Rethinking Responsibility as Traffic become more Dangerous

Traffic was moderate. I was sitting at a red light on Hathaway Avenue waiting for the light to change. It changed when I was not looking. No horns honking at me. I was slow to make my left turn on to John Wayne Parkway. Just as I was going to move, a jacked-up pickup with oversized tires blew through the red light. Like wow, if I had moved when I was supposed to, there might have been a collision. He was in the middle lane and partially hidden from sight. Everyone else was stopped in the other lanes.

A few choice words and he said he made a mistake and apologized. This was not a vehicle braking. The speed limit is 35 mph if they are doing it. John Wayne also turns into State Highway 347.

There are a large number of crosses along the sides of the road representing the dead killed on it. Speeding, tailgating, running a light, and weaving in and out of traffic are the main causes. Enforcement appears to be minimal. An accident happens every other day on the 14-mile stretch of 347.

It is becoming more dangerous as traffic increases and as a few disregard the rules of the road.

Rethinking responsibility as traffic killings mount, Ryan Fonseca

AB: I think they have the right words in stating killings. A number of people died on 347 in AZ also.

In nearly five years since I started reporting on Alessa Fajardo, a 4-year-old who was struck and killed by a driver in Koreatown as she walked to school with her mother, I’ve learned a lot about the layers of responsibility that exist in traffic killings.

In today’s newsletter, I want to explore more of those layers.

First, let’s talk about the driver

The woman who killed Alessa with her SUV has not been found liable in civil court. She has also avoided accountability in criminal court for nearly four years.

LAPD investigators said the driver, Indira Marrero, was not speeding or under the influence when she hit Alessa and her mom as they legally used a marked crosswalk. She cooperated with police at the scene and was not arrested. She told police she did not see them in the crosswalk.

Marrero was charged months later with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter, which often carries sentences like probation and/or a short stint in jail. She did not show up for her arraignment in November 2020 and a warrant remains out for her arrest, according to the L.A. City Attorney’s office spokesperson Ivor Pine.

Alessa’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, arguing it also bore responsibility for the preschooler’s death. The family’s attorneys said the city knew the intersection was dangerous and did not act to make it safer until after Alessa was killed. Documents show city officials knew for years that schoolchildren were at particular risk around Alessa’s school.

The city paid the Fajardos $9.5 million to settle the case.

Alessa was one of an estimated 143 people killed by drivers while walking in L.A. in 2019. Over the next four years, another 563 pedestrians died in crashes on city-managed streets. Hundreds more were severely injured during that time. However . . .

Roads can be built to discourage or enable dangerous driving. Higher speeds create higher risk of crashes — and increase the likelihood a collision will be severe or deadly.

AB: The two-lane roads heading north and also the two lanes going south are for sure not enough to handle the traffic. Phoenix is growing as well as the city we live in at the other end of 347. Adding more lanes to the one entrance in and out heading north will only work for a short period of time.

There is also a need for another entrance in and out of the city, a connection to a highway to the east, and another mode of transportation. The city is growing as it adds more housing.

There is a strong need for enforcement which is not consistent. And there is a need to build roads differently.

As voiced by a University of Colorado Professor, “it’s well past time for traffic engineers to correct a century’s worth of mistakes. He said safety has historically been an afterthought on streets designed to move cars as quickly as possible.

Engineers have] been around for maybe 100 years and we’re still at the point where we’re killing more people than we save. Early road designers’ attempts to establish order from early automobile chaos had little basis in science but have become widely accepted norms.”

Wes Marshall in Killed by a Traffic Engineer details “how traffic engineering ‘research’ is outdated and unexamined (at its best) and often steered by an industry and culture considering only how to get from point A to B the fastest way possible. This being to the detriment of safety, quality of life, equality, and planetary health. Marshall examines our need for speed and how traffic engineers disconnected it from safety, the focus on capacity. The result being an influence on design, blaming human error, and relying on faulty data. The liability drives reporting, measuring road safety outcomes, and the education (and reeducation) of traffic engineers.

There were known issues with the street crossing where Alessa Fajardo was killed. There are known issues with the State Highway 347. In both cases, city and state governments do not address the issues. The results play out in deaths on the Koreatown Street and accidents and deaths on State Highway 347, one of the more dangerous roads in the state. Design, redesign, and enforcement appear to be lacking.

In LA, initiatives were passed where cities could lower speed limits, a mobility plan adopted nearly a decade ago is now being implemented. The plan identifies hundreds of miles of city streets for new infrastructure to better protect pedestrians and cyclists.

In AZ, not so much. Citizens are more worried about taxes and being able to drive to work. We shall see over the next few years. It will play out over upcoming years. The third lane out of town will fill up and the same safety issues will not go away. Nor will, the amount of timeneeded to get to work or out of town.

When Cities Treated Cars as Dangerous Intruders, The MIT Press Reader