L.A.'s Streets Are By Far The Most Dangerous To Drive On In California

It doesn't take a mastermind to realize that driving in Los Angeles can be outright dangerous. Our city's legions of frustrated and stressed (not to mention texting and Tindering) drivers render our roads dicey places to traverse. All of us, whether motorists, pedestrians or cyclists, have memories of close calls with a vehicle piloted by an inattentive or overly aggressive driver that leaves us shaking, perhaps ready to leave Los Angeles and never come back.

The fears are not unfounded. A new study, put together by a collaboration between law firm Estey & Bomberger and the data visualization firm 1point21 Interactive, has determined that Los Angeles has an extremely disproportionate number of dangerous intersections. Using 2015 data from the California Highway Patrol's Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System, which aggregates data from every reported traffic collision in California, the study's authors crunched data on every intersection in the state where more than 10 collisions occurred in 2015. To be frank, the study paints a harrowing picture of Los Angeles' streets.

Of the 444 most dangerous intersections in California, a shocking 221 of those intersections are in the City of Los Angeles. Among the top 10 most dangerous intersections, eight of them are within the boundaries of Los Angeles, mostly concentrated in the San Fernando Valley.

The study determined that the most dangerous intersection in the entire state is the intersection of Devonshire Street and Reseda Boulevard. Though there were no deaths at the intersection in 2015, the intersection saw a total of 24 crashes, producing 41 injuries. The nearby intersection of Balboa Boulevard and Nordhoff Street ranked number three. Eerily, the most deadly intersection in Los Angeles in 2015 wasn't too far away either. Though there were only twelve crashes at Haskell Avenue and Roscoe Boulevard, three people died at the intersection in 2015.

In order to determine how dangerous an intersection is, the study's authors built a 'danger-score' rooted in the number of accidents, injuries and deaths that happened at a particular junction. Though the study authors examined statewide data, they determined that the vast majority of the state's dangerous intersections are located in Southern California. Among the 444 intersections with 10 or more crashes statewide, only 39 (!) are located outside of Southern California.

Combing through the data paints a distressing picture about the condition of Los Angeles street infrastructure, especially that in the San Fernando Valley. Speaking as a Valley native, and someone who pays special attention to road infrastructure as it relates to safety, I was well aware that the Valley's streets do little to encourage safe-driving habits. But I had no idea our roads were so disproportionately dangerous.

"When we first crunched the numbers, we were shocked. We thought 'this is kind of crazy' that 50 percent of the intersections were in the City of L.A.," Mike Perez of 1point21 Interactive told LAist. "We double and triple checked the results to make sure nothing was off."

More or less, the disproportionate number of dangerous intersections in L.A. can be tied to the fact that the streets are just so crowded. When you pack an enormous number of vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists together, the chance of collisions naturally increases. At the same time, the fact that the San Fernando Valley (almost exactly half of Los Angeles, by the way) has higher incident rates with a lower population density points to bigger problems with our infrastructure than just its crowdedness.

Streets across Southern California are designed, usually, with one purpose: to move an enormous number of cars as quickly as possible. Outside of Los Angeles' congested city center, the speed of these cars increases dramatically, aided by very wide and very straight roads. More speed translates into a significantly reduced margin for error, a margin that, as evidenced by the data, isn't wide enough.

L.A.'s traffic planners realize this, which is why they've thrown a considerable number of resources into the city's "Vision Zero" initiative. Vision Zero aims to reduce the number of traffic deaths to zero by 2025. While it's certainly a tall order, we know how to do it. Traffic calming measures like road diets work, and can be installed without even affecting a road's capacity.

In the meantime, please just slow down.