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Rise in Traffic Mishaps Reflects Lack of Enforcement--and Officers

May 28, 2000|HAL BERNSON | City Councilman Hal Bernson represents the 12th district

As I drive through the city, I can't help but notice how often drivers ignore the traffic laws. I am not talking about common courtesies one should observe when behind the wheel. These are actions with deadly consequences.

I am not alone in my observations. Friends and associates complain about all sorts of flagrant infractions. Constituents constantly call my office to register their complaints.

So I was not really surprised when the city released a report recently showing traffic accidents actually increased several percentage points from 1997 to 1999, reversing a downward trend.

A disturbing part of this study was that we in the San Fernando Valley have eight intersections that ranked among the most dangerous. Even more disturbing is the fact that in our councilmanic district is an intersection with the most accidents, Parthenia Street and Reseda Boulevard in Northridge.

This revelation came about as a result of a City Council-ordered study undertaken to identify intersections with the worst accident records so we can do something about them. The proposed mitigation features include a wide variety of traffic control adjustments and other safety improvements, such as trimming trees, installing new signs and cameras and so forth. There are 19 such intersections in the entire city targeted for work, and we have a whopping percentage of them here in the Valley.

Let's face it, people just are not obeying the laws. In addition, they are driving around without licenses and/or insurance, not to mention a slew of unregistered or improperly registered vehicles. Let me throw this in too: I think a lot of people are spending too much time on their cellular phones, often distracting themselves and others.

The so-called "California stop," simply rolling through a sign, has become the norm on our streets and highways. It seems nobody feels compelled to stop any more.

During a 12-month period, we had 22 accidents at Parthenia Street and Reseda Boulevard. Placing second in the Valley with 18 was Canoga Avenue and Roscoe Boulevard. Also, Roscoe and Winnetka Avenue had 15 during the same time.

Sure, engineering improvements will help the flow of traffic, thus cutting down the number of accidents. But that's not the entire answer. People are not obeying laws because of a lack of enforcement. Needless to say, the fear of punishment is a deterrent, and we are not providing it.

Currently, we do not have the ability to enforce traffic laws because we do not have enough traffic officers. It's as simple as that.

Intersections have become dangerous because motorists keep running the red lights. They break all kinds of laws because nobody is watching them.

The solution is to put more traffic cops on the street. I have recently proposed that we hire an additional 250 police officers to be assigned to motorcycle duty. Currently, we have 253 motor officers citywide.

Let's double that number in the next three years since this task cannot be accomplished overnight. We will have to allocate funding. We will have to launch an aggressive recruitment drive.

As we are discovering, the selection and hiring process is not an easy task. I firmly believe that our resources, coupled with the availability of federal funds and income derived from more aggressive traffic enforcement will enable us to accomplish this very important job.

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