Hundreds of Fatal Car Accidents in L.A.: Can Vision Zero be saved in 2022?

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In 2021, Los Angeles saw the highest number of traffic collision deaths in almost 20 years. As transportation advocates continue to lose hope in local government initiative Vision Zero, the federal government’s National Roadway Safety Strategy plan pens similar goals but with the promise of a higher budget.

Recent reports show that traffic crashes killed 294 people in Los Angeles in 2021; a 24% increase from 2020 and 19% increase from 2019. About half of those killed were either pedestrians or bicyclists. Additionally, the Department of Transportation’s findings from 2021 data show that residents in L.A.’s underserved communities are disproportionately killed in traffic collisions.

According to L.A. officials, data suggests that the main culprits are cell phones and reckless driving, and as design trends make cars heavier and add distracting features, they become more dangerous.

What is Vision Zero?

Vision Zero is Mayor Eric Garcetti’s program with the ultimate goal of ending traffic deaths in L.A. by 2025. Implemented in 2015, the program follows the principle that traffic deaths can be avoided through engineering, enforcement, education, evaluation and community engagement.

When the program was launched, its first goal was to reduce traffic deaths by 20% by 2017. It failed to reach that benchmark, with traffic deaths dropping by just 5%.

Councilman Mike Bonin, chair of the transportation committee, called this uptick in traffic collision injuries and deaths a “public health crisis” and called for more funding, staff and advocacy. In 2017, Bonin faced a recall threat by residents after the “road diet” initiative (the removal of car lanes and addition of bike lanes) in Playa del Rey increased their commute times, resulting in a reversal of the initiative.

Head of L.A.’s Department of Transportation Seleta Reynolds said in 2017 that a 20% reduction in fatal collisions could require $80 million. This year, Vision Zero’s budget topped $61 million, which is the highest it’s ever been.

What is the National Roadway Safety Strategy?

Last month, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg released an infrastructure plan to redesign roads, reduce speeds and push for more vehicle safety features. The National Roadway Safety Strategy’s goal echoes that of Garcetti’s Vision Zero goal: zero roadway fatalities. This plan would be paid for with funds from the Biden administration’s $1-trillion infrastructure law.

The 42-page plan is based around a “safe-system approach” focused on safer people, safer roads, safer vehicles, safer speeds and post-crash care. This approach recognizes human error, resulting in a transportation system that is designed to minimize the chance for death or serious injury in vehicle crashes. These changes that would ultimately result from local government action would be paid for with federal funds.

Why does this matter for L.A. residents?

Local safety activists and government officials recognize that lack of funding for Vision Zero is a large component for the program’s little progress. With Buttigieg’s plan, it’s possible that the extra funding from the federal government could be the boost Garcetti’s program needs.

As we wait for government officials to take action to make L.A.’s streets safer following 2021’s shocking reports, we can all do our part to avoid traffic collisions by driving at safe speeds, staying off of our phones and never driving under the influence.

With 25 years of experience, Custodio & Dubey LLP’s skilled Los Angeles personal injury lawyers have recovered millions of dollars for individuals and families who were harmed in accidents that could have been prevented.

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