Numbers do lie when they’re used by LAPD to talk about hit and run drivers
Los Angeles, June 10, 2013 – A report to be delivered to the Los Angeles Police Commission tomorrow can best be described by a famous Mark Twain quote: “there are “lies, damned lies, and statistics”. Titled “Analysis of Traffic Collisions over the Last Five Years”, the report deliberately manipulates statistics to hide the lack of police response to the growing epidemic of hit and run collisions in the City of Los Angeles. ,
With 44% of all accidents in Los Angeles being hit and runs, Los Angeles has four times as many hit and run collisions than the national average of 11%, The latest LAPD report was produced in response a highly critical article in Los Angeles Weekly, and a Council motion by Councilmembers Joe Buscaino and Mitch Englander asking the LAPD report on efforts needed to curtail hit and run traffic collisions. The LAPD report, with intentionally misleading data, covers up the truth about hit and run collisions in Los Angeles. The underlying motivation for the misleading report appears to be the desire by LAPD management to not change their new politically motivated impound policy, and to rebut critics who have long said that there is not enough emphasis on hit and run driving in Los Angeles.
In recent months, the Chief has said that “the total number of traffic accidents and fatal and severe injury collisions experienced minor increases.” “Minor”, in Chief speak, is about a 7% increase in fatal and severe injury collisions. Certainly the families and loved ones of the victims, and any thinking person, would not consider ….more deaths as “minor.” The new use of the miles traveled by the LAPD is novel – but irrelevant to the fact that LA has so many hit and runs collisions
The report is a mishmash of graphs and numbers which have superficial appeal, but fail to enlighten the reader as to the reasons why hit and run crashes are increasing. For example, the report has a graph titled “Comparison of Primary Collision Factors” shows that the analysis of the traffic collisions has identified the five “primary collision factors” as speed, unsafe left-turn, impaired driving, following-too-close, and unsafe backing or starting.” What the report fails to inform the reader is that a more common denominator—unlicensed driver—is not one of the primary causes that can be listed legally as a cause of a collision. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety unlicensed drivers flee the scene over 35 percent of the time. Licensed drivers flee 3.7 percent of the time.
In light of the recent California Department of Motor Vehicle report that unlicensed drivers are three times more likely to be involved in fatal collisions, it is both striking and revealing that “unlicensed drivers” are ignored by the authors of the report as a significant factor in hit and run crashes. That number is also understated because the reporting of unlicensed drivers by many jurisdictions is weak at best. For instance San Francisco does not track any activity by unlicensed drivers at all. Further, commonsense suggests that a person most likely to flee the scene of a traffic collision is one who was not licensed and should have never been driving in the first place.
One should expect that a report to the Los Angeles Police Commission documenting criminal activity and the police response to it would contain the unvarnished truth. This report shows that expectation is sadly misplaced.
What is the number one and most innovative police department in the country doing about the hit and run driver – sadly the answer is nothing.
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Contact: Don Rosenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s Note: The first statistics about the hit and run problem were published on our website after a Freedom of Information Act request to the LAPD for the data. The data was then used in our whitepaper and subsequently used by the LA Weekly and other media outlets.