Sheriff’s Department announces additional summer patrols, DUI checkpoints and decoy cars; citizens group ASPCH plans safety campaign.
By Jimy Tallal / Special to the Malibu Times
In the wake of a number of recent fatal traffic accidents, Lost Hills/Malibu Sheriff’s Station Captain Joseph Stephen announced Monday that the station has partnered with the Los Angeles County Office of Traffic Safety to obtain four additional “DUI saturation patrols” throughout the summer on Pacific Coast Highway. Stephen, along with Lost Hills Sgt. Phil Brooks, made the announcement at the home of Maria-Flora Smoller on Monday, during a meeting of A Safer Pacific Coast Highway, or ASPCH, a community-driven group that was formed after the death of 13-year-old Emily Rose Shane last month to address traffic safety issues in Malibu.
The additional patrols are set to begin Memorial Day, Stephen said. The partnership between the Sheriff’s station and the Office of Traffic Safety will also provide funding for two additional DUI checkpoints in Malibu beyond those already planned. In addition, two more black and white decoy Sheriff’s cars will be deployed in the city beginning this week. The Office of Traffic Safety, or OTS, has access to grant money, which it allocates on a case-by-case basis.
Stephen reported that the Sheriff’s Department gave 13,000 traffic citations in Malibu during 2009 and has written 2,179 tickets so far this year. Lost Hills Sheriff’s Deputy John Young alone writes an average of 2,800 tickets per year, making him number one in Los Angeles County to do so. The traffic enforcement index for Malibu (the number of hazardous citations for speeding, etc., divided by the number of DUIs and accidents) is “off the chart” compared to other communities, Stephen said.
ASPCH meets every Monday, inviting the community at large to participate in brainstorming ideas to make the highway safer. Local city and safety officials, as well as Caltrans officials, are invited to address members at the meetings.
On Monday, residents questioned whether more traffic lights could be installed along the highway, and asked about reducing the speed limit.
Stephen and Brooks said only Caltrans has the authority to modify turn lanes, place signs or erect flashing yellow lights or traffic signals on PCH.
Stephen said, “PCH is below the state average for accidents when its width and traffic volume are taken into account. That’s why Caltrans hesitates to justify more traffic lights. Traffic lights are actually a liability for them.”
He also said, “There is nothing in the code that allows Caltrans to change the speed on a highway.”
Questions came up about why the Sheriff’s Department couldn’t have done more to intercept the driver that hit and killed Shane after receiving four 911 calls about him before the accident.
“There is a misconception about what police can do [to try and stop an erratic driver],” for reasons of public safety, Stephen said.
He also pointed out that the window of time between the first of the four calls and the time of the accident was relatively short, approximately eight to 12 minutes.
A suggestion was made to have two Sheriff’s Department substations in Malibu because of the town’s 27-mile length. One substation is already being planned for the Civic Center. However, the idea of having a second substation in the west Malibu area was a new concept at this meeting, and one that was well received by Sheriff’s officials and ASPCH meeting attendees. This was deemed especially important during periods of heavy weekend summer traffic when it’s difficult for emergency vehicles to get through the highway.
ASPCH announced it would be going forward with a public relations campaign to improve safety awareness on PCH called, “Malibu Calls 911.” Bumper stickers will be distributed and the overall plan will be reviewed at the next city council meeting. The city will be asked to use the PR firm it currently keeps on monthly retainer to get the message out before Memorial Day.
ASPCH will work with the Malibu Public Safety Commission, Caltrans and the City of Malibu to accomplish their goals. Short-term goals are to review signage and striping; install more “Watch for Pedestrians,” “Share the Road” and “No Pedestrian Crossing” signs; install a wider fog line and enhance existing crosswalks. Mid-term improvements will be to create a local PCH safety task force, install more Q-curbs and speed feedback signs, and obtain more Safety Corridor Grant funding from OTS. Long-term goals are to create more sidewalks and bike paths; install more rumble strips on road shoulders and medians, and review the existing Qwick Kurb channelizer systems and airmarkers (median strip “candlesticks,” etc.).
ASPCH meetings take place Mondays at 10 a.m., at 6269 Frondosa Dr., Malibu.
PCH accident statistics
Accident statistics on Pacific Coast Highway within the city limits of Malibu during the past five years have not changed significantly. From 2005 to 2009, the total number of collisions per year ranged from 392 to 446, according to the traffic secretary at the Lost Hills/Malibu Sheriff’s Station. The total number of fatal collisions has been two to four per year. The total number of injury accidents (injuries of all kinds, including minor injuries) ranged from 106 to 125 per year. Looking at accidents involving DUI with injuries, six to 10 per year have occurred (with the exception of 2006, when there were 26).
