A story by Dakota Smith in the Los Angeles Times reports that traffic deaths in the city have hit a two-decade high. More than half of the deaths involved vehicles hitting pedestrians or people on bicycles, both which significantly increased compared to prior years. This comes as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that traffic fatalities nationally remained flat over 2022. What is causing this increase? The Los Angeles Times did not inquire into how many traffic fatalities involved an intoxicated driver. With and estimated 69,000 homeless in LA, many using drugs, riding bicycles and wandering the streets, it might be that pedestrians and bike riders are part of the problem, but this was not reported. Last March, the Los Angeles Police Commission announced that LAPD Officers were no longer authorized to make traffic stops. This limits officers from pulling over cars weaving, turning without a signal, failing to stop at a stop sign or driving with an expired registration. Loosing the ability to stop an intoxicated driver and/or blatantly ignoring traffic laws might actually encourage traffic fatalities. This concern was not reported in the Times.
Another factor might be that District Attorney George Gascon, releases traffic offenders, even drunk drivers involved in fatal accidents without bail and often does not even charge them with a crime. One example: On Sunday, January 2, 2022 a woman and her 13-year-old daughter were driving through an intersection in the the LA County town of Norwalk when a speeding car ran a red light and T-boned their car. Both died from their injuries. CBS Los Angeles reports that the driver of the speeding car, 26-year-old Brittany Lopez, was driving without a license. Investigators believe that Lopez was under the influence of drugs and alcohol. She was arrested on charges of vehicular manslaughter which can be charged as a felony. Running a red light through a crowded intersection at high speed resulting in death can be charged as gross vehicular manslaughter, a violent felony. Depending on the toxicology report, Lopez could have faced charges of “gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated,” which carries a possible sentence of 15-years in prison. But before the toxicology report was available, Lopez was released from jail after the district attorney’s office refused to file charges against her for any crime.
Los Angeles news sources reported that last Monday, a suspected drunk driver in his 20s, crashed his car into a parked vehicle, killing two passengers. On January 9, a hit-and-run driver crashed into a car in South Los Angeles sending a 35-year-old mother and her 18-month-old son to the hospital in critical condition and killing another son, 13. On January 6, LAPD officers arrested the suspect in a hit-and-run that killed a mother on Christmas Eve. On January 1, a hit-and-run driver struck a person in a wheelchair in North Hollywood. According to police a white sedan was traveling northbound on Lankershim Boulevard when it struck the wheelchair leaving the victim with severe injuries. How many of these criminals were drunk. How many had been released for earlier offenses for which they were not prosecuted.
The Times didn’t look into any of this, focusing instead on city transportation bureaucrat and an activist associated with a group called “Streets Are For Everyone.” Both believe that re-engineering the streets and educating folks to drive more safely will solve the traffic fatality problem. It won’t.
When you eliminate the consequences for breaking the law, you end up with more people breaking the law.
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