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During the first four months of 2021, about a dozen pedestrians have been reportedly killed after being struck by vehicles on freeways in central Los Angeles. Many of the pedestrians struck and killed by vehicles on freeways are unhoused individuals, according to authorities.
The sight of a pedestrian walking alongside Eastside freeways or even dashing across traffic lanes has become more common. And given this is very dangerous to do, so have fatalities. In the case of the unhoused people, the encampments that have sprouted along freeways and underpasses are often only reachable by walking dangerously close to speeding traffic, putting them at a high risk.
“Point of access to some of these encampments would be through freeway entrances,” Ann Reyes, associate director of Metro LA Programs for People Assisting The Homeless (PATH), told The Eastsider LA. “With narrow walk spaces and fast-moving vehicles, it’s so unfortunate that lives have been lost.”
During the first four months of this year, the California Highway Patrol had to deal with about a dozen pedestrian deaths within seven miles of central Los Angeles, according to CHP Officer Roberto Gomez. Some recent cases include that of a 39-year-old homeless Latino man who was fatally struck by a vehicle after he’d been walking in the northbound lanes of the 5 Freeway in Atwater Village back in early Apr. The very next day, another pedestrian was run down and killed on the westbound 60 Freeway in East Los Angeles near the Lorena Street on-ramp.
The CHP is reportedly flooded with reports of pedestrians on the freeway in central Los Angeles. The number of non-fatal reports has risen from 4,584 in 2015 to a peak of 11,050 in 2019, before settling back to 9,500 in 2020 during the pandemic. However, so far this year there have been 2,450 calls about pedestrians on freeways as of Apr. 15.
Other than unhoused individuals trying to reach their encampments, Officer Gomez told The Eastsider LA that sometimes a freeway pedestrian turns out to be an elderly person with dementia. Other times, the incidents have been ruled by the coroner to be suicides — though it can be hard to know for sure whether other cases were suicides as well.
But most times, he said, people seem to be walking across the freeway to get to the other side. “I think the majority are trying to get from point A to point B,” Gomez reportedly said.
In Los Angeles, over 100 pedestrians are reportedly killed by drivers every year. Pedestrian deaths have increased in the city nearly 55% over the last five years, and hundreds more are injured by drivers each year. Moreover, despite historic traffic decline because of the coronavirus pandemic, 238 people died in collisions last year, compared to 246 in 2019 — a decrease of about 3%, based on preliminary data reported by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation.