In 2019, the city of Los Angeles announced Vision Zero, an action plan to end fatalities in pedestrian-auto collisions in the city by 2025. The deadline is still four years away, but unfortunately, the goal seems a long way off. Pedestrians crossing the streets of L.A. are still in real danger of getting hit by a car and seriously injured or killed.
The same year that Vision Zero began, 134 people were killed in pedestrian accidents, a 55 percent increase compared to 2014. And it does not look as if pedestrian safety is going to noticeably improve anytime soon. Here are four observations by a journalist who covers pedestrian safety that may explain what is going on.
1. Safety improvement projects are not proactive
It seems that the city most often tries to improve safety at an intersection only after a pedestrian is killed there. And the changes are often minor, like repainting the stripes on the crosswalk. Proactively fixing problem intersections before a tragedy occurs might save lives.
2. Bureaucracy and lack of funds
Any time an official wants to improve an intersection, they must get funding approved at City Hall, and approval is not guaranteed. Also, the patchwork of agencies that control different streets in L.A. can make things even more difficult.
3. Lack of driver accountability
In the vast majority of fatal pedestrian accidents, the driver is not charged with a crime. While the driver is not always at fault, it is unlikely that the victim was to blame in almost every case. When the driver is charged, they often only face a misdemeanor.
4. L.A.’s car culture
The Los Angeles area, including here in Temecula, is known for being car-dependant. We lack the public transit and bicycling options of many other large metropolitan areas. Many residents tend to side with the motorist in a pedestrian accident, assuming that the pedestrian somehow caused the incident. This attitude often affects the juries in criminal and civil trials.
These challenges will likely continue to affect Vision Zero’s progress, though success is still possible. Until pedestrian deaths are a thing of the past, grieving families will still need legal advice and support to help them pursue their options for financial recovery.