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Wed, Jul

Making Our Streets Safer for Everyone

LOS ANGELES

OP/ED - It’s good thing cars are built with more safety features because many roads in Los Angeles are not safe. 2022 was one of the deadliest years for traffic fatalities in Los Angeles, 312 people died in fatal crashes in the city. This is a 30% increase since 2020!

If the city is really committed to getting more cars off the road, then one of the areas of focus really needs to be on making our neighborhoods safer for pedestrians and bicyclists as well as drivers who do drive safely. Just as we improve the safety on our mass transit – our roads need to be made safer, too.

Los Angeles is not alone in the problems, but we unfortunately rank very high in national traffic fatalities, and these are the top five reasons for accidents in Los Angeles:

  • Distracted driving
  • Speeding
  • Moving violations
  • Reckless driving
  • Driving under the influence

According to the US Department of Transportation, 81% of fatal urban crashes are on straight roads; distracted Driving is the #1 reason for fatalities; between 2018 to 2022, the number of deadly accidents has increased by more than 16%.

Every district in Los Angeles, has those long wide roads where some drivers are traveling 15-30 miles over the speed limit and for several years due to staff shortages and other priorities the number of police officers on our roads has visibly decreased. I try to avoid using La Cienega, Pico and Venice after 6:00 pm on most days.

In addition to adding speed cameras and a more visible police presence there is a national trend to improve safety on our roads by using Traffic Calming. This is the combination of mainly physical measures that reduce the negative effects of motor vehicle use, alter driver behavior, and improve conditions for non-motorized street users.

The Institute of Transportation Engineers defines traffic calming as the combination of measures that reduce the negative effects of motor vehicle use, alter driver behavior, and improve conditions for non-motorized street users. Traffic calming consists of physical design and other measures put in place on existing roads to reduce vehicle speeds and improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists.

For example, vertical deflections (speed humps, speed tables, and raised intersections), horizontal shifts, and roadway narrowing are intended to reduce speed and enhance the street environment for non-motorists. Closures that obstruct traffic movements in one or more directions, such as median barriers, are intended to reduce cut-through traffic. Traffic calming measures can be implemented at an intersection, street, neighborhood, or area-wide level.

“Road diets” are one approach to traffic calming. Road diets involve a reduction in the width or number of vehicular travel lanes and reallocate that space for other uses such as pedestrian crossing islands, left turn lanes, bicycle lanes, or parking. Safety and operational benefits for vehicles and pedestrians include:

  • decreasing vehicle travel lanes for pedestrians to cross,
  • providing room for a pedestrian crossing median,
  • improving safety for bicyclists when bicycle lanes are added,
  • providing an opportunity for on-street parking (which also serves as a buffer between pedestrians and vehicles),
  • reducing rear-end and side-swipe crashes,
  • improving speed limit compliance, and
  • decreasing crash severity when crashes do occur.

Implementation of traffic calming measures can reduce traffic speed, reduce motor-vehicle collisions, and improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists. These measures have also been proven to increase pedestrian and bicycling activity.

As a City Council member, I will prioritize public safety and improving safety on our streets is just one of the ways to improve public safety. The rise in traffic fatalities must not continue. 

(Grace Yoo is a community advocate, attorney, neighborhood councilmember, former L.A. City Commissioner and a declared candidate for Los Angeles City Council District 10.)

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