Letters to the Editor: L.A. can’t just say it wants zero traffic deaths. It has to make changes

People stand on the steps of City Hall.
Cycling and transit activists protest Los Angeles’ lack of progress on its stated goal to eliminate traffic deaths in front of City Hall in 2019.
(Los Angeles Times)
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To the editor: Your chances of being killed or seriously injured on the roads, sidewalks and bikeways of Los Angeles — and across the nation — grew significantly in recent years, as reported your Jan. 9 article, “Hundreds died in L.A. traffic crashes in 2021. Is Vision Zero a failure?

The reality is that to advance Vision Zero — the idea that all traffic deaths should be eliminated and there ought to be safe mobility for everyone — we need to evolve past the outdated, siloed “Es” of traffic safety: engineering, enforcement, education, evaluation and engagement.

Instead, an effective and equitable Vision Zero effort is built on the safe system approach. This focuses on upstream, proactive strategies, such as designing streets and managing speeds for safety. And it relies less on the downstream, reactive approach of enforcement, which is especially important given evidence of unacceptable racial bias in traffic stops.


Saving lives on the streets — and doing so justly — is possible in L.A. and across the U.S., but only if our leaders show the political will to change business as usual.

Leah Shahum, Sebastopol, Calif.

The writer is founder and executive director of the Vision Zero Network.


To the editor: Why not try 55 mph again?

When driving on the 5 Freeway recently, I saw cars stalled and idling for miles, most likely because of a crash. Excessive speed can lead to collisions, so why not try to limit freeway speed to 55 mph?

Not all of us can bike, and not all destinations can be reached by public transportation, so reestablishing a 55 mph speed limit is a way of saving gas with little effort. When I lived in Palo Alto, cycling and walking were my only forms of transportation, but the thought of biking in Southern California is intimidating.

The maximum highway speed was scaled down during an earlier gas crisis but was discontinued because people were ignoring the law. Well, we are not in a temporary crisis: Global warming is a life-or-death problem for humanity and nature.


Daina Krigens, Encinitas


To the editor: This disturbing story on the hundreds of people killed in L.A. traffic annually confirms the point I’ve been making for years — that fatalities keep rising because of the lack of enforcement of traffic laws.

One drive around West L.A. or Santa Monica reveals motorists speeding, making illegal turns, tailgating, running red lights, failing to observe yield rules and on and on. And don’t try to drive the speed limit of 65 mph on the 405; you’ll get tailgated and glared at.

Until there are more traffic cops on city streets and additional California Highway Patrol cars cruising the freeways, these problems will get worse. When drivers know there are no consequences for reckless driving, why should they change their behavior behind the wheel?

Joseph Puterbaugh, Santa Monica