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The top story in today’s Los Angeles Times:
But also from today’s Los Angeles Times, a less prominently-displayed article:
Two articles from today’s Los Angeles Times:
by Benjamin Oreskes
April 3, 2017
A California law giving immigrants here illegally the ability to get driver’s licenses appears to have helped decrease hit-and-run accidents, according to a Stanford University study released Monday.
The controversial law, part of a larger effort by state officials to provide rights and services to California residents in the country illegally, resulted in more than 850,000 people getting driver’s licenses since the law took effect in 2015.
Supporters of the measure argued that it would make California roads safer because those here illegally would be forced to take driver’s tests and would be less likely to flee from accidents out of fear of being arrested or deported.
The Stanford study estimated that the rate of hit-and-run accidents decreased at least 7% in 2015 compared with 2014. Using a complex formula, the researchers concluded that there were 4,000 fewer hit-and-runs that year because of the new law. …
“It’s shocking to see how you have these controversial debates and everyone is flying blind in terms of evidence,” Hainmueller said. “People in favor of it love it, and people against immigration hate it.”
Researchers posited that this new law would give people who may have been driving without a license a new confidence about being on the roads. Before, if they had been in a fender-bender, they may have been worried about waiting for authorities to arrive. These results suggest “that, if anything, providing unauthorized immigrants access to driver’s licenses reduced their incentives to flee the scene of an accident,” the authors of the study write.
The study finds that this reduction in hit-and-runs had a marked economic benefit. “Because AB60 led to an annual decline in hit and run accidents by about 4,000, not-at-fault drivers avoided out of pocket expenses for car repairs (physical damage) of about $3.5 million,” according to the researchers.
Okay … But also in today’s Los Angeles Times:
Laura J. Nelson and Dakota Smith, April 3, 2017
Traffic deaths in Los Angeles rose sharply despite a high-profile campaign by Mayor Eric Garcetti and other city leaders to eliminate fatal traffic crashes.
In 2016, the first full year that Garcetti’s Vision Zero policy was in effect in L.A., 260 people were killed in traffic crashes on city streets, an increase of almost 43% over the previous year.
My (not always perfect algebra) suggests Los Angeles city traffic fatalities rose from 178 in 2015 to 260 in 2016, or 78 incremental dead people in one city.
Rising traffic deaths appear to be more than a one-year aberration: So far in 2017, crash fatalities are 22% higher than in the same period last year.
Los Angeles’ increase in traffic deaths outpaces national trends. In 2016, 40,200 people died in crashes involving cars, a 6% increase over the previous year, according to the National Safety Council.
… Seleta Reynolds, the L.A. Transportation Department’s general manager, cited an increase in driving as one reason for the rising number of fatalities. Car sales and car registrations have risen in Southern California, driven by a strong economy and low gas prices.
Drivers are also facing more distractions in their cars, and in some some neighborhoods, more people are choosing to walk or bike, Reynolds said.
In addition, the Los Angeles Police Department is issuing dramatically fewer speeding tickets today, which could be contributing to the jump in fatal crashes.
The post-Ferguson spike in traffic deaths is starting to look much like the post-Ferguson spike in homicide deaths: a Ferguson Effect. Cops may be saying, “We could enforce the law or we could go get a donut. Obama, Soros, and Hillary sure make me feel like I could use a good donut about now.”
Reynolds said she is concerned that more crashes involving pedestrians are resulting in deaths. Through mid-March, pedestrian collisions were up 3% compared with 2015, but fatalities involving pedestrians surged 58% over the same period, according to LAPD data.
Reynolds attributes the higher number of pedestrian deaths to vehicle speeds. When struck by a car moving at 20 mph, a pedestrian has a 10% chance of dying, but the risk of death increases to 80% if the vehicle is moving at 40 mph, according to a federal study of crash data.
Pedestrians make up nearly half of the fatalities in traffic collisions, although they are involved in only 14% of total crashes, according to a city analysis of data from 2009 to 2013.
The city saw about 55,350 traffic collisions in 2016, which represents a 7% increase over 2015 and a 20% uptick from 2014. Those crashes include collisions between drivers, between drivers and pedestrians or bicyclists, and hit-and-run and DUI-related crashes. …
Okay, here’s one long-term factor:
The LAPD’s speeding enforcement is challenged by a state law that prevents officers from using radar to catch speeders unless a new traffic study has been performed in that area.
The number of speeding tickets issued annually has dropped from 100,000 in 2010 to about 17,000 in 2015, according to police data.
I drove a lot on LA’s freeways in 2010, and people were driving like bats out of hell back then even with 100,000 speeding tickets. The standard velocity in 2010 on the relatively uncrowded 134 freeway through Burbank north of Griffith Park was 80 mph.
Traffic deaths are something that ought to be declining steadily, so when they go up, attention ought to be paid. It took us 15 years to notice the White Death of tens of thousands of incremental white people dying in what ought to be the prime of life, so I’m going to continue to harp on recent bad trends like more homicide and traffic deaths.
I want to thank commenter J at Andrew Gelman’s statistics site for pointing out the contrast between the two LAT articles.