Column: Speeding fatal toll on LA roads

Dr. Mark Morocco was on duty in the emergency room of UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center when the accident occurred. He told me that the staff got alerted and started preparing for incoming patients – in a worst-case scenario.

In Los Angeles, it seems that one collision is more gruesome than the last. Vehicles are broken into pieces, debris is thrown into the air, car parts and people are burned in fireballs.

This time on Thursday afternoon at the intersection of Slawson and La Brea Avenues in Windsor Hills. the police say Mercedes driver, traveling at speeds between 80 and 100 mph, blew a red light. The smoldering debris looked like something you would expect to see after an aerial bombardment.

“The take-home thing is that the faster you go, the more bets are off,” Moroccan said. “There’s a speed limit for a reason, and the faster you go, the more things happen that are all bad.”

As it turned out, several patients arrived at the ER, but only one was seriously injured.

The rest died on the spot.

Morocco, which later saw footage of the wreck, said it was like many others in which people knew what hit them before they left.

“People have broken necks, they die of burns and they get unbearable injuries. Care falls into the lap of firefighters and paramedics … and even those people, with all their equipment and training, can’t do anything,” Morocco said.

“I see 80 mph drivers every day between my home and UCLA,” Moroccan said. “And that’s on surface roads, 2.3 miles.”

And every night, from his home in West LA, there’s a symphony of speed and horsepower.

“All night we hear the racing exhaust blown up and down the Olympics and Pico,” said Morocco. “Every night all night.”

It’s awfully common in Los Angeles, and getting behind the wheel, or going for a walk or bike ride, is a game of roulette.

Moroccans once ran across their street after a neighbor was crushed by a car. He knew it sounded bad and told his wife, Lisa Waltz, to run back home and bring a sharp kitchen knife so he could perform the surgery before paramedics arrived if needed. The neighbor did not.

Waltz and Morocco in February 2021 heard thunder From a close collision. Waltz ran for the Olympics, where a teenager in a speeding Lamborghini plowed into a car driven by Monique Munoz, a 32-year-old UCLA office assistant who wanted to become a lawyer. Waltz ran back to get to Morocco, telling him it was really bad.

“It looked like a war zone,” said the Moroccan, who rushed to Munoz’s aid. She was in a car that was no longer a car. “While she was dying, I held her head in my hands. She died at the top of my street because someone was going over a hundred miles an hour. ,

A month after that senseless tragedy, I attended a memorial service to mark the one-year anniversary of another victim of street violence. Sixty-eight-year-old psychologist Larry Brooks went for an afternoon walk in his arts district neighborhood and did not return home.

His wife of 34 years, Anna Marie Pearsimoni, heard the siren and then knocked on his door. The police told her that her husband was gone. A 23-year-old driver in a McLaren sports car lost control and Brooks killed on the spot,

Piercimony told me that her husband had been killed “amok for wielding a weapon,” who was loved by many and worked with children in low-lying communities. Pearsimoni said the driver who killed him was sentenced to six months in prison, but was released after serving less than three months. There are civil lawsuits pending against the driver and the city, the latter alleging that there was no need to improve road safety despite complaints from residents.

Munoz’s stepfather, Isaac Cardona, told me that the street where he died was “not a raceway. It’s a residential street with a speed limit.”

The speed limit means nothing in a place where many people think “Fast and Furious” was a driver’s ed movie, and enforcement is pretty rare. LA Mayor Eric Garcetti launched Vision Zero in 2015 with the goal of ending traffic deaths by 2025. But 21% more people died in 2021 Compared to 2020, with around 300 fatalities. And critics say the effort to build safer roads through engineering, enforcement, education, evaluation and community engagement has been overwhelming.

“We know how to make roads safer. it’s not rocket science. It’s actually quite simple. But we don’t have enough political leaders who can stand up.” Damien Cavitowho lost his right leg below the knee in 2013 when he was killed while riding a bike near the zoo in Griffith Park.

Kevitt, who started the nonprofit advocacy group Streets Are for Everyone after his near-death experience, advises me not to refer to such incidents as accidents. He says selfish, reckless, dangerous driving is an option. As is driving under the influence, which is very common. And the biggest single factor in fatal collisions, he said, is speed.

“We are very concerned about regulating guns,” Kewitt said, and of course, we should be. “But it is perfectly acceptable for people to drive in a reckless fashion with something as deadly as a gun, and do the equivalent of a mass shooting by driving through an intersection with their vehicle.”

It’s not acceptable, but we haven’t done enough about it. Cavitt said re-engineering of roads with roundabouts, speed bumps and several other devices will slow vehicles and protect cyclists, pedestrians and drivers. City officials have said that many improvements have been made, and there is work to be done.

When I last wrote about Cavita, he was pushing for legislation calling for speed enforcement cameras near schools. The bill died, as did another call for speed enforcement in areas with high rates of collisions.

Opposition to such efforts has come from police unions, who are perhaps concerned about allowing the cameras to do their job, who are questioning admissibility in court, and arguing against the reliability of surveillance technology or vehicle owners. Quotes are likely to be sent which were not left behind. cycle.

All of which has been addressed in other cities, Kevitt says, and collision rates have dropped in those places. He said that he has not only given up fighting, but is returning with a growing army of supporters.

“Right now we have a huge influx of victims of traffic violence requesting for help, and we are rushing to try to contact victims in Windsor Hills to provide support. We have policy and law issues. The ones we’re trying to improve … and we’ll keep doing that,” Cavitt said. “Honestly, we’re going to take off the gloves and start name calling. We’ve been good about it, but enough is enough.” “

By the way, Moroccan used to be an actor and screenwriter. In 1988, he and Waltz were seriously injured in a two-car collision on snowy roads in Pennsylvania. If their car or the other was going at 10 or 20 mph, he said, they could die. Inspired by Moroccan, the trauma surgeon and ER doctor who helped save her life, she turned her career around. I met him when he was in medical school in Pennsylvania.

Morocco said that at the peak of the epidemic, when roads were less congested, they had seen many patients injured in high-speed collisions. The return of heavy traffic has not stopped the carnage, and Morocco suspects that something has changed in the psyche of many.

In the wake of virus denial, vaccine defiance and a general sense of rebellion against the rule of law, Morocco said, there appears to be a new strain of selfishness and recklessness, all of which are LA’s big, fast, dangerous vehicles.

It’s like “everybody is driving like Mario Andretti, everywhere you go,” Moroccan said with shameless road racing and street takeovers. It’s like we’ve retreated, and it’s like, “I need to live in the moment and take what’s mine. Kind of like caveman behavior.”

Morocco said advances in seat belts, air bags and life-saving ER technologies have kept many of the collisions alive. But those things are no match for tons of metal hurling like meteors through the streets and boulevards.

“Time to put those people’s cars away, got another one, now you’re on the go,” Moroccan said. “Brutal and unusual punishment? Cruel and unusual is the burning in your minivan, or your kids running into the crosswalk.”

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