by Alejandro Magallanes
It’s Saturday morning and I’m driving down Foothill Boulevard. I’ve just left the Verdugo Hills YMCA with my two boys, ages 5 and 3. Pharell’s song “Happy” is playing on my mp3 player for the gazillionth time, partly because it makes my boys happy, partly because it keeps me happy. I’m deep in thought when a woman casually drives out of the Sunland-Tujunga Library parking lot, less than one second away from where I will soon be.
I hit the brakes and turn to my left. There’s a car sitting in the median, which gives me one last option – drive into the opposing lanes of traffic. Split-second decision, no cars, so I go for it. My car comes to a halt. All the cars around me freeze. “What the heck?!” I scream in anger.
There is no crash. No crunching of metal and plastic. My boys! I turn back to look at them. They are both safe and secure in their car seats. They are a bit shaken up, but they are okay, and I am amazed that I shouted the word “heck” instead of any other slew of four-letter words I know. Everyone is okay. We are all okay.
I take a deep breath and continue driving. Was I in a hurry? No. Was I distracted? No. But indeed, I did find this near car wreck to be very peculiar. Why was it peculiar? Because I happened to be on my way to my first Sunland-Tujunga Safe Streets Committee meeting.
On August 27, six members of our community, including myself, met in our beloved city to discuss issues, concerns and solutions to our city’s traffic problems. We discussed Vision Zero, a Los Angeles citywide effort to create safer streets for our most vulnerable road users: children, older adults, people walking and people bicycling.
Through the Vision Zero initiative, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) has already identified the High Injury Network, made up of the most dangerous streets in Los Angeles. Our Foothill Boulevard running through Tujunga and Sunland is one of them. Ouch. However, our committee sees this as being a major benefit to our community.
Out of this initiative (directed by Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti), our city will be given special attention and funding to help regulate our on-going traffic problems. Some of these solutions may include a soon-to-beupdated street survey, more traffic enforcement, traffic engineering improvements and an educational campaign to change driving behavior.
As a STNC-appointed group, the Safe Streets Committee pledges to bring positive and responsible attention to our streets. We will be hosting events to keep Foothill Boulevard safe and clean, we will be conducting surveys to acquire feedback and suggestions from you, our community members, and as delegates of our community, we will be reaching out to bring into our city support from civil engineers, the media and elected officials. We invite you to join us in all of our future ventures.
The morning of my accident, I was deep in thought. I was contemplating whether I was responsible enough to be a member of the Safe Streets Committee. Consequently, I was watching my speed. I was aware of my surroundings. That is the reason I did not crash. My safe speed allowed me time to react. If I were going any faster, the inertia of my car would have plowed me into someone. It’s that simple.
You can help keep our streets safe today. I know you are aware that your child’s day care closes in five minutes, and you are 15 minutes away. I know you are aware that you should have used the restroom before you left work, and now you’re rushing home before you have an accident. As a Sunland-Tujunga Safe Streets Committee member, I plead with you to be aware of speedometer on your dashboard. Driving the speed limit will allow you time to react. It will keep you and your fellow citizens safe today.
Please visit visionzero.lacity.org for more info on Vision Zero and High Injury Network (