An Empty Seat on Thanksgiving

by Alejandro Magallanes

I love the holidays. To me, the holidays are all about family. I have my wife, my two little boys and a baby girl who will be arriving before Christmas. I am excited! This is one of my favorite times of the year.

I think that’s why I am having a difficult time processing our city’s traffic problems. As a member of the Safe Streets Committee, I don’t receive these traffic accidents in the same way the city of Los Angeles does: as bits of data, collected and organized to label us one of the most dangerous cities in the High Injury Network. No, I process our traffic information much differently.

I see an empty chair at Thanksgiving dinner, a seat in which 17-year-old Christine Martinez would be sitting had she not been violently ejected from the rolling SUV that killed her. I imagine her family having a very difficult time being thankful during this holiday season.

I see the surviving teenagers’ parents holding hands, deep in prayer, thankful that their children survived the crash, but distressed about how Christine’s death is going to impact their young souls. Will their kids suffer from “survivor’s guilt”? Will there be lawsuits prolonging and drawing out this traumatic incident? How will that community respond to the accident? With blame? Criticism? Will their children be able to handle all of this?

I am not writing this to evoke sympathy from you or to play on your emotions; I am letting you know that these traffic accidents do not hurt just the ones who get carried off in an ambulance. Traffic collisions devastate an entire community of family and friends. This recent teenage traffic death will be in the news for a week, but the family will be suffering for the years to come. Maybe, if we recognize the lasting impact that these accidents have on the lives of the people we love, we will change the way we drive our vehicles in this town.

Previously, the Safe Streets Committee met with Nat Gale, a transportation planner and engineer. (More can be found at https://m.facebook.com/Sunland-Tujunga-Safe-Streets-1093859640706916/?re f=bookmarks. ) He is the lead coordinator of Vision Zero and is well-educated on issues of traffic collisions and deaths. Do you know that the leading cause of death for kids between the ages 5 and 14 is traffic collisions? Nat emphasized that these deaths were collisions, not accidents. In other words, they can be avoided. “The fact is you are driving a weapon,” Nat explained. “You are driving a death machine.” Our recent tragedies are evidence of this.

Soon, I will discuss the changes that will be coming from Vision Zero starting in January 2018. Until then, please be safe. Think about the lives you touch. Your car may feel like your own personal space, but the fact is that you’re sharing the road with millions of other Angelenos who want to make it home for the holidays.

The photos on this page exhibit only a few of the traffic collisions our community has suffered recently. Several of these collisions resulted in fatalities. Please be the change you wish to see in this city. Watch your speed. Share the road. Like us on Facebook: Sunland-Tujunga Safe Streets.

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