When horses and traffic collide tragically

The dark vehicle turning a corner on the same street where long time Shadow Hills resident, Dina DeSanctis was riding her horse, Dakota. This was one of the many roads in the neighborhoods where horses and cars have shared the roads, trails marked like bike lanes on the ground.

The vehicle seemed to come out of nowhere, witnesses told police.

Photos of the destroyed vehicle's front windshield hint at how hard he hit Dakota, from the rear. The horse died, DeSanctis suffered spinal injuries and broken bones. The driver drove around the corner, to his own home, where he told investigators he never saw the horse.

He was never cited, much to the despair of equestrians in the area, who say this was the culmination of an ongoing issue between more car driving residents moving into the neighborhood, that until fairly recently, housed almost as many horses as cars.

But four months later, and after a huge outcry from the community, LAPD Traffic Division Officer Joel Flores, with the input and help from the Shadow Hills Property Owners Association, SPHOA, put into effect the Horseback Task Force.

All morning, he followed in his vehicle, groups of riders on horses, as they made their way through the same area. He was looking for reckless drivers, putting the horses and riders in danger. Within two hours, he had written 30 violations, 18 for speeding, 4 for not stopping at stop signs, and at least 5 for not yielding on crosswalks.

The point is to bring awareness, not to penalize drivers, says DeSantis, who is still recuperating from her physical injuries, but fears she will never get over the heartbreak.

Dakota was a member of the family, not property, as the law specifies, and possibly, part of the reason the driver was not cited. "It won't change what happened" she says, "but hopefully, it will stop it from happening again."