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The Ride: LA has a traffic fatality epidemic, and a plan to end it




Traffic fatalities in Los Angeles have increased dramatically, and the majority involve pedestrians and bike riders.
Traffic fatalities in Los Angeles have increased dramatically, and the majority involve pedestrians and bike riders.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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Here's an sad statistic: LA leads the nation in per capita traffic deaths.

And in a city where supposedly no one ever walks, more than half of the 260 people who died on LA streets last year were either pedestrians or bike riders.

And it gets worse. Those 260 deaths are a dramatic increase over the previous year.

That despite Mayor Eric Garcetti's announcement in 2015 that the city had embarked on a plan to eliminate all traffic fatalities.

Officials say the spike in traffic deaths is part of a nationwide trend. They blame an improving economy and lower gas prices for putting more people on the roads. But they say the biggest problem - drivers just going too fast.

The so-called Vision Zero Action Plan attempts to address the problem by focusing on areas with the highest rates of injury and death. And it calls for a sea change in road engineering, prioritizing safety rather than promoting the fastest movement through the city.

The engineering strategies include:

New turn signals with dedicated left turn lanes. This helps separate people walking from drivers turning, a big cause of pedestrian injuries.

Road diets: Four lane roads are reduced to two lanes with a center turning lane, which also reduces the risk to people walking and biking.

Strict enforcement: Speed is a major factor. A pedestrian hit by a car going 20 mph has an 80% chance of survival. If the car is going 40 mph, the survival chance falls to only 10%.

The city currently has nine projects in the works, and has set a goal of reducing fatalities by 20% this year over last.

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