ASPCH asks, ‘How many more have to die?’

The local grassroots coalition, “A Safer Pacific Coast Highway,” conducts a press conference in an effort to spread the message of highway safety to the greater Los Angeles area.

By Jimy Tallal / Special to the Malibu Times

Handing out free bumper stickers that read, “A Safer PCH NOW,” with emphasis on the word “now,” the ASPCH grassroots coalition conducted its first press conference last Thursday morning at the Zuma Beach parking lot. Apropos to the message, the press conference took place just a few feet away from the traffic whizzing by on Pacific Coast Highway.

Local news radio, television stations and several publications covered the event. More than a dozen uniformed local law enforcement officials from several agencies also attended the event in support of ASPCH’s efforts to improve highway safety. In addition, city council members Laura Rosenthal, Lou La Monte and Pamela Conley Ulich were present, as well as Carol Randall and Susan Tellem from Malibu’s Public Safety Commission. Students from Malibu Middle School brought signs and placards that included the messages, “I love Pacific Coast Highway, Make it Safe,” “Slow Your Pace on PCH and “More enforcement.”

Maria-Flora Smoller, one of the three founding members of ASPCH, spoke at the press conference about what caused the formation of the organization.

“A Safer PCH [was founded by] three mothers who could no longer sit and do nothing after four heart-wrenching deaths [in one month],” Smoller said. “How many have to die or be injured? How many more mothers have to bury their children? The time to make PCH safer is now.”

One of those deaths Smoller spoke of included that of 13-year-old Emily Rose Shane, who was killed April 3 when a car struck her while she walking along Pacific Coast Highway. The driver of the car that hit Shane is facing murder charges.

Emily’s father, Michel Shane, at the conference made a plea for more safety features on the highway and pointed out that there is no sidewalk or any other kind of protection for pedestrians trying to navigate around the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Heathercliff Road. “It’s not just mothers who bury their children,” he said, referencing Smoller’s statement. “Fathers do, too.”

Smoller also talked about how the state’s highway safety task force, which was formed more than a decade ago, has accomplished very little to achieve highway safety. “ASPCH’s mission is to make it [highway safety] happen now. We need to unite the community on this issue and cut through the bureaucratic inefficiency,” Smoller said. “There is simply not enough law enforcement. We need more Sheriff’s presence along the 27 miles that we all use as our main street. [Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Captain Joseph Stephen found the money for more Sheriff’s patrols, additional DUI checkpoints and decoy cars over the summer. However, enforcement is the state’s obligation. Malibu is the only Southern California city without the California Highway Patrol … The [Qwick Kurb] paddles like you see on the median behind me were in the planning stage for over two years and have just now been installed. What took so long? We need more. Caltrans must do more.”

Teri Love, whose son Tyler and his best friend Keith Naylor both died on Pacific Coast Highway at the age of 22 when their motorcycle was hit by a car making an illegal U-turn, emphasized the snail-like pace in achieving safety features along the highway. “It took four and half years for me to have [Caltrans] put up [Qwick Kurbs] at the accident site that will prevent the kind of illegal U-turns that killed Tyler five years ago,” she said.

Newly elected City Councilmember La Monte reminded the press that he, along with City Manager Jim Thorsen and others, would be meeting with the California secretary of transportation in Sacramento on June 15 to investigate the possibility of “getting the CHP back here.” He explained that the state only provides free CHP coverage for highways in unincorporated areas. Once Malibu gained cityhood, it was no longer eligible for free CHP services. The city found it was less expensive to contract with one agency, the county Sheriff’s Department, to provide both traffic and criminal enforcement, than it was to pay for two agencies. State law would most likely have to be changed in order for Malibu to have free CHP services, unless a special exclusion can be granted under existing law.

Traffic Sgt. Phil Brooks of the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station summarized the changes his department is making for the summer months, some of which were funded by grant money made available after the number of recent fatalities on the highway. More patrols, additional DUI checkpoints over and above those that had already been planned, and two more decoy cars and a beach patrol were all instituted during the Memorial Day weekend.

Middle school representative and student Isaac Vandor addressed the media concerning safety improvements middle school students would like to see on Pacific Coast Highway, including safer bus stops, lower speed limits, more crosswalks and a local bus [to shuttle pedestrians around town]. Speaking about Emily Rose Shane, he said, “She was in our class and we had to take some kind of action.”

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