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Safety vs. Speed—Protecting Pedestrians

December 16, 2014 General

Community Looks for Way to Balance Needs of Motorists with Safety of Pedestrians

CrosswalkIn response to the deaths of three people in crosswalks in the last three years, the city of West Hollywood is considering measures to minimize the risk to pedestrians. Officials expressed concern when a study showed 84 car-pedestrian accidents during that same time period. Interestingly, one of the proposals before the city council calls for slowing traffic down, and the other suggests that pedestrian safety will be increased by speeding up the traffic on city streets.

The first proposal asks for more stop signs and traffic lights on Santa Monica Boulevard (47 of the pedestrian-car accidents were on Santa Monica Boulevard) and some of the other major thoroughfares in the city. Proponents argue that more stop signs and traffic lights will slow traffic down and give motorists more time to react.

Others, though, including former West Hollywood city councilman Steve Martin, said the real problem is distracted driving. He believes that people become more frustrated in slower traffic, and more inclined to take their eyes off the road to look at cell phones or adjust the stereo. Martin has told city council members that eliminating stop signs and traffic lights is a better alternative, as it will increase traffic flow, and reduce the risk that drivers will turn their attention from the road to their devices. He also pointed out that many of the accidents occurred on side roads after motorists leave the gridlock of Santa Monica Boulevard and speed down side streets.

Until the city comes up with a plan, sheriff’s deputies have been charged with increasing focus on distracted driving and jaywalking.

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