car drivers come in last with less than 0.5 percent. Between 2009-2013, 83 percent of people involved in collisions were in cars, but over 44 percent of those killed in collisions were pedestrians.
Vision Zero’s data also revealed that older residents are far more likely to be killed by a car crash than younger people. Although older residents are around 11 percent of the total Los Angeles population, around 26 percent of all pedestrian fatalities are older residents. In particular, Vision Zero found that men over the age of 75 were the most at-risk demographic in the entire city.
While these numbers are quite staggering, Vision Zero still believes it can meet its goal for 2025. Vision Zero points out how it significantly reduced collision deaths in New York City, and it believes the same can be done in LA if smart policies are put into place soon.
First off, Vision Zero wants city officials to put safety measures in some of the city’s most dangerous locations. A few of these locations include the area between Westwood Boulevard and Le Conte Avenue and streets in Westwood Village. These and a few other streets are a part of the “high injury network” the LADOT compiled shortly after joining forces with Vision Zero. This “high injury network” is just 6 percent of the total streets in the city, however 65 percent of traffic fatalities occur here.
A few specific plans the LADOT announced it would put into place in these areas include curb extensions, safe bike lanes, and pedestrian medians. The LADOT is already working with local governments and community groups to implement these changes as quickly as possible.
Brian Oh, who is the LADOT’s transportation planning associate, told reporters he has no idea how much these plans will cost at the moment. Oh’s first priority is working with locals to develop effective and convenient changes that will make their communities safer.
A few other initiatives LADOT plans to work on in the future include revamping the city’s streetlamps and stoplights. Also, LADOT is working with LA’s Department of Motor Vehicles to include information on Vision Zero in new publications. This info will include updated statistics on fatalities, more stringent warnings against speeding, and a clear layout of Vision First’s long-term goals.
The assistant director of the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, Madeline Brozen, recently told the press that the best way to eliminate traffic fatalities in the city is to enforce stricter penalties for speeding. Brozen told reporters, “The speed a car is traveling determines whether you’re going to live or die if you get hit.” She also said she observed first-hand how many people driving down side streets often treat them as if they were freeways. Brozen suggested the LADOT lower speed limits in certain areas and/or reconfigure certain street’s designs to encourage drivers to slow down.
Although LA is the worst offender for traffic fatalities in the USA, the LADOT and Vision Zero are committed to making this project a success. As both groups get more aggressive in 2017, they hope all pedestrians walking through the City of Angels will feel more confident and safe any time of day.