Response to Venice Boardwalk Crash Should Be Model, Not Outlier

Screen grab of the top picture of Alice Gruppioni and her husband Christian Casadei from ##http://www.leggo.it/FotoGallery_IMG/HIGH/20130804_51704_alice_gruppioni.jpg##Leggo##, a newspaper in Italy.

Saturday in the late afternoona, Nathan Lewis Campbell got in his car and created carnage on the Venice Boardwalk. The 38-year-old native of Colorado drove on to the boardwalk and swerved through the area injuring dozens and killing Italian Alice Gruppioni, a 32 year old newly waling barefoot on the beach next to her husband. They were on their honeymoon.

Later, Campbell abandoned his car and sauntered into a Santa Monica Police Station to turn himself in. The psychopath’s bail is set at $1 million and he is being held on “suspicion of murder.” Unlike a recent high-profile hit and run in Gardena, Campbell is unlikely to be released on his own recognizance.

There are literally hundreds of stories covering this crash circulating the Internet, from CNN to the L.A. Times, from ABC to Yo Venice!, from CBS to Leggo in Italy.

All of the major power players are giving an appropriate response. Local Council Member Mike Bonin and Mayor Eric Garcetti are promising an infrastructure improvement, the media is treating the case with the solemness it deserves, the LAPD is talking about murder and not “accidents.”

The reaction to this devastating crash should become the template for how the city and those in power react to a crash of any sort, but especially a hit and run crash. Whether it be state law, a culture of lawlessness on the streets, a lack of serious investigation  by the LAPD, a lack of urgency by the City Attorney or District Attorney, poor road design, or any of another thousand reasons, the City of Los Angeles is not a safe place to walk and ride a bicycle. At least, it’s not as safe as it could and should be.

If the city truly wants to honor the memory of Alice Gruppioni, it should make a point that the response to this weekend’s tragedy becomes the standard response, and not an outlier.

Each case of a hit and run or serious car crash should bring a strong police response. The police department’s job is not to make excuses for dangerous driving. Too often, unless the driver at fault runs or is drunk, deadly and destructive crashes are shrugged off as “just an accident.” This “these things happen” attitude has to go.

The city should push for changes to state law so that the penalties for a hit and run crash are at least as strong as those for a DUI. If someone hits someone with their car and fleas, they shouldn’t be allowed to drive again and should face jail time. Current state law, which has much lighter sentences for hit and run than it does DUI, encourage drunk drivers to leave the scene of a crash.

The City Attorney and District Attorney should have a zero tolerance policy for hit and run crashes and other forms of deadly and dangerous driving.

As Bonin, Garcetti, and city staff are now taking a second look at the safety design of the Venice Boardwalk, the city should do the same every time there is a major crash. When a pedestrian is hit at an intersection with an unmarked crosswalk, the city should consider putting in a crosswalk. When a local residential street is so wide and straight it encourages faster driving than the neighborhood can support, the city should look at how to calm traffic.

And last, the City Council and Mayor’s Office should keep on top of city departments to make certain they are diligently working on making our streets as safe as they can be. The Public Safety Committee of the City Council is off to a good start, but that’s all it is. A good start.

  • This such a sad story. Prayers and thoughts out to the family.

  • Erik Griswold

    Remember well that as of July 26th, 8 days prior to this latest massacre, the LAPD still referred to Hit-And-Runs as “accidents”: And it is their insistence on being able to patrol the boardwalk with full-size road-vehicles that kept barriers from being installed at Venice Beach.

    http://la.streetsblog.org/2013/08/02/public-safety-committee-acknowledges-the-hit-and-run-crisis-lapd-not-so-much/

  • Dennis Hindman

    We are missing sufficient safety standards for pedestrians or bicyclists. Waiting for a large attention getting incident to happen is not good enough. Why not look to the countries with the lowest rate of injuries and deaths for pedestrians or bicyclists to see how this was accomplish?

    In the U.S. you are five times more likely to be killed riding a bicycle per 100 million km cycled than in the Netherlands and six times more likely to be killed as a pedestrian per 100 million km walked than in the Netherlands. This is not by chance, there was a reduction in deaths for pedestrians and cyclists by designing safer roads for all users.

    Its well known that the Netherlands provides barrier protected cycle tracks along most of the streets that have a lot of motor vehicle traffic. But they also usually have no left or right signals at major intersections to reduce the odds of a motor vehicle from turning when a motorist, pedestrian or cyclist is going straight through an intersection. This has been done at major intersection along the Orange Line to reduce collisions with the buses, but a side benefit is that this makes it much less stressful for a pedestrian or cyclist moving from the mixed use path into the crosswalk while also greatly reduces the odds of getting hit by a motor vehicle.

    Another standard in the Netherlands is that when there are more than two motor vehicle travel lanes there must be either a median for pedestrians, or a signal installed to cross the street. If there is more than four motor vehicle lanes, then there has to be a signal installed to enable pedestrians to cross the street. What’s the standard in the U.S.? There simply isn’t one for this. Deciding when to improve the safety in the U.S. seems to be based on how many people were injured or killed first before proceeding.

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