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L.A. drivers kill more pedestrians, bicyclists than national average

October 3, 2012 |  9:10 am

Flowers mark the spot on Pacific Coast Highway where a bicyclist was killed by a motorist in 2006.

Drivers in Los Angeles kill pedestrians and bicyclists at a significantly higher rate than drivers nationally, a recent study showed.

In Los Angeles, pedestrians accounted for about a third of all traffic fatalities, nearly triple the national average of 11.4%, according to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. About 3% of the fatalities were bicyclists. That compares with 1.7% nationally.

The numbers are even worse in urban New York, where 49.6% of traffic fatalities were pedestrians and 6.1% were bicyclists.

The study, which compared crash rates in Los Angeles, New York and nationwide, examined data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, California Highway Patrol and the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. The database included 449,498 crashes within Los Angeles city limits, with 2,086 crashes that involved at least one death during the eight-year period of 2002 through 2009.

“This is a matter of exposure,” said Michael Sivak, a professor at the institute and a study coauthor along with Shan Bao. “When you look at large urban areas you have a wider mix of road users.”

In other findings, the University of Michigan researchers found that women who lived in Los Angeles were less likely to be in an accident than men. In the city, men accounted for a higher proportion of fatalities than the national average, 62.3% compared with 57.6%.

L.A. drivers also had a higher proportion of fatal crashes at intersections (36% in Los Angeles versus 22% in the U.S.), and more fatal crashes at low speeds — 35 mph or less (66.5% in Los Angeles versus 21.8% in the U.S.).

When considering the time of the day, crashes at night in Los Angeles constituted a higher percentage than the national average, 25.4% to 17.8% for the hours from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. (The percentage of nighttime crashes in New York was the same as in Los Angeles.)

“This is most likely due to the fact that people are more likely to be out and about at night in the big cities than they are elsewhere,” Sivak said.


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Photo: Fatal automobile accidents in L.A. involve pedestrians or bicyclists at a higher rate than the national average, a study shows. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times