Deaths on PCH renew calls for change


In the span of a few weeks, two men’s lives have been tragically cut short in fatal accidents on Malibu’s stretch of Pacific Coast Highway. Some say the highway lacks enough law enforcement presence.

On Tues., Feb. 26, Luis Adolfo Olmedo, 53, of Van Nuys was struck and killed by a car on PCH between Encinal Canyon Road and Mullholland Highway shortly before 7 p.m., according to Lt. Robert Wiard of the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station.

Wiard said Olmedo had just finished fishing near El Pescador State Beach and was crossing PCH from the shoreline side. He managed to cross the eastbound lanes but was struck in the No. 2 westbound lane.

“The driver was not able to take evasive action and prevent the accident,” Wiard said.

Investigators determined the driver was not at fault in the collision.

Olmedo’s death came a little more than two weeks after the death of 45-year-old tow truck driver Ronald Carver shook the community. Carver, originally from Newbury Park, was struck the night of Feb. 11 while aiding a disabled car on the side of PCH near Pepperdine University.

Jill Rose, 44, has been charged with felony hit-and-run and vehicular manslaughter in the case. Investigators are awaiting toxicology test results to determine whether Rose was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the collision.

Traffic Det. Richard Curry said it has not been determined whether speeding was a factor at the time Rose crashed and fled the scene. She later crashed into a parked car two miles east near the Malibu Pier.

Rose, who is from Santa Monica, was booked last Thursday on both counts and freed the same day on $50,000 bail at the Malibu/Lost Hills Station, Lt. Jim Royal said.

Though different sets of circumstances surrounded both deaths, both are linked together by Malibu’s main thoroughfare, Pacific Coast Highway. It is the road most drivers use to get in and out of Malibu, the road that caters to the summer beach crowds and a road many believe requires more law enforcement.

Between 2010 and 2012, an average of four people lost their lives each year in accidents on PCH in Malibu, according to numbers obtained from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Susan Saul, who heads the local activist group A Safer PCH, said a stronger law enforcement presence would be the best way to cut down on PCH accidents and reckless driving, especially when it involves speeding.

“With more police out on the road people are forced to slow down,” Saul said. “It also acts as a deterrent for drunk drivers. Police are the best deterrent we can get in Malibu.”

But there’s only so much the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept. can do, Traffic Sgt. Philip Brooks said.

The City of Malibu is paying $6.3 million in its contract with the LA County Sheriff’s Dept. in Fiscal Year 2012-13. Because the Sheriff’s Dept. is contracted through the city, deputies are not going to be assigned to patrol more than what is required—unless the City of Malibu decides to ask for more patrols.

“Malibu has 21 to 26 miles of coastline, depending on who you ask, and right now you have two permanent motorcycles and two part-time patrols out there,” Brooks said.

Two motorcycle deputies patrol PCH in Malibu for 40 hours a week, while another two provide an added 8 hours each week.

And with the department’s budget and resources already spread thin because of county budget cuts, it doesn’t look like there’s much more authorities can do.

“All of the cities we patrol have contract minutes, and obviously the Sheriff ’s Department isn’t going to overfill those minutes,” he said. Along with Malibu, the Malibu/ Lost Hills Sheriff ’s station is also contracted to serve Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Topanga, Westlake Village and Hidden Hills.

Brooks did, however, cite the department’s recent acquisition of a mobile DUI enforcement unit as a tool that’s helped with enforcement along PCH.

A traffic study conducted last year by the City of Malibu pinpointed speeding as the most frequent cause of accidents along Malibu’s main drag. The study has not been finalized, though, and the city is planning to hold another public meeting sometime this spring for further discussion of safety, according to public works analyst Elizabeth Shavelson.