These traffic fatality numbers follow a general upward trend that’s been in place for years. 2017’s latest numbers show that crash fatalities are actually 22 percent higher than in 2016.
LA’s Mayor Eric Garcetti was hoping to see a decrease of 20 percent in traffic fatalities by the end of 2017. This goal was set as a part of his LA Vision Zero program. If the numbers continue on this upward trend, LA lawmakers may have to think differently about traffic safety regulation.
Despite Vision Zero’s poor showing in LA, this Swedish-based group has had a positive effect on many other major cities. For example, Vision Zero’s initiatives in NYC have led to three years of declining traffic fatalities. Indeed, NYC’s Mayor Bill de Blasio said that 2016 saw the lowest rates of traffic fatalities in New York’s modern history.
So, what’s driving LA’s epidemic of fatal traffic accidents? Seleta Reynolds, who works at the LA Transportation Department, said that this increase in traffic deaths might reflect the increase in registered vehicles in California. Reynolds pointed out that car sales and registrations rose tremendously in Southern California in 2016 due to a robust economy.
Of course, traffic deaths have greatly increased across America thanks to more distractions while driving, especially mobile devices. Numerous scientific studies have shown that texting while driving is just a dangerous as driving drunk, but texting and driving is still extremely common across America.
Reynolds also noted that more and more people are trying to live healthier lifestyles in LA. This has led more people to bike or walk around the city, which, coupled with more drivers and more distractions, has led to the increase in pedestrian deaths.
Members of the LA Transportation Department are now pushing for the LA Police Department (LAPD) to get more aggressive handing out speeding tickets. If all drivers were to reduce their overall speed levels, there would be fewer fatal car crashes.
Reynolds pointed out that a pedestrian struck by a car going 20 mph has a 10 percent chance of being killed. However, a pedestrian struck by a car going 40 mph has an 80 percent chance of dying.
LA city leaders are particularly concerned about the rise in pedestrian fatalities. Since 2015, pedestrian fatalities rose to an astonishing 58 percent, despite the fact that pedestrians are only involved in 14 percent of total crashes.
The LAPD said it wants to hand out more speeding tickets, but that it’s being held back by state laws. LAPD officers used to hand out around 100,000 speeding tickets in 2010, but that number has gone down to 17,000 in 2015. Under current state law, California police officers can only use speeding radars after extensive traffic testing has been conducted.
Vision Zero advocates claim the program needs more funding to redesign many of LA’s streets for optimal safety. Although Vision Zero has received $3.48 million in city funding, supporters say that’s not enough to meet the mayor’s goal of a 20 percent reduction in traffic fatalities by the end of 2017.
The latest data released by Vision Zero showed that the least safe roads in the city include Sepulveda Boulevard, Temple Street, and Venice Boulevard. Members of Vision Zero’s team believe by re-designing these roads they can reduce a majority of traffic fatalities by the end of the year.
According to the National Safety Council, 40,200 Americans died in car-related crashes in 2016. That’s a 6 percent increase since 2015.