By Charlotte Rudnick, Quilt Staff
DATELINE: TOPANGA CANYON BOULEVARD
Canoga Park is among a number of Los Angeles communities participating in a new pilot program aimed at reducing hit and run incidents.
The program, comprised of bus stop ads, billboards and various social media nonsense, challenges drivers to buck traditional thinking and actually stop their vehicle should they hit a pedestrian, cyclist or other vehicle.
|Image: Vision Zero Los Angeles.
“Here in Los Angeles, the hit and run capital of the United States, it’s completely counter-intuitive — absolutely unheard of! — to take responsible for one’s actions and actually render aid to, or merely call 911 for, a person or persons one has personally injured however unintentionally,” says Jason Breen of Vision Zero Los Angeles, a traffic safety organization named for the distance a driver can see in front of him with his or her nose buried in a smartphone. “We realize we’re battling an innate concept extremely deep-rooted and hard-wired in the brain of the Los Angeles driver. But we’re hoping we can start to make inroads to change that mindset. However absolutely crazy that may sound.”
Canoga Park was specifically chosen as a community participant in the public-awareness program due to its quickly becoming the West Valley’s go-to destination for the exciting and fast-paced sport of illegal street racing, as well as for the fact that virtually all stop signs in residential areas are ignored by the car-driving public.
Vision Zero LA
“Again, we understand that the whole concept of stopping after a collision seems unnatural and wrong. Maybe you just ran down a skateboarder, and you’re sorry and want to pull over, but that line at In & Out isn’t going to get any shorter if you do," Breen says.
“Perhaps you feel fifteen seconds is plenty of time for a stooped-over 85-year old woman pushing her walker while clutching four bags of groceries to get across a six-lane thoroughfare, and once that light turned green, you had the right of way — and besides, Medicare will pay for a new hip if she pulls through.
“Sure, the enormous force with which you hit that baby carriage sent it flying over a fence and onto someone’s balcony, and you’d like to help, but climbing up there would be trespassing, and besides, ‘The Real’ is starting in like five minutes.
“We understand all that. Of course your natural impulse is to just get the hell out of there as quickly as possible. All we’re asking is — and we know it’s unheard of — to just consider stopping when your abysmal driving skills injure another person. Just consider it. That’s all we’re asking.”
|Another local hit & run victim. Many insist a keep right / stop sign combo should have known
better than to stand in the middle of a road in an area where drivers simply don't stop. Staff photo.
“I think it’s great,” says local misanthrope Téodor Pasternak, whose own vehicle was hit by a hit and run driver earlier this year on Owensmouth Avenue. Pasternak, an accountant with Peppy Painting, pulled over and expected the driver of the other vehicle to do the same to survey the damage and exchange insurance information. “Instead, she took off like she was peeling out of the Canoga Park Women’s Club parking lot after a night of hard partying. I managed to get a picture of her car, but there was nothing the police could do. However, I would like to publicly call the driver the c-word. Can I do that here?” [Editor’s note: Eh... No.]
|The alleged vehicle that allegedly struck Canoga Park resident Téodor Pasternak's car before fleeing in
a classic hit-and-run situation by an alleged "total c-word," according to the victim. Photo: T. Pasternak.
Part of Vision Zero’s campaign involves bus stop ads featuring a jarring image depicting the aftermath of a hit and run accident involving a bicycle.
“The [ads] are not so much for folks waiting for the bus, who should be keeping a constant vigil, diligently scanning the roads for speeding, out-of-control vehicles that may be careening right towards them," explains Breen, who heads up Project Zero's safe driver initiative outreach advocate liaison department. "They’re for drivers. We’ve tried to make the text big enough so they might attract drivers’ attention while they’re zipping along, looking for their Pokemons.”
Recent studies indicate the typical Los Angeles driver is only glancing up from texting, watching a video, eating a Whopperito, posting a video, or checking in with Facebook to see how many likes their Whopperito video review has gotten, every 6.8 seconds and only then for less than half a second.
“We know we’re facing an uphill battle — we’ve only got them for that half-second. But we want to make that half-second count,” adds Breen.
The bus stop ads include a hashtag so that when a driver is done looking up at the road and has resumed undistracted texting, he or she might post something to Twitter or Instagram with #EndHitAndRuns to help get the word out.