By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Gabriela Tsimanis was fed up with drivers recklessly navigating their way near Playa Vista Elementary School.
So, the member of Girl Scout Troop 2155 researched the problem for her Girl Scout Silver Award project. The Silver Award requires a 50-hour commitment.
She found that drivers speed and do not halt at stop signs between March and July.
“We have all heard the screech of tires as someone speeds through an intersection here in Playa Vista,” says the 14-year-old ninth grade student at Girls Academic Leadership Academy. She graduated from Playa Vista Elementary School in 2019.
“Sure, it’s annoying, but it also shows a lack of regard for the welfare of the residents of our community. I can’t tell you how many times I have been awakened to the sound of a sports car doing doughnuts in the intersection right near my house! Careless driving is not only a nuisance; it is a serious safety hazard. Just recently, a woman and two children were hit by a car as they crossed a crosswalk near PVES. Thankfully, everyone was not seriously hurt, but this was a serious incident.”
Gabriela says many people live in Playa Vista because it is a “very walkable area in Los Angeles.”
“I spend a lot of time walking through our Playa Vista neighborhood,” she says. “For six years, I walked to and from home to PVES. I also regularly walk to the library, to Runway and other places around the neighborhood. I have witnessed firsthand how drivers are not always following the laws.”
According to published data for California, there were 11,787 pedestrian fatalities and injuries statewide in 2022 (otis.ca.gov).
In Los Angeles County, there were 3,573 pedestrian fatalities and injuries — nearly 1 in 3 in the entire state.
At the height, in 2017, there were over 57,000 car accidents throughout the entire year in LA. Throughout California in 2017, there were 200,000 fatal and injury crashes, she found.
“In my project, I decided to measure how often people speed through intersections and how often they fail to make a complete stop at a stop sign,” she says.
“I thought that sharing the data with drivers in our community might make some of them think about their driving behavior. Many tend to either speed and disregard stop signs or merely slow down without fully stopping at them. And that can pose an issue to certain kinds of people like kids near schools and some elderly people.”
During one visit to the intersection, an older man in a motorized wheelchair approached her and asked about the task’s purpose.
“I explained that I was keeping track of the number of times a car failed to stop at the stop sign, as it posed a threat to him as some drivers may fail to notice him, potentially leading to a bad accident,” she says.
She met with Dawn Suskin, the general manager of Playa Vista Parks and Land Corp. The longtime Playa Vista resident suggested she speak with Sean Silva, who works in the Los Angeles office of City Councilmember Traci Park.
During each period of data collection, she sat at the selected intersection for an hour. Most of the data collection occurred between 4 and 6 p.m. during the week or on the weekends.
“After finishing the data collection, I created a spreadsheet with all the data and calculated two statistics: the percentage of drivers who didn’t come to a complete stop at a stop sign and the percentage of drivers who sped through the intersection,” she says.
“I gathered all of my data and calculated the percentage of all cars going through an intersection who did not fully stop and the percentage of all cars speeding through the intersection.”
She says the results of her study were astounding. On average, 63.7% (range: 37% to 89%) of drivers did not come to a full stop. That means that, on average, over half of the drivers observed did not fully stop at the stop sign, she says.
At two intersections, over 80% of the drivers failed to come to a complete stop. I also found that on average, 6.3% of the drivers sped through the intersections (range: 0% to 9.8%). Even though that number is small, there are still chances of serious accidents. The safest intersection of all the intersections was the one at Runway Road and Dawn Creek, she says.
“At that intersection, 37% of drivers failed to fully stop and no drivers appeared to be speeding during the time I collected data,” she says.
“In addition, although I did not collect this data systematically, I did notice, too, that a lot of times, drivers were distracted looking at their phones while driving, which could be contributing to the large number who did not stop or were speeding. We must make safety a top priority and implement measures to ensure that similar incidents do not happen again.”
In addition to her paper, Gabriela produced a flyer to share with the community.
Gabriela started with the organization as a Brownie, with the encouragement of her mother, Lisa.
Lisa said Gabriela came up with the idea on her own.
“We had nothing to do with it,” says Lisa, a former Girl Scout. “She came home one day from the Girl Scout meeting and said, ‘This is what I’m going to do. I want to make the community safer.’
“We were fully supportive of it. On weekends and after school, she did the data collection.”
Adds Gabriela, “I personally thought it was a chance to make the world a better place with some of my best friends.”