A speeding truck killed a mother and critically injured her daughter as they were walking to Hancock Park Elementary School on Tuesday morning. The truck struck them while they were in the crosswalk on Colgate Avenue next to the school. The mother, a 35-year-old woman, died at the scene, and the child, a girl about 6 years old, was hospitalized in critical condition.
“Initially, Los Angeles firefighters said the driver appeared to be in an “altered state,” but police said it’s too soon to tell whether the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol or was suffering a medical emergency,” reported CBSNews.com.
Police and witnesses interviewed said the driver was speeding.
Damian Kevitt, Founder of Streets Are For Everyone (SAFE), a road safety organization, told the Buzz, “what happened at Hancock Park Elementary School was entirely preventable.”
Kevitt started SAFE after he was hit by a car, dragged 1/4 mile down Interstate 5, and nearly killed while riding his bicycle in Griffith Park in 2013.
Recently, Kevitt’s organization has focused their efforts on the most common denominator of traffic violence, the primary reason people are being hit and killed – speed.
According to Kevitt, there were 312 traffic fatalities in 2022, breaking the 300 mark for the first time in over 20 years, which is all we have data for. This was an increase of 6% from the previous year and a staggering 29% increase over 2020. And, speeding is the primary collision factor in 34.8% of the collisions in LA, resulting in some degree of injury or fatalities. He’s working on a new report that shows much of the speeding occurs in school zones.
Kevitt attributes much of the speeding to a lack of enforcement. However, he’s not advocating for more police giving traffic citations. Instead his group is backing AB645 introduced by Assembly member Laura Friedman, which would create an automated speed enforcement system with cameras.
“Since 2020, there has been practically no enforcement on traffic violations which as results in increased speeding and it’s primarily pedestrians who are the victims,” explained Kevitt. “The incident at Hancock Park Elementary School is tragically, not surprising, it’s inevitable because we have almost no traffic enforcement.”
AB645 is based on models being used in 19 other states, according to Kevitt. The speed cameras work to reduce the number of serious injuries and fatalities because the program changes behavior, people know they are going to get a ticket, he said.
In states where it’s in use, 80 percent of the people who got a speeding ticket, never got a second one.
The program, as it’s proposed in the legislation, would not be overly burdensome for drivers either. A $50 ticket would be issued for anyone driving 11 miles over the posted speed; the fee increases to $100 if someone exceed 20 miles over the speed limit. The current rate for a speeding ticket id $249. The ticket is a civil infraction, just like parking ticket, no points on a driver’s record. And, if drivers can prove financial hardship, the ticket fee can be dropped by as much as 80% or waived with community service.
The legislation calls for a 5-year pilot program in six cities: Los Angeles, San Jose, Oakland, Glendale, and Long Beach, and the City and County of San Francisco and each city has a limited number of cameras; 125 cameras are proposed for the entire city of LA.
The cameras could be placed on high injury roads, in schools zones and known street racing corridors. Locations would be decided with community input. Profit from funds generated by the system can only be used to make the road safer.
“If this system had been in approved, it would have been in place because this is a school zone,” said Kevitt. “This should never have happened.”
Michael Schneider, founder of Street For All, agrees this crash could have been prevented. Schneider, who lives nearby and serves on the MidCity West Neighborhood Council, tweeted that council had approved $5,000 to spend on safety improvements around local schools, including Hancock Park Elementary.
“I have a deep profound sense of sadness, ” Schneider told the Buzz, “We had the right idea, if only the city would allocate more funds more quickly to make the safety improvements.”
Schneider is currently advocating for more funding for LADOT so it can make these improvements. Last year, his group fought to reinstate 18 more positions in the department’s budget under former Mayor Eric Garcetti. But this year, Mayor Karen Bass cut those positions, so he’s now trying to get them added back.
“Literally, this week, there are budget hearings on this,” said Schneider. “We need to give LADOT the resources they need to make safety improvements around our schools more quickly, they need manpower. We have less than 10 people in active transportation as compared to 50 in New York City and LA has many more square miles of roads.”
Schneider supports Mayor Bass’s prioritization of housing and homelessness but said, “Los Angeles is a complicated, multifaceted city, we need to figure how to walk and chew gum at the same time. We are at a two-decade high in the number of fatalities. Some cities just close the streets for schools.”
There’s no disagreement there from Kevitt. LADOT is begging for help, he said, at the current rate of funding, it will take LADOT 250 years just to do the road safety improvements on the 6% of roads that have been identified as the most dangerous.
“Yes, we need more funding, but solving road violence is not a single solution, we need a multifaceted approach, we should look at all the options,” said Kevitt, including supporting victims of traffic violence and their families something his organization does as well as policy advocacy.
if you want to get involved, with SAFE, visit their website at and sign their petition at https://chng.it/4SgwzpYPWz
If you want to learn more about the Streets for All budget advocacy work you can visit their website and sign up for emails.