Paint Is Not Protection: 58-year-old Woman Killed in Horrific Hit-and-Run at Vermont and 98th
Paint and signage suggesting a pedestrian can expect a safe crossing where drivers regularly hit well above 40 miles an hour is not just negligence, it's criminal. Especially at night.
The violence of the security footage posted by Univisión takes your breath away [warning: it is very disturbing].
The 58-year-old woman is almost to the median at 98th and Vermont when she realizes the driver speeding toward her has no intention of honoring the crosswalk or her life. Her terror is palpable. She flails an arm, trying to keep her balance as she starts to backpedal. But it’s too late and she has nowhere to go – another car is coming up quickly behind her.
The white vehicle slams into her and whisks her out of frame.
The driver never stopped.
It’s absolutely horrifying to watch.
If you can bring yourself to watch it a second time, you might notice how quickly other cars are whizzing in and out of frame, making it hard to believe she was able to get as close to the median as she did.
That section of Vermont moves fast.
The six-lane thoroughfare was once home to the F Line – streetcars that ran along Vermont between 116th and King Blvd. through the mid 1950s. It is so wide south of Manchester, in fact, that some of the median strips were turned into a mini-park several years ago.
And yet, there are few stop lights between Century and Manchester to slow down speeding motorists.
The ones at Colden and 92nd are at T-intersections. They were installed to assist drivers attempting to safely cross Vermont’s six lanes, meaning they are unlikely to turn red unless triggered by a vehicle. And while there is a stoplight at a four-way intersection at 88th, it is also not likely to be red unless a car is present on that side street. [Pedestrians can also cross at those spots, but their needs were not the ones being prioritized, as evidenced by the lack of signalized crosswalks along the rest of the corridor.]
Motorists essentially have a green light to gun it for a full, unfettered mile.
For pedestrians (especially those who are older, are disabled, or have children in tow), cyclists, and the occasional person on horseback, it is never not harrowing to try to cross that section of Vermont. Even when there is not much traffic, it is often moving at such a speed and can be so hard gauge (given the width of the avenue), that trying to cross always leaves you feeling like you’re taking your life into your hands.
For Anna Graves, the woman killed that night, that sadly turns out to have been the case. Car trouble put her on the bus this past Tuesday, according to a report by KTLA. She got off at her stop around 11 p.m., likely too concerned about her safety and too tired from the long day at one of her two jobs to walk an extra quarter-mile north to Colden or south to Century to be able to cross with a light. Putting her faith in the cheery crosswalk paint and signage, she stepped into the dark street, heading for home.
The car that hit Ms. Graves did not appear to decelerate, meaning the driver likely didn’t even see her until just before impact. The one in the adjacent lane did not appear to decelerate or veer aside until the last moment, either.
Yet it is unlikely anything will change at that corner.
That section of Vermont is not on the High-Injury Network, the network of streets with a high concentration of severe injuries and deaths that the Department of Transportation (LADOT) uses as a guide for where to direct its resources. As is often the case in South L.A., the lack of pedestrian fatalities there is not because people aren’t in danger. It’s that people likely drive, in part, because it is too intimidating to try to move back and forth across Vermont without the protection of a multi-ton vehicle. But LADOT has yet to incorporate that kind of data into its calculations (or attempt to capture the number of unreported incidents that happen along Vermont) to get a fuller picture of how the street works.
And because the county controls one side of Vermont (south of Manchester) and the city controls the other, coordinating fixes has not always gone smoothly. When a bike lane went in on the northbound side six years ago, for example, the county declined to follow suit, stenciling sharrows instead. It took another five years for the county to finally change its mind.
But even if this part of Vermont were on LADOT’s radar, it is unlikely that the corridor would get a signalized crosswalk.
Thus far, LADOT has preferred to “experiment” with low-cost fixes for crosswalks, like safety paddles and some double striped lines (above). And even then, LADOT has backtracked on some of the fixes aimed at slowing streets down around South L.A., thanks to the backlash safety improvements provoked in wealthier communities.
All of which is tremendously disheartening.
It is hard know to that other families are destined to experience the kind of heartbreak Ms. Graves’ family has because paint and a few brightly colored signs on a street where drivers regularly fly at well above 40 mph is the best protection we are willing to offer them.
Police are seeking an older white sedan (possibly a Mercedes CLK Coupe) with a broken mirror and damage on its right side. Anyone with information about the case can call 310-642-3939.