Ten pedestrians dead: 79-year-old Elias Sanchez of Long Beach on Jan. 7; a 58-year-old female resident of Carson on Jan. 21; a 63-year-old resident of Long Beach on Feb. 19; a 63-year-old Long Beach resident Ricardo Torres, killed in a hit-and-run on March 13; a 25-year-old male on March 29; a 35-year-old resident of Long Beach on April 5; a 60-year-old resident of Long Beach on May 15; a 44-year-old resident of Long Beach on May 21; a 51-year-old resident of Long Beach on June 3; and an unidentified female, killed during a hit-and-run on June 25.
Six automobile drivers killed: a 36-year-old resident of Long Beach on Jan. 13; an unidentified male driver after fleeing a hit-and-run at Second Street and Granada Avenue on March 3; 41-year-old Jessica Bingaman (along with five dogs in one of the most publicized events this year); an unidentified female driver on June 8; 91-year-old Howard Shaack of Los Angeles on June 27; and a 21-year-old resident of Bellflower on Aug. 18.
Three bicyclists killed: a 64-year-old resident of Long Beach on Jan. 4; an unidentified 62-year-old on Jan. 30; and most recently, an 82-year-old resident of Long Beach.
And one motorcyclist gone: 25-year-old Corey Haggerty.
These are the 20 people killed by cars driven by motorists in 2019 in Long Beach (not including deaths on our freeways). Last year, 28 people were killed.
What prompted me to update this list of deaths—this piece was originally published on Jan. 30, noting that six people had died in the first 30 days of this year—were two events: The news that an 82-year-old bicyclist succumbed to his injuries this past weekend after being hit and a picture.
A friend shared a disturbing photo of a car that had lodged itself inside a roundabout at Ninth Street and Daisy Avenue in Downtown, Monday morning. The driver not only sailed through a stop sign but did it with such speed that they mounted their vehicle onto a large rock within the roundabout.
My immediate thought was the relief that someone had not been in that intersection. A walker. A bicyclist. A kid. And it made me come back to this list, which I have had to add 14 humans to on this update.
I have received no outrage about any of these deaths, minus one text from a dear friend earlier in the year that read: “This is absolutely gut-wrenching.”
But I did receive a very odd email earlier this year after I published a commentary calling for the city to move forward on regulating e-scooters in order to garner funds to fix sidewalks, repair roads, and create more green spaces.
It came from an unsigned sender and read:
You have not included anything about the accident rate of scooters. Lawsuits brought on by people injured by those who were hit, etc. Seems like journalism no longer cares to give the whole story, only slanted stories that benefit their views.
What was odd was not the message itself being sent. (This qualifies as one of the calmer messages from one of my trolls; I’m just happy they weren’t threatening to kill me. Again.) What was odd was the realization that the counterpart to that message has never been sent to me.
I have never, in the decade-plus of my career, received anything that expresses the same sentiment about cars. I’ve never received a message that complained I didn’t talk about a driver who controlled a car that killed someone; no, it was always this magical vehicle jumped the sidewalk all on its own and took the life of a pedestrian; everyone seeming very comfortable with the myth that car crashes are “accidents” rather than preventable events.
Yet, I receive, over and over from car drivers, angry, unsubstantiated bowls of crazy which argue that only individual cars driving for free on roads are meant to be a part of society.
E-scooters are injuring people! Ban them.
Bikes are riding on the sidewalk! Ban them.
Death, disaster and destruction yielded by two-ton metal chariots that travel at high speeds with the tap of a foot? WHERE DO I GET ONE AND GET OUT OF MY WAY.
So while there are residents like Linda Spery calling for the ban of e-scooters because they “break the law” when they ride on sidewalks you rarely hear anyone calling out car drivers who are “breaking the law” every moment of every day.
The ultimate issue is this: As our streets become more crowded, we have a responsibility to protect those who are most vulnerable, including the elderly, the less affluent, the bicyclist, skateboarder and pedestrian. This, in turn, means that those who operate vehicles—the most lethal thing on the street; there’s nothing remotely even close to their level of destruction—should be expected to act the most responsible. And yet, we continue to dismiss the role drivers and their cars play in causing death and, instead, often blame the victims themselves, telling everyday pedestrians that they should coat themselves in full body armor before stepping outside.
We are in this together and we are all responsible for behaving safely, so let’s shift the concentration of safety efforts away from pedestrian shaming, away from getting angry at buses and trains and bikes and e-scooters, and focus on the matter at hand: safer streets.
In order to focus on that, we have to have a discussion about reexamining our streets and reexamining the many myths we create in our heads as drivers, including the one that driving a car is our right rather than a responsibility and privilege.
It means talking about how to decrease speed limits, about how our impatience causes deaths and injuries.
It means talking about how we create complete streets, not raceways or more drive-thrus.
It means talking to the family of Ben Rael, the 35-year-old bicyclist killed on Seventh St., last year, to let them know that his death was preventable and we are choosing each day not to ignore that.
It means telling the family of 22-year-old Frederick “Woon” Frazier, killed in a horrifying hit and run caught on video, that we are working to prevent another loss like his from happening again.
It means recognizing that adding a few more minutes to your commute or creating a new bike lane or widening a sidewalk or creating a longer crosswalk signal is worth a human life.
Editor’s note: This piece is an update from a piece originally published on Jan. 30, 2019.
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