For Safe Streets Santa Monica, the group’sname is more aspirational than descriptive.
The organization advocates for road safety but, according to their recently released analysis of Santa Monica collision data, the city’s streets are far from safe.
From 2003-2013, 49 people were killed and 9,278 were injured in traffic collisions, based on information gathered from local law enforcement agencies. Almost all collisions involved a motor vehicle. Car-on-car collisions caused 14 fatalities and 6,862 injuries, car-on-pedestrian collisions caused 32 fatalities and 1,191 injuries, car-on-bike collisions causes three fatalities and 1,179 injuries. Bicycle-on-pedestrian collisions caused nofatalities and 48 injuries.
“There are major roads where more incidents occur, but no road in Santa Monica is without incident,” said Richard McKinnon, a member of Safe Streets and current Planning Commissioner.
The data was initially gathered by the Santa Monica Police Department as part of their mandated reporting to the California Highway Patrol. Researchers at the University of California Berkeley filtered the data to remove non-injury incidents and made the data sets available to the public.
Safe Streets Santa Monica member Adam Rakunas applied the local data to Google maps to create a visual representation of incidents by severity and type.
“It’s one thing to say the streets of Santa Monica aren’t safe,” says the organization’s website. “It’s another to back up that claim with data. We have gone through eleven years of recorded collision data from the California Highway Patrol’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System and created these maps. They tell a story that many of us have known for a long time: too many people are hurt and killed on the streets every year.”
McKinnon said he hoped the data would prompt a cultural shift in Santa Monica toward a safer, less car driven culture. He would like to grow the safe streets coalition, refocus enforcement efforts on the actual causes of injury and inspire better street designs that facilitate traffic while keeping bikes/pedestrians safe.
“I think people in a position of influence and power have a responsibility to act when presented with information like this,” he said.
Fundamentally, he said safer streets will be the result of a change in attitude that puts the priority on zero collisions and recognizes that reducing traffic is best accomplished through encouraging bicycles and pedestrians.
“We need to build an idea that when you come to Santa Monica, it’s not acceptable to drive like a crazy person or make excuses to behave a certain way,” he said.
Rakunas said he hoped the data would support the organization’s general push for safer streets, a cause he became involved with to provide opportunities for his daughter.
“I want my kid to be able to bike to school safely and I’d like all kids in the city to be able to do that,” he said.
Some of that work to encourage bikers and pedestrians is already underway with programs like Safe Routes to School. Rakunas and McKinnon both praised the program but said every day should be an opportunity for youth, and residents at large, to feel safe outside their vehicles.
“I think the bike lanes help and we have buffer bike lanes, but what we really want are protected bike lanes,” said McKinnon.
He said parents that think driving their kids to school is the safer option are contributing to some of the city’s worst traffic while actually endangering more kids, even their own, due to the high number of car on car accidents.
McKinnon said additional infrastructure improvements are needed to further encourage locals to get out of their cars. He acknowledged reducing the number of incidents would certainly have a monetary cost, but said continued acceptance of collisions carries its own price in police time, property damage, opportunity cost and most importantly, lives lost.
To see the maps or for more information, visit www.safestreetssm.org.