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 intersection at 98th and Vermont where 58-year-old Anna Graves was killed Tuesday night. [Source: Google maps]
The intersection at 98th and Vermont where 58-year-old Anna Graves was killed Tuesday night. [Source: Google maps]

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.

Anna Graves tries to backpedal moments before she is hit, but another car is coming up fast behind her. Screengrab from security footage posted by Univisión.
Anna Graves, 58, tries to backpedal moments before she is hit, but another car is coming up fast behind her. Screengrab from security footage aired by Univisión.

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.

Very 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.

Anna Graves would have had to walk nearly a quarter mile up to Colden or down to Century to be able to safely cross Vermont. She worked two jobs and was coming home at 11 p.m. She thought the paint would protect her. [Source: Google maps]
Anna Graves would have had to walk nearly a quarter mile up to Colden or down to Century to be able to safely cross Vermont with a light. The 58-year-old worked two jobs and was coming home at 11 p.m. She hoped that the crosswalk paint and signage (at the red pin drop) would be enough to protect her. It was not. [Source: Google maps]
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.

Paint and a few signs.
Paint and signage suggesting a pedestrian can expect a safe crossing is not just false advertising on a street where drivers regularly hit well above 40 miles an hour, it’s negligence. At night, it’s criminal. [Source: Google maps]
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.

Crosswalks in South LA are being upgraded along high priority corridors in pursuit of Vision Zero. The upgrades include reminders that stopping for pedestrians is the law. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Some crosswalks around South L.A. were upgraded along high priority corridors as part of Vision Zero – the effort to reduce traffic-related deaths to zero by 2025. The upgrades include reminders that stopping for pedestrians is the law. They’re not of much value in the dark. Or the daytime, really. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

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.

  • Nicholas L

    There is a Crime Map camera database shops should add their cameras to so these crimes can be solved a lot easier.

  • Seymour Butz

    disgusting, hopefully authorities will take the time to try and locate additional pics of the car allowing them to bring the driver to justice. RIP Ms. Graves

  • Dave

    Los Angeles, like many US cities, should legalize the vandalism and theft of cars until such time that drivers’ behavior proves that their property deserves protection.

  • sahra

    why are bike bros like this? i can’t even take this seriously.

  • Latoya Velazquez

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  • You don’t see this video and get angry and want to lash out? Even if you disagree, if you cannot understand the anger, you either lack empathy, or you didn’t watch the video.

  • sahra

    or, alternatively, i’m the author of this story

  • Dave

    I’m no “bike bro;” yes I am a cyclist but am a 64 year old compulsively law abiding one who grew up in LA and was both a rider and a pedestrian long ago enough to remember when driver behavior was vastly different. We are in a time when drivers in most US cities run red lights with impunity often killing other motorists as well as cyclists and pedestrians. We see speed limits treated as a joke, we see electronic distraction becoming almost a motorists’ norm. We also see ridiculously low penalties and mild, timid enforcement. Yes, I know police are stretched thin everywhere. I know that most people have no “choice” but to drive pretty much everywhere. It doesn’t make it okay that this “necessity” kills 30K+ souls a year and to me it doesn’t justify protecting a mere material possession with criminal penalties while it is used in a manner that shows essential disregard for every other life on the road. Yes, it is an idea that should be taken seriously. It is time to withhold the state’s protection from a piece of property that does such horrible, widespread damage. You are severely limited in your thinking if you believe otherwise.

  • LimestoneKid

    “Paint is not protection.”

    I’m going to have to start using that. My wife and I just completed a three week trip from NYC out to Banff and Edmonton in Alberta, Canada and the strips of white paint across the road meant different things depending where you were on the continent.

    Best place? Rapid City, SD

  • LimestoneKid

    Then that kinda makes you a douchebag for your initial response.

  • sahra

    Does it? Or does it speak to the significant privilege white bike bros have when calling for violence and destruction of property because they’re unhappy with a particular status quo. Perhaps if I saw said bike bros rallying for racial justice and equity with that same energy, it wouldn’t appear so jarring. But those bros instead tend to be the first ones to view anything having to do with equity and justice as a distraction from the “real” issues, like car centrism.

    TL;DR: pretty sure I’m not the douchebag, here. but thanks!

  • LimestoneKid

    Dude, you should probably adopt a policy of either not reading the comments on the articles you write or not responding to the comments. I’m actually surprised that it’s not Streetsblog policy. You’re coming off a little like Bret Stephens.

  • And that matters how? Like I said, you claim to not understand the response, (and make assumptions about the commentor), but it’s pretend, “why are people like this”….beacuse they’re angry…because they see this harm and nobody will do anything about it.

    Maybe you want to try to chanel this into more useful rhetoric, maybe you want to ignore it, maybe you want to confront it, but don’t pretend not to understand it.

  • sahra

    you’re chastising me based on your assumption about what i meant. which means we’re having two very different conversations.

  • sahra

    dude, you’re so right. i should sit down and shut up because i couldn’t possibly know what i was talking about after eight years of this. thanks for reminding me what my proper place is.

  • Dave

    So, what can stop this? This is getting worse everywhere but it is worse for poor residents–betcha Melrose Ave. and Rodeo Drive have better crossings. This needs triage–stop the bleeding first, worry about how you did it later. Drivers need something to fear to change their behavior even if policing goes over the top in distasteful ways. Treat ’em like a king–a Rodney King!

  • sahra

    dear god what the actual f*ck.

    i tried to head you off at the pass and let you know what you were saying was not OK and yet here we are – you gleefully calling for Rodney King-style beatings without having the faintest idea of what you’ve actually said. and me having been told i’m a douchebag who doesn’t get it for having seen this coming a mile away.

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