Did the Bobcat Fire Make Malibu’s Roads Less Safe?

Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station social media posted this photo of a bike taken off the street in Malibu after its rider was pulled over going 108 miles per hour on Pacific Coast Highway in the middle of Malibu.

It’s not your imagination—street racing really has increased since the start of the pandemic. Complaints are rolling into the California Highway Patrol and the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station of speeders on Pacific Coast Highway and Malibu’s many winding canyon roads.

Malibu Public Safety Commissioner Doug Stewart says his neighborhood street in Latigo Canyon is nicknamed “Latigo Le Mans.”

“Especially on weekends and nights, you have a lot of racing motorcycles and high-performance vehicles. While CHP patrols the area sometimes, there’s just too many areas for people to race. Once they get going it’s hard to catch them,” Stewart noted.

Of course, sometimes speeders are caught and the consequences dire. On Aug. 3, a passenger was killed on PCH near Trancas after an alleged street racing incident.

Stewart described another accident on PCH where “a person was severely injured, the car was destroyed, the engine blew apart.

“According to witnesses he was going at a high rate of speed,” the commissioner said. “There’s no question that people are getting injured. People are willing to break the law and put everybody at risk.”

Speed is suspected in a crash that killed two teenagers who drove off Stunt Road in August.

In the same month, a solo driver was killed in an accident on south Malibu Canyon Road.

According to Stewart, the Malibu Public Safety Commission has asked for more patrol deputies, especially at night.

“I’ve seen more traffic enforcement—they’re out there,” Stewart said, adding that the public safety commission has looked into trying to lower the speed limit.

City Manager Reva Feldman confirmed to The Malibu Times that “it’s been an issue since COVID started” and added the city is working with the LA Sheriff’s Department on adding patrols.

“There are so many roadway miles in the Santa Monica Mountains, it keeps us busy in itself,” Weston Haver, a spokesperson for the California Highway Patrol, explained.

Haver is the public information officer for the CHP, which patrols unincorporated areas of the Santa Monica Mountains and assists the sheriff’s department on PCH when needed.

Data on racing in the mountains and along PCH was not yet available, but Haver said he had noted an increase in 2020.

“I’ve noticed, not only traffic on the roadways, but we’re also getting calls from concerned residents,” Haver said. “Keep in mind, street racing has been going on for a really long time in the Santa Monica Mountains. It seems to be, you turn on the news nightly in California and see street racing and street takeovers. It’s all over southern California—not just Malibu.”

When asked if it is mostly male drivers who are being ticketed for speeding, both the CHP and LASD stated that men and women are being cited. However, Haver added that he personally recalled more male drivers cited in canyons, although, “We haven’t officially run stats on that.”

As for the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station, their numbers are way up.

“We’ve written many, many tickets,” Sergeant Travis Kelly reported. “I haven’t seen as many tickets over 100 miles an hour in my career. I was a motor officer for 12 years, so I’m very familiar with this area.” Kelly said one speeding ticket was recently cited for 144 miles per hour. “We’re trying our best, but the problem with PCH is, it’s 21 miles long and we can’t be all over the place at the same time and we do special enforcement through the canyons, too.”

Kelly also reported that the number of speeding tickets issued in the canyons jumped dramatically—doubling from September to October—and he had a theory why.

“Because of the Bobcat Fire that closed Angeles Crest Highway,” Kelly surmised. “Those people who would normally drive there are now coming over here.”

Kelly warned, “Speeding puts not only yourself in danger—you’re putting everyone else’s lives in danger. All it takes is one little mistake to ruin your life and someone else’s life, too.”