LA Focuses On Pedestrian Deaths

PEDESTRIAN DEATHSLA Focuses On Pedestrian Deaths

Los Angeles Mayor Gil Garcetti just released his much-anticipated Vision Zero 2525 plan, but it will be a tough sell in the car-centric and budget-conscious city.

 

The initiative has the ambitious goal to eliminate traffic fatalities in eight years. Mayor Garcetti unveiled the plan in 2015, and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, along with several other city agencies, spent most of 2016 conducting focus groups and collecting feedback on the idea. LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds stressed that Vision Zero is mostly about raising awareness and changing priorities from efficient traffic flow to overall roadway safety. The report also identifies 40 high-injury areas that are in dire need of physical changes; most of these locations are in south Los Angeles.

 

Ms. Reynolds also wants state lawmakers to redefine “jaywalking” and modify speed limit enforcement procedures.

 

Pedestrian-Auto Collisions in Los Angeles

 

Last year, there were almost as many pedestrian fatalities as all other kinds of traffic deaths (bicycle rider, motor vehicle occupant, and motorcycle rider) combined. In November 2016, voters desperate to do something about the carnage narrowly approved Measure M, which increases the sales tax to generate an estimated $120 billion over the next forty years to expand the MTA and take other measures to get people out of their cars.

 

Despite Mayor Garcetti’s aggressive backing, Measure M faced stiff opposition from South Bay residents because the plan prioritizes development in the northern and central parts of the city. As mentioned earlier, these are the areas where pedestrians are safer. Other voters objected to Measure M’s lack of oversight, and they predicted that the MTA’s cost overruns would derail the expansion project (no pun intended).

 

What Causes Fatal Pedestrian-Auto Crashes?

 

According to the laws of physics, speed multiplies the force in collisions between two objects, and that rule holds true in pedestrian-auto crashes. Consider the following:

 

Vehicle Speed Serious Injury Rate Fatality Rate
20mph 25 percent 15 percent
35mph 75 percent 65 percent
50mph 90 percent 75 percent

 

Speed also reduces reaction time. At 20mph, most cars travel three car lengths between the moment the driver sees a hazard and the moment the car safely stops; at 40mph, that distance triples to nine car lengths.

 

Reducing the posted speed limits may have some effect on vehicle velocity, but not very much. Especially, in the high-risk corridors, the city will probably need to take more aggressive traffic calming measures, like installing traffic circles, widening the crosswalks and sidewalks, lengthening red light times, and changing the streets from straight to curved. Drivers will not like these measures and the money will not last. Many motorists oppose “eyesore” construction projects and wider sidewalks cost about $8 million a mile.

 

Common Insurance Company Defenses

 

Statistically, most pedestrian-auto crashes occur outside marked crosswalks, and so insurance company lawyers usually invoke the sudden emergency defense. This doctrine excuses negligent driving if the driver:

 

  • Faced a Sudden Emergency: In the legal sense, a “sudden emergency” is a wholly unanticipated event, like a hood fly-up or a tire blow-out. Most hazards, like jaywalking pedestrians and stalled cars, do not qualify as sudden emergencies, because these situations occur on almost every trip and drivers should be ready to deal with them.
  • Reacted Reasonably: It is reasonable to slow down and pull to the right after a sudden emergency, and drivers who do not do so cannot claim the defense.

 

Last clear chance, a companion doctrine, often applies in T-bone and rear-end crashes when one driver had the opportunity to avoid the crash but failed to take advantage of the chance. If the jury determines that the victim and tortfeasor (negligent driver) were both partially at fault, the judge will reduce the victim’s damages proportionally.

Hit and Run Bicyclist Lawyer

Hit-And-Run Driver Kills Orange County Bicyclist

Authorities have apprehended a suspect in a hit-and-run crash that left a cyclist dead.

Hit and Run Bicyclist LawyerThe wreck happened at the intersection of Beach Boulevard and Chapman Avenue. First responders released no information about the accident, other than the fact that the unnamed victim was alive when first responders arrived but was subsequently pronounced dead at a local hospital. Although the suspect initially fled the scene in a champagne-colored Nissan sedan that had sustained considerable front-end damage, authorities believe that they have the tortfeasor (negligent driver) in custody. Investigators spent several hours at the scene gathering evidence.

Bicycle-Auto Crashes

To improve their health, as a means of commuting, or just to enjoy the outdoors, more people are riding bicycles now than ever before, but that’s only one reason that these fatalities increased 12.2 percent last year to their highest level in over twenty years. Most city plans feature wide-laned streets in tic-tac-toe layouts that quickly move vehicles from one place to another but are not very safe for slower-moving bicycles, and partly due to “bikelash,” many motorists are unwilling to approve significant expenditures for designated bike lanes and other safety improvements. At the same time, there are more distracted drivers than ever before, and people who are only half watching the road as they drive usually do not keep a proper lookout.

In Southern California, bicycle safety is not much of a priority. The 53-page Shared Action Mobility Plan, which is supposed to encapsulate Los Angeles’ vision of transportation’s future, contains only a few paragraphs about bicycle safety.

Liability

Myopic street design is no excuse for negligent driving. Tortfeasors cannot blame wide lanes for bicycle-auto accidents any more than they can blame the rain for causing them to lose traction or the sun setting and therefore limiting their visibility. In fact, under the duty of reasonable care, drivers must slow down and otherwise adjust to these adverse conditions in order to safely operate their vehicles. Nearly a hundred years ago, an English judge wrote these words, which are still true today: “You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbour.”

Distraction is one of the most common breaches of the duty of reasonable care. Legally, distracted driving is any activity that causes drivers to take their minds off the road, their eyes off the road, or a hand off the wheel. Other common violations include driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, speeding, and fatigued driving.

The new three-foot law, which requires motorists to give bicyclists at least a three-foot cushion when they are forced to share a traffic lane, when turning, and in certain other situations, may not have done much to improve bicycle safety, but it does make damages easier to prove in court, because of the negligence per se (negligence “as such”) theory. Tortfeasors are liable as a matter of law if they violated a safety statute and caused injury, unless they had a legal excuse for their conduct or some other defense, such as contributory negligence or sudden emergency, applies. In other words, victim/plaintiffs do not have to prove duty or breach in negligence per se cases.

Damages

Some people believe that if a hit-and-run tortfeasor is not caught then they cannot recover damages. But in most cases, that’s simply not true. Instead, in these circumstances, most victims can demand compensation from their own insurance companies.

If the tortfeasor is identified, and that is the case in up to 90 percent of these situations, juries often award the victims additional punitive damages. Essentially, if there is clear and convincing evidence that the tortfeasor was dangerously reckless as opposed to merely negligent, the jury can award additional damages to punish the tortfeasor and deter future misconduct.

Since California is a tort state, all bicycle crash victims are entitled to money for their economic losses, such as lost wages, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. It is always advisable to contact and experienced personal injury attorney.