Eyes on the Street: the Human Toll of Hit-and-Runs

A memorial for Anna Lynelle Graves stands at 98th and Vermont. Graves was killed there in a hit-and-run on August 20. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
A memorial for Anna Lynelle Graves stands at 98th and Vermont. Graves was killed there in a hit-and-run on August 20. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The city has recently begun installing halos at intersections where pedestrians have been killed, and a memorial sign now stands in Woodland Hills, commemorating the loss of 15-year-old cyclist Sebastian Montero.

The goal is to remind drivers of the fragility of the human body and to share the road with other users.

The traffic-related carnage from just last week – including a male pedestrian killed at 51st and Normandie, a male cyclist killed last night while in the bike lane on 92nd at Grape, and a police officer hit at 61st and San Pedro while conducting a traffic stop (he survived with minor injuries) – suggests those messages are unlikely to be heeded.

The symbols also belie the the violence with which these events snuff out and/or destroy lives.

The force with which a hit-and-run driver threw a pedestrian into a parked car.

At 51st and Normandie, a parked car's back end is a reminder of just how much damage a fast-moving multi-ton vehicle can do when it connects with a human body. The pedestrian struck by a hit-and-run driver flew several feet before landing on the vehicle, smashing the back window out and crushing the vehicle's shell. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
At 51st and Normandie, a parked car’s back end is a gruesome reminder of just how much damage a fast-moving multi-ton vehicle can do when it connects with a human body. The pedestrian struck by a hit-and-run driver flew several feet before landing on the vehicle, smashing the back window out and crushing the vehicle’s shell. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The distance a hit-and-run driver dragged 15-year-old Roberto Díaz.

roberto diaz dragged

The panic experienced by 58-year-old Anna Lynelle Graves when she realized a driver was barreling straight at her at 98th and Vermont.

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 Lynelle 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.

The callousness with which Luis Raya-Flores drove off, leaving Gabriel López, a father of five, for dead in Boyle Heights.

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23-year-old Luis Raya-Flores hit a cyclist head on when he lost control of his vehicle and crossed over the center line. Instead of stopping to render aid, he drove around the man’s shattered body and bicycle. [Screengrab of security footage]
Or the pain that lingers for families long after the events that took their loved ones’ lives have faded from the headlines.

Beverly Owens Addison holds the photo of her son, Frederick "Woon" Frazier, at a rally last July calling for the prosecution of the woman who left him to die in the street in April of 2018. Charges against driver Mariah Banks were finally filed this week, on April 3. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Beverly Owens Addison holds the photo of her son, Frederick “Woon” Frazier, at a rally calling for the prosecution of the woman who left him to die in the street in April of 2018. The case against driver Mariah Kandise Banks is only now beginning to make its way through the court system. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Photos, flowers, and candles left at the scene where Graves was run down offer a reminder of how much she was loved.

Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
“Mom, you are a true angel.” Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

She had lived just two blocks away and was on her way home from one of her two jobs when she was hit in a crosswalk.

Graves' daughter and friends left mementos at the site where she was killed. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Graves’ daughter and friends left mementos at the site where she was killed. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Graves’ family and friends taped their own sign up at 98th, asking drivers to “please watch out for pedestrians.”

But traffic continued to speed through the crosswalk at well above 35mph while I was there.

Family and friends posted home made signs hoping to pique drivers' consciousness. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Family and friends posted homemade signs appealing to speeding drivers. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Our streets are full of too many memorials.

Whether they be traffic-related or gun-related or manifest in the sheer number of folks living on the street, there’s too much evidence of how little we care for our fellow Angelenos, particularly those on the margins.

Too much evidence of how little we are willing to expend to make their lives even just the tiniest bit less fraught.

  • Dave

    What is anyone in power in any city willing to do that will really control motorist behavior? We need to take driving away from the authority of anyone who has to worry about someone voting for them, maybe. Can representative democracy deal with the car culture? One thing might help a very little–Oregon is talking about drivers licenses for undocumented residents; just maybe this might prevent some collisions from becoming hit and runs. I don’t see an American politician with the spine to attack this directly. Legalize car theft, damn it!

  • I think it might help a bit if we started referring to all hit and run as hit and run murder. That is what it is. Leaving someone to die is murder.

  • Brad the Tortoise

    I believe California allows all adults to be eligible for a driver license regardless of documentation status. As for how that has affected hit-and-run statistics, here’s an excerpt from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s research brief on Hit-and-Run Crashes:

    Another legislative action out of California has been shown to decrease the rate of hit-and-run collisions. Lueders, Hainmueller, and Lawrence (2017) analyzed the rates of hit-and-run crashes in every county in California before and after a law was put into place allowing undocumented immigrants to receive driver’s licenses. They found that while rates of collisions remained the same before and after the law change, rates of hit-and-run crashes decreased. The decrease was most pronounced in counties that had a higher number of people receiving the new licenses. One of the largest predictors of a driver’s decision to leave the scene is not having a valid license (MacLeod et al., 2012; Solnick & Hemenway, 1995), so this law removed an incentive for some drivers to flee.

    The full brief is located at https://aaafoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/18-0058_Hit-and-Run-Brief_FINALv2.pdf#targetText=There%20were%20an%20estimated%20737%2C100,recorded%20(NHTSA%2C%202017). See Page 7 for the excerpt.

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Beverly Owens Addison holds the photo of her son, Frederick "Woon" Frazier, at a rally last July calling for the prosecution of the woman who left him to die in the street in April of 2018. Charges against driver Mariah Banks were finally filed this week, on April 3. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

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