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Can scramble crosswalks lower Los Angeles-area pedestrian deaths?

Los Angeles County is using the latest in road design in an attempt to improve pedestrian safety: the scramble crosswalk.

It's just what it sounds like: a scramble from one side of the street to the other, with traffic stopped for pedestrians.

Typically, at a major intersection, we press a button, wait for the light to turn green or flash WALK and then cross. If we need to cross again to get to yet another side of the street, we repeat the process.

But with the scramble crosswalk, all car traffic stops for a short time to allow pedestrians to cross the street in any direction, including diagonally. As odd as they look, and as opposite as they are to our traditional ways, the scramble crosswalks are reducing accidents at some of the county's busiest intersections.

In fact, VisionZeroLA reported in 2016 that at the Hollywood scramble – the intersection of the streets commonly referred to as Hollywood and Highland – previously averaged 13 crashes a year but there had been none since the scramble was installed. That is an area filled with tourists and foot traffic.

Statistics released earlier this year by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) showed that the number of pedestrians who died in Southern California has gone up for the last 10 years. Los Angeles County topped the nation in pedestrian deaths in 2016, with 135 of them in the city of Los Angeles.

The hope is that scramble crosswalks will help.

Los Angeles County has a number of scramble crosswalks now at busy intersections. They include Washington Boulevard and Pacific Avenue near the beach in Venice, Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street in Hollywood, Westwood Boulevard and Le Conte Avenue near the UCLA campus in Westwood and Sylvan Street and Sylmar Avenue in Van Nuys.

The traffic problems in Los Angeles are legendary, and the number of pedestrian fatalities and injuries is disturbing. It's heartening to see officials making an effort toward safer crosswalks.

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