At any time, 16% of American drivers are uninsured. While most people would like to believe they’re good drivers, the majority still want to be covered in case an accident should occur. It seems, though, that drivers in some areas seem to be more careful than others. Recent statistics show that Los Angeles, in particular, has had more than its fair share of car accidents in recent memory. And despite a high-profile campaign put forth by the mayor and other city leaders to reduce fatal crashes, the number of those killed in L.A. accidents has increased by nearly 43% in the last year alone.
Mayor Eric Garcetti announced his Vision Zero policy in 2016, which was put in place to address specific areas throughout the city that posed the most danger for drivers. Some corridors have even been slated for big overhauls that are intended to make cars slow down and therefore reduce the number of accidents and fatalities. With this policy, Mayor Garcetti aimed to reduce traffic deaths by 20% at 2017’s end. Although similar policies have had great success in other cities, the number of fatal crashes spiked last year — and the data doesn’t look great for 2017, either.
In 2016, 260 people were killed in L.A. crashes, an increase that represents a national trend. Throughout the country last year, 40,200 people died in car accidents, a 6% national increase from the previous year. And though we’re only four months into 2017, crash fatalities are 22% higher than they were during that same period last year.
Still, in New York City, which has a policy similar to L.A.’s Vision Zero, they saw a drop in fatal crashes for the third year in a row. So why are more L.A. residents dying in traffic?
L.A. Transportation Department general manager, Seleta Reynolds, says that one reason could be simply because more residents are driving. There are around 214 million licensed drivers throughout the U.S., but the low gas prices have inspired drivers to forgo public transportation for their own vehicles. Both sales and registrations of cars have recently increased throughout the Southern California area.
In addition, many L.A. neighborhoods have a higher number of cyclists and pedestrians. Worldwide, more than 1 billion bicycles are owned and used — double the number of cars on the road — so it’s not surprising that health-conscious Los Angeles would have more residents biking and walking.
According to data used in a city analysis, pedestrians are involved in only 14% of all crashes but represent nearly half of the fatalities in traffic accidents. In fact, fatal crashes involving pedestrians spiked by 58% from January to mid-March of 2015 through the same time this year.
It seems that L.A. drivers are driving at higher speeds, too. Reynolds noted that, although the LAPD is issuing significantly fewer speeding tickets these days, that doesn’t mean that drivers have slowed down. There’s a state law that keeps officers from using radar to catch speed demons until a traffic study is performed on a given area. Reynolds feels that the increase in pedestrian deaths is due to speeding vehicles that officers aren’t able to catch.
Whatever the reasons, the results are shocking to city officials. The total number of traffic collisions in 2016 — 55,350, in all — rose by 7% from the previous year. Those collisions include driver and pedestrian or cyclist crashes, as well as hit-and-runs, DUI-related accidents, and regular-old fender benders.
Proponents of Vision Zero say that additional resources and financing are required to make a difference on L.A. streets. But the policy is going head-to-head against others that need city funding. During this fiscal year, the policy received $3.48 million from the city, and Reynolds told a City Council panel that without additional funds, the mayor won’t be likely to meet his 2017 goal.
Still, Mayor Garcetti is “committed to increasing the budget to make our streets safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists,” according to a statement made by his spokesperson, George Kivork. Additional details may emerge when the city’s budget is released later this month.