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Op-Ed: Glendale is bad for your health

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Traffic develops near Glendale Galleria, in this file photo taken on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015.

(Tim Berger / Glendale News-Press)

Like many current residents, I grew up in Glendale, attending Glendale High School. I decided to stay where I grew up — not least because my job kept me around, and I could stay close to family and friends. Glendale offers a good quality of life. It’s a clean city with proximity to big-city life, while still being relatively affordable.

However, one important parameter involved in quality of life — traffic control and safety — seems to decline inexorably every year. If you do a simple Google search, you will see that Glendale routinely makes headlines as among the nation’s most dangerous cities in which to drive, and this danger is compounded for pedestrians and bicyclists. We also have the highest insurance rates. These findings are based on insurance studies as well as California DMV data.

My current morning commute from home to work is less than seven minutes, from west Glendale to south Glendale. I often count the number of traffic transgressions I observe in a one-way commute; the number usually exceeds a dozen. These transgressions range from the garden variety to the seriously life-threatening: from rolling stop signs, making illegal turns, texting and driving, making left or right turns while pedestrians are still crossing the crosswalk, running red lights, weaving through traffic, reckless driving, unsafe lane changes and tailgating.

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Curiously connected to this are the several published studies that relate drivers of high-end luxury car brands with awful road manners. In Glendale we probably have among the highest per capita of BMW and Mercedes drivers in the whole country (evidenced by the imposing, castle-like Mercedes and BMW dealerships on Brand), and just a casual observation will confirm that many of the worst Glendale drivers are driving high-end luxury cars, the worst being drivers of the notorious Benz G-Wagon.

When I was in high school, although I didn’t drive a luxury car, I was one of these bad drivers. I drove like I owned the road, like no one else mattered. I routinely made unsafe lane changes, tried to beat other drivers to the punch at four-way stop signs, rolled stop signs altogether, and generally drove with reckless abandon. Thankfully, Glendale Police caught up with me and my yellow Camaro quickly and, by the time I was 19, I had had my driver’s license suspended twice for too many moving violations.

At the time those tickets and suspensions hurt a lot, certainly my wallet, but also my pride and ego as I had to hitch rides or take the bus. Today I am most thankful that police monitored and slammed me with those tickets early, as they made me realize how much of a punk driver I was. Those experiences helped me become a better, more respectful and patient driver as an adult.

My question is, where are these cops now? Driving in Glendale is hazardous for your health, and I’m not talking about smog. Bicycling in certain parts is a death wish. Crossing streets as a pedestrian in much of Glendale often reminds me of trips I’ve made to crowded third-world countries with no rule of law, where crossing the street is like running through a war zone.

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Too many violations go unnoticed by traffic officers, and these violations endanger lives. People get killed on Glendale streets routinely, not from street crime, but because of reckless driving. With texting and cellphones the problem has just gotten worse. Too many drivers in Glendale drive like they own the road, particularly those that drive expensive brands.

There just don’t seem to be enough traffic officers on the road. I strongly urge the Glendale Police Department to dispatch significantly more traffic officers to dish out violations at every turn, on every major intersection. I guarantee it will be a good investment for Glendale, and I’m not even referring to the windfall revenues it will generate. No one likes to get a ticket with the resultant pain in their pocketbook, so every ticket will remind violators of their obligation to be aware of driving laws and the rights of other users of the road. Every additional ticket granted will do its part to slow down these intransigent drivers into submission and observance of law and order.

And certainly more tickets will raise funds for the city, funds that perhaps could be used to establish a real public transportation system like light rail (sorry, Beeline) that could ease congestion downtown, especially with all these thousands of apartment units coming onto the market soon.

All told, the city better do something fast. The combination of terrible drivers, lackadaisical oversight and enforcement of traffic laws, thousands of more cars on the road, and no real public transport system on the horizon bodes ill for the future of Glendale and its quality of life. Regardless of all of Glendale’s positive attributes, if we can’t get around town safely — whether driving, biking or walking — without putting our lives in danger, Glendale could see its large commercial anchor tenants that it so cherishes, along with multitudes of small businesses and concerned residents, leave for greener and safer pastures.

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SHANT MINAS can be reached at shant00@yahoo.com.


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