There were a total of 260 people who died on Los Angeles roadways in 2016. More than half of those were pedestrians or bicyclists. Vision Zero is an ambitious road safety project that’s being implemented in Los Angeles with the goal of zero traffic fatalities by 2025.
A system approach to improving traffic safety
The Vision Zero idea came out of Sweden in 1997, and it has been remarkably successful. It’s an injury and fatality reduction strategy as opposed to a collision reduction strategy. Under Vision Zero, loss of life is not an acceptable compromise for increased mobility. Rather than a driver approach, the Vision Zero focuses on a system approach to improving traffic and personal safety. Vision Zero targets primary responsibility for accidents on traffic system and infrastructure design, vehicle safety technology and enforcement of traffic laws. Sweden now has one of the lowest road death rates in the world at three out of every 100,000 people despite a significant increase in traffic volume. The rate in the United States is 12.3 of every 100,000. Surprisingly, pedestrian deaths in Sweden fell nearly 50 percent in five years.
Half of all traffic deaths are pedestrians and bicyclists
Vision Zero’s traffic safety study for Los Angeles revealed that a mere six percent of all of the city’s streets were the sites of almost 66 percent of all of the city’s pedestrian deaths. People who were walking or bicycling were only involved in 14 percent of all Los Angeles collisions, but they accounted for almost half of all traffic accident deaths. A pedestrian is 16 times more likely to get killed in a collision than a person driving or occupying a motor vehicle. More than 20 percent of all pedestrian and bicycle accident deaths involve hit-and-run drivers.
Los Angeles traffic studies have identified and prioritized 39 traffic corridors with high collision rates. Traffic speed is the lethal variable for the unprotected pedestrians and bicyclists. The U.S. Department of Transportation has determined that an increase in traffic speed from 20 mph to 40 mph increases the chances of a pedestrian death upon from 10 percent to 80 percent. The present plan is to reduce speed on those corridors with a goal of a 20 percent fatality reduction for the 2017 year. It requires a dramatic change in approach.
Failure to yield the right-of-way
Motorists who failed to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians are responsible for 26 percent of all pedestrian traffic crash deaths. Engineering modifications like giving pedestrians a head start into an intersection can operate to increase yielding by motorists at intersections with traffic control devices.
When pedestrian and bicycle crashes most frequently occur
New York City has also implemented Vision Zero, but a significant distinguishing factor between the two cities is the fact of Los Angles having a far more temperate climate. Accidents involving motorists hitting pedestrians in Los Angeles are far more common during winter months. Bicyclists are hit more often during the summer months. The highest number of collisions between motor vehicles and pedestrians occurred between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., but fatalities and serious injuries increased between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.
The ultimate goal
Many pedestrian and bicycle injuries and fatalities that are caused by collisions with motor vehicles occur at locations that simply haven’t been taken into consideration for pedestrian and bicyclist safety. With a better understanding of why pedestrians and bicyclists are involved in collisions with motor vehicles, appropriate safety and infrastructure improvements are being implemented as part of Vision Zero. With the goal of a 20 percent reduction in traffic deaths in 2017, a 50 percent reduction is envisioned for 2020, and a 100 percent reduction is the goal for 2025. These targets are necessary for realization of the long-term vision of minimal or no injuries or deaths of pedestrians or bicyclists in the future.
Every day millions of people go to work, school, shopping and socializing in Los Angeles. Safety is the top priority of Vision Zero. Los Angeles has made a long-term commitment for better and safer streets, traffic safety, enacting and enforcing new traffic laws, all for the protection of pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.