In yet another fatality, a driver of a three-axle roll-over trash truck died when his vehicle went off a 150-foot embankment along the 2700 block of Las Flores Canyon Road last Tuesday.
The 38-year-old El Monte man was southbound when his truck crossed the road and plowed through a railing. Multiple rescue departments rushed to the scene around 3:50 p.m., including the Fire Department’s Camp 8 crew, followed by L.A.’s Fire Squad, an ambulance, the CHP and the Mountain Rescue Team.
“I helped carry him out,” said Sgt. Kirk Cederlind, in a later telephone interview. “We (the CHP) were there doing the investigation and trying to help.”
For now the cause of the accident is still under investigation.
“The cab was so destroyed, it was separated from the chassis,” explained examining officer Jeff Strobel, of L.A. County’s commercial unit.
The man was transported to Camp 8, and died while there.
Although there have been three deaths recently, including this latest, on Las Flores Canyon as well as in other areas, it seems most traffic deaths in Malibu occur on Pacific Coast Highway. There has been an estimated 100 deaths in the last 10 years on PCH between Santa Monica and the Ventura County line. Whether these drivers were the cause or effect of lost lives, they were all victims of a high-speed rural highway that most commuters and visitors drive daily as if it were a freeway. On average, 80 percent of Malibu residents leave the city to work each day, accounting for speeding and early morning crashes.
“The PCH is full of distractions,” says Sgt. Kevin Mauch of the CHP. “You get cross-traffic from the side streets and turning vehicles. There are curves in the road, and the surface is uneven from traffic volume and land movement. People drive the PCH like it’s a freeway, but there are homes and businesses right on the road–driveways all along it–and no median. Then there are the scenic distractions.”
CHP statistics gathered between 1988 and 2000 show fatal collisions declined 64 percent since incorporation in 1991, the worst year being 1989 with 11 deaths, and the lowest fatality year claiming one life in 2000. These statistics do not include others from the Lost Hills/Malibu Sheriff’s Station.
Malibu’s traffic problems aren’t limited to PCH. Heavy rainfall and roadway debris, combined with poor visibility along the city’s many curving roads and increased driver error, which the city is trying to minimize by adding additional roadway features, such as a rumble strip in the asphalt to alert drivers, additional lighting and reflectors.
The 1988 to 2000 statistics also indicates a steep decline in injury collisions post incorporation: 66 percent less since a high of 395 injury collisions in 1989 to a low of 110 in 1999 and 134 in 2000. Speed programs, the use of radar and lasers, and tickets are all aimed at traffic safety. “I feel we’ve made some real progress,” said Mauch. “Our injury rate is still down.”
In the same period, hazardous citations went up from 13,592 in 1991 to 15,835 in 1996, falling to 11,993 in 2000. Explains Mauch, “We write 1,000 citations a month; about 20 of them are DUIs. The citations serve both as educational deterrents and punishment.”
But Mauch admits, “We constantly battle to deal with grossly negligent behavior; these guys are out of control.”
When asked about cell phone usage by drivers, Mauch was emphatic: “They are a terrible problem. And we can prove absolutely that a number of accidents were cell phone caused.”