We’ve been talking a lot about bike safety on LADOT Bike Blog over the last few months, but almost all of it has been geared towards the bicyclist. Talking about bicyclist safety, however, is only part of the equation: safety on the roads includes pedestrians and drivers as well. Any measure of safety for bicyclists has to take into account the actions and behaviors of people behind the wheel. We’re not the ones, after all, encased in 2,000+ lbs. of steel traveling at extremely high speeds. If drivers know how to properly respect bicyclists’ space and properly share the road, everyone will be safer.
In the quest to educate drivers, LADOT is proud to be a member of the Watch the Road campaign. I sat down with Watch the Road coordinator Luz Echavarria at the end of April to talk about Watch the Road and LADOT’s part in the program.
LADOT Bike Blog: So what’s the back story behind Watch the Road? Who is a part of it?
Luz: Watch the Road started as a grant project in 2004 with $1.5 million of grant funding from the California Office of Traffic Safety. The grant funding, and the original Watch the Road program, sunsetted in 2007, but we’ve transitioned Watch the Road into an LADOT safety program that we keep afloat through various grant funding. The Watch the Road campaign is a coalition of a number of major public and private organizations like LADOT, Metro, AAA, Caltrans, SCAG, and others. (Ed. note: the full list is here)
LADOT Bike Blog: What determined the focus of Watch the Road?
Luz: The purpose of Watch the Road is to make roads as safe as possible. With that in mind, we looked at what the #1 cause of accidents was in California. We then tried to craft a simple, clear message that would speak towards that cause. Then we went down the list of the 10 most dangerous habits of road users, crafting simple, clear messages.
LADOT Bike Blog: What are the top 10 most dangerous habits of road users?
- Driving too fast (speeding)
- Aggressive driving
- Inattentive driving (using your cell phone, eating, makeup, etc.)
- Running through red lights (whether drivers, bicyclists, or pedestrians)
- Drunk driving (DUI)
- Failing to yield to pedestrians
- Pedestrians walking into the street without first looking
- Pedestrians not using a crosswalk
- Bicyclists riding their bikes against traffic
- Car passengers failing to buckle up
LADOT Bike Blog: What was the rationale behind the simplicity of the Watch the Road posters and messages?
Luz: We wanted to create a “brand” for Watch the Road. We wanted to make the Watch the Road signs and the Watch the Road campaign synonymous with good behavior of all road users. We also thought clear, short messages would have the most impact on changing roadway behavior.
LADOT Bike Blog: How do you spread your message?
Luz: The first stage of Watch the Road, from 2004-2007, had a campaign that spanned newsprint, radio, and television. Now that the original project has sunsetted, we use a multi-media campaign that utilizes the opportunities provided by our partners. Through Metro, we had adds placed as bus stops and on buses. Through City of LA, we had Watch the Road bumper stickers placed on all city vehicles. Through LAUSD and grant funding, we’ve done educational work with schoolchildren and parents and distributed Watch the Road lawn signs. We’ve also partnered with Neighborhood Councils to spread awareness and education. We’ve released our media in English, Spanish, and Korean.
LADOT Bike Blog: How can people get involved with Watch the Road?
Luz: You can request promotional material for Watch the Road, volunteer as a partner for Watch the Road, or make a donation through Calfund. You can do all this through our website: watchtheroad.org