More pedestrians died on L.A.'s Vermont Avenue than in the state of Vermont — its ad for making streets safer

A billboard funded by a street safety non-profit, Streets for All, calls attention to pedestrian fatalities in Los Angeles.Courtesy of Healthy Streets LA – Yes on HLA campaign
  • LA’s roads are among the deadliest in the US with 337 deaths in 2023.
  • Pedestrians and cyclists are disproportionately affected.
  • Measure HLA, on the March 5th ballot, aims to enforce LA’s Mobility Plan and enhance street safety.

Los Angeles traffic is notorious. Bumper-to-bumper cars on sprawling freeways at all times of day is par for the course.

Earlier this month, the roads were so congested that Mariah Carey had to be rescued from her SUV on the freeway by a golf cart (which drove the wrong way down the shoulder) in order to make it to the Grammy’s in time to hand Miley Cyrus an award.

But LA’s traffic is more than a nuisance. It’s deadly — especially for anyone attempting to walk or bike the city streets. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for kids in Los Angeles. More people are killed in traffic accidents in LA than in any other city in the US — and things are headed in the wrong direction. In 2023, 337 people died in traffic accidents — the highest number in more than two decades. Of these, 176 were pedestrians. By comparison, 114 pedestrians in New York City lost their lives in 2023.

A billboard on Vermont Avenue — a 23-mile long north-south thoroughfare — blasts a chilling statistic: more pedestrians were killed on that road than in the state of Vermont in 2022. Seven pedestrians were killed in the state, while eight people were killed on the LA road with the same name.  

The avenue is among the deadliest in LA and has a few of the most dangerous intersections in LA County.

The billboard — one of three on Vermont Avenue and many others citywide — is an advertisement for Measure HLA — officially, the City Mobility Plan Street Improvement Measures initiative — that Angelenos will consider on the March 5th ballot.

Michael Schneider, founder and CEO of Streets For All, a nonprofit running the Yes on HLA campaign, which created the billboards, said Vermont Avenue represents a typical arterial in LA.

“They’re built like highways, we have streets that are four and five lanes in each direction with a Senate turn lane,” Schneider said. “In most places, a 10-lane road is a highway.”

The measure would require the city to enhance street safety with traffic calming features, protected bike lanes, and better sidewalks, among other changes. If passed, Measure HLA would enforce LA’s Mobility Plan — an eight-year-old policy that aims to end traffic deaths in the city by 2035 —  and require the city to report on its progress in implementing it.

Representatives of Streets are for Everyone, a nonprofit traffic-safety advocacy group, place three white tires for a “Ghost Tire Memorial” on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023, near the location where three women were killed in a traffic collision while riding in an Uber in Los Angeles.Francine Orr/Getty Images

But LA isn’t alone. Traffic fatalities are rising across the country, and have been ticking for the last 15 years, even as other industrialized nations have reduced their road deaths. And people attempting to walk places are most impacted — pedestrian deaths are up 77% in the US since 2010.

Still, there are some bright spots in the US. Schneider pointed to the city of Hoboken, New Jersey, which hasn’t had a single traffic death in seven years, in part thanks to its Vision Zero program.

“People in Los Angeles, we have a tendency to think, for whatever reason, this is a very unique place and outsider ideas don’t work here,” he said. “But, you know, from just a national point of view, that’s just simply not true. You don’t have to go to Northern Europe or other places to actually see safer streets. It’s right here in the US.”

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