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A 57-year-old woman from West Hills reportedly died after her vehicle was struck by an apparent street racer. According to the Los Angeles Fire Department, the crash happened in the 24300 block of Vanowen Street shortly after 4 p.m.
In a tweet, the Los Angeles Police Department said that two or three cars were allegedly street racing when one lost control and crashed into the woman’s car. In an interview with Daily News, Dianna DeLuca said that she heard the sound of the two cars racing as she was sitting in the main office at West Hills Urgent Care. When she looked up, she “saw the last vehicle go flying by going at least 80 miles-per-hour.”
She watched as a Dodge Charger slammed into a black Toyota Prius, whose driver appeared to be making a right turn from westbound Vanowen Street to northbound Valley Circle Boulevard. The crash sent the Charger and the Prius through a fence and into the parking lot of West Hills Montessori School, coming to rest within feet of a playground.
LAPD Sgt. Mark Guardado said the stretch of road has been a hot spot for illegal street racers: “They do meet here and up the street. We do enforce in the area for that reason, but as far as a collision actually being a verified cause of the accident, this is the first one that I’m aware of in over a year.”
DeLuca told Daily News that paramedics had a hard time getting the woman out of the car using the jaws of life. The victim, Colleen Wong, worked for a faith-based nonprofit organization.
She also said she hears cars racing through the area every day and night, and that it’s easy to lose track of speed on Valley Circle, which is a four-lane road with wide bike lanes and a posted 45 mile-per-hour speed limit sign. The intersection at Vanowen has traffic signals.
According to DeLuca, an officer used to sit in the area and watch for speeders until about a year ago. “Anyone that is around here that lives here, I’m sure they’re always complaining because there’s always accidents with parked cars at night,” she said.
Authorities said the male driver was being treated at a local hospital and was in custody.
As the streets of Los Angeles became deserted because of the coronavirus pandemic, an unexpected trend that arose was drag racing. As told to the LA Times, police across California said last year that street racers have been quick to turn public streets into their own playgrounds, challenging one another to races at dangerous speeds and performing just as dangerous stunts.
A law enforcement official told the LA Times that Los Angeles-area racers have grown increasingly brazen since the pandemic paralyzed the city, with younger crews organizing takeovers in popular intersections, including near the Staples Center in downtown L.A. Another CHP officer said that they’ve seen an uptick of groups engaging in “roll racing,” which is when packs of cars drive along a freeway before rocketing off chasing their car’s top speed.
In early Apr., the Los Angeles Department of Transportation released a study showing speeds are up by as much as 30% on some Los Angeles surface streets. Moreover, the CHP has seen an alarming 87% increase in citations for speeding in excess of 100 mph. During the month after the start of the stay-at-home-order in Mar. 2020, the CHP issued 2,493 tickets throughout California for speeding over 100 mph — almost doubling the amount of the same offense seen during the same period last year.
According to statistics compiled by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 30% of all fatal car accidents can be directly attributed to speeding. Furthermore, according to the National Safety Council, about 13,000 lives are lost yearly as a direct consequence of speeding.