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The Statistics Behind Santa Monica's Pedestrian Deaths


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By Niki Cervantes

May 11, 2017 -- Pedestrians and bicyclists account for approximately two-thirds of all severe injuries and fatalities sustained in traffic accidents on Santa Monica's busy streets, Police Department statistics show.

The department’s statistics, revealed in a report presented to the City Council Tuesday night, highlight the fates of those struck with 4,400 pounds of steel, iron and other materials -– or the mass of many automobiles today -- while walking and biking.

Motorists are the only parties in 82 percent of the City’s traffic incidents, with incidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists accounting for 8 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

Yet, pedestrians and bicyclists account for 60 percent of severe injuries and 70 percent of fatalities, the statistics showed.

“This means they are many times more likely to killed or severely injured if involved in a collision, which is why they are sometimes referred to as having higher vulnerability or exposure on the roadway,” City planners said in a report sent to the council Tuesday.

The report was prompted by five pedestrian deaths between March 4 and April 3 in Santa Monica. Three took place on busy thoroughfares, one on a well-travelled street and another in a parking lot ("Pedestrian Killed Crossing Santa Monica Boulevard," April 4, 2017).

Overall, Santa Monica police say, the City has seen a slight drop in crashes since 2013, when state law began to require police agencies to take reports only if injury or a complaint of pain was involved.

Just over 1,500 traffic incidents were reported in Santa Monica in 2013, dropping to 1,400 incidents and remaining there through 2016, according to the Santa Monica Police Department.

Data also shows 285 road-related fatalities and severe injuries in Santa Monica between 2006 and 2016. The fewest fatalities and severe injuries were reported in 2010, or a total of 20, the SMPD said.

The year 2011 marked a peak, with reports taken for 37 incidents. Six fatalities were reported in each of three of the study years, police said.

Collisions are concentrated between 4 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., although almost the same number of trips are taken in peak morning hours. Fatal collisions or those involving severe injuries are mostly like to occur after 7 p.m., data indicates.
Children and senior citizens are most at risk.

Nationwide, pedestrian-involved collisions increased to 15 percent in 2016, up from five percent from a decade ago, officials said.

In California, pedestrians make up a quarter of all of roadway deaths, although the total fell slightly last year, they said.

The rise of eyes glued to smartphones, instead of the street, is particularly worrisome for the council because it necessitates new ways of re-directing the attention of drivers, pedestrians and anyone on wheels.

Council Member Sue Himmelrich said her cat now has a collar that lights up for added protection.

Council member Gleam Davis, meanwhile, suggested the City look at encouraging “adult tricycles,” for older people who -- like her –- don’t feel confident riding bicycles along crowded City streets.

But everyone was, to some degree, the bad guy in Tuesday’s discussion. Drivers ignored speed limits and made illegal turns to save time; walkers crossed in the middle of the street or darted out into traffic; bicyclists failed to slow down or stop when they should.

Council member Kevin McKeown, who had recently returned from a vacation in Amsterdam, said he learned a crucial lesson as he watched the chaotic, crowded mix of drivers, buses, walkers, bicyclists and others safely negotiating for space.

No one, he said, was “zipping through."

Safety for bicyclists was not as heavily discussed Tuesday, but concerns persist. Council Member Tony Vazquez noted the lack of bike lanes downtown.

Others have complained that existing bike lanes are either in short supply or not created in a manner safe from other automobiles, buses, pedestrians or even other cyclists.

Cities such as Portland, Oregon, use physical barriers – from small posts to parallel parking for cars -- to protect bicyclists.

That is not the practice in Santa Monica, although the council expressed interest in such ideas.

Tuesday’s council audience included bicyclists, parents and others concerned about street safety.

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