For transportation in Los Angeles, California, the car is still “King”. All roads ultimately lead to the freeways that are the connective tissue of this vast urban sprawl.
Headlines about traffic problems in Los Angeles have often been focused on “road rage” and freeway killings. The less dramatic but far larger problem, as in most North American cities, is freeway congestion and accidents. The statistics are amazing. Reportedly, in the past five years, 3,550 people died on the roadways in Los Angeles County due to traffic crashes and 440,000 people were injured. Each year roughly 200,000 traffic collisions choke the freeways causing untold delays and expense.
Whether or not these statistics capture media attention, they have prompted eight governmental and auto industry organizations to collaborate under the name Operation Traffix to launch a campaign, “Watch the Road” with the following mission: “To visibly improve traffic safety and mobility in the Los Angeles region by changing motorist, bicyclist and pedestrian behavior through coordinated education and enforcement efforts”.
Since “Watch the Road” began in mid-May 2004, the membership of Operation Traffix has grown to over 50 including municipalities and other public, private, and not-for-profit sponsors. Watch the Road is expected to last at least until the end of 2005 during which time funding will be sought to expand it into neighboring California counties.
The basic idea of “Watch the Road” is that three major factors cause accidents: vehicles, roadways, and drivers. Sometimes these factors combine, but more normally vehicle defects are responsible for 2 – 3 percent of accidents, roadway problems for 10 – 12 percent and driver negligence for 50 – 60 percent. To save lives and prevent injuries, therefore, the campaign is focused on changing driver behavior. Another expected benefit of a successful campaign will be the reduction of traffic congestion. Recurrent traffic congestion is caused by too many people using the same roadway at the same time every day. Non-recurrent congestion, on the other hand, is caused by events such as traffic accidents. Reducing accidents means reducing non-recurrent congestion.
One of the strategies of “Watch the Road” has been to identify the top ten behaviors associated with traffic accidents and injuries. Three of these behaviors overlap with the “10 Driving Behaviours Most Other Drivers Hate” discussed in a previous Road Rules article — speeding, aggressive driving, and inattentive driving. The remaining seven behaviors on the “Watch the Road” list also address the attitude of cyclists and pedestrians:
- Driving, cycling or running through red traffic lights
- Driving under the influence (DUI)
- Not yielding to pedestrians
- Walking without looking
- Walking outside crosswalks
- Bicycling against traffic, and
- Not using seatbelt
“Top 10 lists” are good memory prompters. “Watch the Road” intends to target these behaviors through the media and to compare the number of injuries and fatalities two years before and after the campaign to measure its effectiveness. Whatever the exact outcome may be, it is safe to say that an increased public consensus against poor driving will be beneficial.
Please drive safely.
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