The number of traffic collisions in L.A. declined this year, but there were more fatalities tied to crashes, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore said Monday.
Approximately 54,000 collisions occurred in 2019, a slight dip from the 54,800 reported the previous year, according to the latest LAPD data.
Despite fewer collisions, traffic-related deaths increased slightly this year, with 236 fatalities reported, Moore said at a Monday morning news conference. That's two more than last year.
But more alarming, the number of traffic-related deaths has risen 32% in the past five years, with pedestrians making up the majority of the victims.
“When we look at those pedestrian fatalities … just over half them in the period of time, the pedestrians themselves are outside of a crosswalk or on the roadway, and so to speak are at fault." Moore said. “We know that the other half of the time, the motorist is, through distracted driving, or texting, or impaired driving.”
Nearly half of the crashes this year -- more than 25,300 -- were categorized as hit-and-runs, according to LAPD.
And though that figured dropped by about 3,000 from the previous year, Moore noted the number of pedestrian fatalities resulting in such incidents has steadily climbed by 69% over the past five years.
The chief reminded motorists that fleeing the scene makes the crash a felony -- even when the driver didn't cause the collision.
“The key for me for hit-and-runs is this: It’s an accident. Don’t make it a crime," he said.
Moore says he believes things like DUI and texting while driving have contributed to the increase of crash-related fatalities and injuries this year.
He urged everyone on the road -- whether they're walking or behind the wheel -- to be vigilant and maintain awareness of their surroundings.
Drivers and pedestrians need to “pay attention to their primary responsibility," Moore said. "The primary responsibility of driving; the primary responsibility of ensuring their safety as they walk about this city.”
The chief's comments came as LAPD sought to raise awareness of fatal traffic collisions in the city this year, particularly as New Year's Eve approaches.
Police are encouraging those heading out to holiday parties Tuesday night to designate a sober driver.
Additionally, Metro will be offering free bus and train service on New Year's Eve from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Another alternative: AAA's annual Tipsy Tow program, which will offer a free tow of up to seven miles to impaired driver. The service is available from 6 p.m. Tuesday to 6 a.m. Wednesday in a number of Southern California counties, including L.A., Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura.
"Unfortunately, this time of year is when we see more people driving impaired," LAPD Officer Don Inman said in a news release. "There is no excuse for driving after drinking or using drugs that impair. There are many ways to get home safely without driving."