Column: Deadly speeding prompts pleas for a crackdown

In Los Angeles, people got caught driving too fast.

They want more enforcement, tougher penalties for offenders and better road design, and they want to know why, even as we move to electric vehicles to save the planet, the auto industry is producing gas-guzzling behemoths that easily exceed twice the top speed limit. and why media culture celebrates speed.

After my Sunday column on last week’s Windsor Hills high-speed crash that killed five people, including a pregnant woman, local residents chimed in with stories of reckless driving in their own neighborhoods, along with suggestions to stop the carnage.

In Angelino Heights, residents are rallying to halt filming of a scene from Fast & Furious later this month, fearing another appearance in the popular franchise will wreak havoc in the neighborhood.

“We will not allow them to film here,” reads a letter emailed to City Hall, arguing that the filmmakers are “doing nothing to dissuade their macho fans from seeing the lives of.” Endangering people on public streets in Los Angeles.”

Ralph Hattenbach says an accident near the corner of Sepulveda and 76th in Westchester is “waiting to happen.”

“There’s a stop light on the 76th eastbound, and cars go down the street toward the 405 all day,” said Hattenbach, “and I never see the police spotting speeders or issuing tickets.”

“Have you checked out what the neighborhood is calling the Ventura Boulevard Speedway?” Barrie Benton asked. “That would be Ventura Boulevard from Winnetka to De Soto. Three lanes in each direction bounded by a school at each end.”

And in downtown Los Angeles, says Mike Manville, a professor of urban planning at UCLA, residents are suffering the effects of unanswered requests for road safety improvements that would protect pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.

Speaking on Melrose Avenue, Manville said, “Just about every weekend we have burnouts and stunt bikers and all kinds of people driving dangerously. We should enforce speed limits, but the best speed limit is a road where you are not allowed to speed. But for some reason our city engineers and city council members think we need freeways running through our neighborhoods.”

Damian Kevitt, of the non-profit organization Streets Are for Everyone, said the site of last week’s Windsor Hills crash had a long history of tragic collisions. He said there had been 29 accidents since 2010, in which 42 people had been injured or killed.

“The 2.2-mile stretch of La Brea leading to the intersection of Slauson and La Brea is a six-lane high-speed highway that passes through residential areas, several parks … and a public elementary school,” Kevitt said in a press release last week.

Kevitt, who lost his leg in 2013 after being hit by a minivan while riding a bike, has long criticized the slow pace of road safety projects, even in the years since Mayor Eric Garcetti launched Vision Zero in 2015 with a goal of calling road deaths by 2025 eliminate. So far this year there have been 176 deaths in road accidents, compared to 162 at the same time in 2021 and 122 in 2020.

Nicole Lorraine Linton, 37, has been charged with multiple counts of murder and vehicular murder in the six-car collision in Windsor Hills and police say her car went through a red light and into the intersection at 90mph or more.

Law enforcement sources told the Times that Linton, a nurse, was involved in 13 previous wrecks which, if true, begs the question of why or if she still had a driver’s license. In court this week, a defense attorney said she had a history of mental health issues.

Pastor Patricia Strong-Fargas of Mt. Salem New-Wave Christian Fellowship told me that her 6-year-old granddaughter attends a preschool near La Brea and Slauson. She said the child and others heard the collision and the “screaming and yelling” of horrified witnesses.

“I’m trying to get some trauma care for them,” said Strong-Fargas, who for a couple of years has been trying to get drivers everywhere to slow down after witnessing consistent speeding at the intersection of Figueroa and 87th Place was home to her church.

“One of my homeless people was preparing to move into transitional housing and he was crossing the street on Central Avenue and was hit by a car and killed,” Strong-Fargas said. “I said, ‘Enough is enough.’ ”

Some lawmakers have tried to do something, but several speeding control bills have failed. And I think it’s no exaggeration to say that the Democrats, who dominate the California legislature, have not taken action when it comes to cracking down on motorists, while national Republican legislators have failed to make sensible gun control proposals despite to support the ongoing carnage with firearms using vehicles as weapons.

But Member of Parliament Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) and Sen. Henry Stern (D-Malibu) are not giving up.

Stern’s Senate Bill 1472 would amend the Criminal Code to allow prosecutors to charge drivers with first degree manslaughter in street racing, the popular and dangerous sideshows, and drivers who drive 100 miles per hour or more.

“I started to get to know a community of victims,” ​​said Stern, who told me that along with redesigning roads to make them safer, there needs to be tougher penalties for cases where death by vehicle is not an accident mechanical failure or health emergency of the driver.

“These are murders, it’s just a different kind of weapon” — a weapon that kills more people than guns, Stern said.

“There’s an amazing amount of slaughter,” Friedman said, not just locally but nationwide. “If 30,000 people died in plane crashes every year, we would have phased out our aircraft fleet a long time ago.”

She said she thinks there’s a lot of “justified behavior” and “something’s happening in our culture where people feel it’s their right … to drive very aggressively with no respect for others.” … I see people who are … clearly going 90 and 100 miles an hour.”

Friedman is still frustrated by more than one failed attempt to get speed control laws through Sacramento, most recently in a proposal calling for speed cameras in areas with high collision rates in a five-city pilot program.

She said she amended the bill, Assembly Bill 2336, to address concerns about the permissibility and accuracy of camera-guided citations, whether low-income people of color would be disproportionately punished and whether some would be unwilling to pay fines.

The first offense would have been a warning, Friedman told me, and solvency would be a consideration. And the money generated would have gone towards road safety improvements in minority neighborhoods with high collision rates, where people are disproportionately injured and killed, she said. She’s still furious that the bill failed, but determined to try again before the year is out.

“I think we need to hold automakers accountable, too,” Friedman said. It’s about making vehicle interiors safer, even if larger, more powerful vehicles all put them at greater risk. So why not use technology to make it impossible for cars to go faster than the posted speed limit?

I’m in it with her, and also with readers who rail against TV car ads – and TV shows and movies – that sell speed.

“I’m sick of these badass street racers in our neighborhood speeding and making donuts,” said Alan Lee of Echo Park, who lives near a market featured in one of the Fast & Furious movies is. The market attracts speeders and stunt drivers, Lee said, and he saw one lose control and crash into a neighbor’s car.

Michele McKinnon said tenants in her Echo Park apartment building complain of stunt driving and the smell of burnt rubber, a familiar smell on weekend nights. The Fast & Furious franchise has made billions to glamorize “deadly street racing,” McKinnon said in an email to city officials, promising to pause filming “all day and all night” to honor those who have lost their lives due to reckless driving.

She said she is still awaiting a formal response from the city. Column: Deadly speeding prompts pleas for a crackdown

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