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Vision Zero

Die-In Rally Calls on Mayor Bass to End Record Traffic Deaths

336 people were killed in L.A. City traffic crashes in 2023 - the highest total in over 20 years. Safe streets advocates are urging the city to take Vision Zero seriously.

Saturday’s die-in protesting rising traffic violence. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog

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Last Saturday, more than a hundred people gathered for a die-in protest to draw attention to the rising toll of Angelenos killed in car crashes. 2023 saw a twenty-year high 336 deaths, eclipsing grim former records set in 2021 and 2022.

The Dying-In L.A. 2024 event was organized by Streets Are For Everyone (SAFE) in partnership with other livability advocacy organizations, including Move L.A., Street Racing Kills, Streets for All, and others. Sadly, a similar rally took place last year.

Lili Trujillo, Founder of Street Racing Kills, speaking at the die-in protest last Saturday

Street Racing Kills founder Lili Trujillo agonized that "growing traffic violence" is "100 percent preventable."

"I didn't know how many flowers there are in the streets for memorials, that are growing." Trujillo urged, "we see them in every corner almost we see a picture of someone... let's make a change - more flowers in our homes and not in our streets"

SAFE founder Damian Kevitt criticized the city's Vision Zero program, intended to eliminate traffic deaths, as "an abysmal failure."

"We aren't even remotely doing [Vision Zero], so let's stop trying to fool everyone by saying that we are." He emphasized SAFE doesn't oppose Vision Zero, but urges the city to step up and take its program more seriously.

SAFE founder Damian Kevitt lost his leg in a hit-and-run crash

"We need to yell and yell loud and don't stop yelling… for safer roads" Kevitt urged, leading the assembled crowd in chanting, "Mayor Bass, where's your plan?"

A handful of elected officials joined the rally. Assemblymember Laura Friedman recounted her long struggles to pass much-needed legislation to allow cities to cap speed limits and to install automated speed enforcement. "Let's slow people down," Friedman urged, "let's take back our streets!"

State Senator Anthony Portantino urged attendees to "turn tears... and pain... and tragedy... into action" for safer streets. L.A. City Councilmember Nithya Raman spoke about her success in implementing bikeways, funding for bus shelters, and more. Raman urged treating the "staggering rise in deaths" as the "public heath crisis that it is."

L.A. City Councilmember Nithya Raman at Saturday's die-in event
State Senator Anthony Portantino at Saturday's die-in event

Many speakers spoke strongly in support of passing Measure HLA, the Healthy Streets L.A. initiative that goes to L.A. voters on March 5. Measure HLA is the brainchild of Streets for All. "We don't have to live this way," SFA founder Michael Schneider urged. "Measure HLA is about saving lives."

"We [the city of L.A.] spend more than 20 million dollars a year settling lawsuits brought by victims of traffic violence," Schneider noted. "In some years, we pay out more in settlements than we pay in actually making our streets safer."

Despite the city's Vision Zero policy and executive directive mandating city departments - including Transportation (LADOT), LAPD, Public Works, and others - work together to eliminate traffic deaths, L.A. crash deaths keep rising. The L.A. Times recently noted that, for the first time in a decade traffic deaths exceeded homicides. 2023 saw 336 traffic deaths and 327 homicide deaths (which have declined for a couple years).

In calendar year 2023, 336 people were killed in traffic collisions in the city of Los Angeles. This represents a 20-year high, with 2021, 2022, and 2023 all breaking records. Graph via SAFE 2024 report Traffic Violence in Los Angeles

This month, SAFE issued its new Traffic Violence in L.A. report (again too similar to their alarming January 2023 assessment), recognizing grim trends among the rising carnage:

  • Pedestrians comprise a disproportionate 53 percent of 2023 fatalities. Ped deaths jumped by 13 percent over the prior year, and more than double (103%) what they were at the 2015 start of L.A. Vision Zero adoption.
  • It's not safe to be in a car: motor vehicle occupant deaths are up six percent from 2022 to 2023. Their total has increased 50 percent since 2015
  • Cyclist fatalities are up 20 percent since last year. Their total increased 50 percent since 2015.
2023 saw increases in hit-and-run and DUI deaths - via SAFE
  • 2023 saw increases in DUI (up 32 percent) and hit-and-run (up 26 percent) deaths. Deadly hit-and-run crashes have nearly doubled (up 96 percent) from 2020 to 2023
  • Unhoused Angelenos are killed in car crashes at increasing numbers, and at increasing rates.

The statistics are grim, and behind the rising numbers are tragic stories of deaths, serious injuries, and the suffering of victims' families. Below are just a few of the 2023 traffic violence deaths:

  • In April, a driver killed Ghadah Abduljabbar and hospitalized her 6-year-old daughter while they were walking in a Mid-Wilshire crosswalk near the daughter's school
  • In October, in L.A.-adjacent Malibu, a driver speeding at 104 mph killed four students: Niamh Rolston, Peyton Stewart, Asha Weir, and Deslyn Williams.
  • In October, cyclist Bob George was killed when a driver opened a car door, knocking him into the path of oncoming traffic on Fountain Avenue in East Hollywood.
  • In December, an LAPD officer pretending to be responding to an emergency by improperly deploying their lights and sirens and traveling at a high rate of speed, hit and killed pedestrian Luis Espinoza in Watts.
  • In late December, a speeding hit-and-run driver ran a red light and killed Trina Newman-Townsend as she was getting into her car in South L.A.

The 336 stories are too numerous to do justice to in this brief post.

Family members held signs recalling loved ones killed in traffic violence
Safe streets advocates dying-in on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall
Safe streets advocates die-in at L.A. City Hall

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