A brief examination of accidents reported in The Malibu Times and other local news sources and Web sites, involving fatalities and serious injuries during the past five years in or near Malibu indicates that nearly all involved some combination of the following: alcohol consumption, driving at night, making an illegal U-turn, brakes failing, not wearing seatbelts, falling asleep at the wheel, speeding and young or old drivers. In addition, the time period from Friday afternoon to Sunday night is the most dangerous time to be on PCH.
Following is a summary description of accidents on PCH from 2005 to the present, as reported in the Times and other local sources, involving fatalities and/or injuries requiring hospitalization (this is not a complete list of all accidents):
Nov. 12-Sunset Blvd.: Tyler Love, 22 and Keith Naylor, 21, Malibu natives and best friends, were on a motorcycle when they were struck and killed by an SUV making a U-turn near Gladstone’s restaurant.
Sept. 9-John Tyler Drive: Two bicyclists (Stanislav Ionov of Calabasas and Scott Bleifer of Santa Monica) were forced into the right traffic lane by traffic cones, then struck from behind and killed by a catering truck traveling at an estimated 50 mph.
Feb. 5-Encinal Canyon Road-Malibu resident Dorothy Stotsenberg, 92, was hospitalized with serious injuries after being broadsided in her attempt to turn left onto PCH from Encinal
Feb. 6-Decker Canyon Road: Swedish ex-con Stefan Eriksson, traveling at 162 mph, crashes and splits power pole in half, and destroys his million-dollar Enzo Ferrari. His blood alcohol was over the legal limit.
Feb. 9-Kanan Road: The driver of a large truck carrying roof tiles failed to get into the emergency lane, and crashed into the embankment at PCH and Kanan. Driver Gregorio Guardado, 22, employed by a Simi Valley company, was killed instantly. His passenger escaped with minor injuries. The truck’s load exceeded the 8,000-pound weight limit for Kanan Road.
Dec. 6-Deer Creek Road: Pepperdine University student Chase Heger, 18, of Laguna Niguel was struck and killed by another vehicle while making an illegal U-turn on PCH.
Dec. 7-County Line/Neptune’s Net: Camarillo surfer Trevor Beattie, 20, was struck and killed near Neptune’s Net while crossing PCH on foot.
Dec. 13-Morning View/Zuma Beach: Martin Yardley of Malibu, 67, was killed instantly when (for unknown reasons) his station wagon went over the median strip and into oncoming traffic. He collided with a van being driven by Joan Carrillo, 54, of Santa Paula, who died of her injuries the next day.
Dec. 18: Around 9 p.m., a car being driven by an “elderly woman” crashed into the rear of a Sheriff’s cruiser parked next to PCH near Geoffrey’s restaurant. The cruiser was spun around with Deputy Ed Harrold inside, who was treated for injuries.
Feb. 4: A car pulling out of the Moonshadows restaurant parking lot onto PCH at 7:30 p.m. was struck by another car. A backseat passenger not wearing a seatbelt was thrown from the vehicle and taken to the hospital in critical condition.
May 8-Morning View Drive /Zuma Beach-Myung Ho Lee, 80, made an illegal U-turn with his SUV on PCH, and was broadsided by an oncoming vehicle. His wife, Kim Hyong Mi, 77, who was in the backseat not wearing a seatbelt, was killed when she was thrown from the vehicle onto PCH. Lee and three other passengers, all from Los Angeles, were taken to the hospital for injuries.
Nov. 2-Kanan Road: A gravel truck with a trailer lost its brakes, failed to get into the emergency lane, and crashed into the embankment at PCH and Kanan. The truck hit two cars driving through the intersection. William Weissberg, 58, a Malibu attorney driving a Mercedes-Benz, and the truck driver, Hovik Papikyan, were both killed. The second driver was rescued from his flaming SUV.
April 11-Encinal Canyon: At 10:20 p.m., a car going 90 mph hit an embankment and flipped over several times. Seventeen-year old driver and football player Cody Murphy was killed, and four passengers were injured, some seriously. All five Newbury High School students had been drinking.
Aug. 15-Las Flores : A car hit pedestrian Joan Hyler, 62, movie producer and talent agent, who was crossing PCH near Rambla Pacifico. She was hospitalized with serious injuries. The driver was not speeding and wasn’t cited.
June 5-Temescal Canyon: Antonio Perez, 58, of Los Angeles, died instantly at 7 a.m. when the flatbed semi-truck he was driving north on PCH slammed into the rear of another large truck.
June 28-Nicholas Canyon: A car struck two bicyclists participating in an organized ride near the 34000 block of PCH at 1:30 a.m. killing Rod Armas, 45, of Kern County, and injuring his 14-year old son Christian. The driver, city of Malibu employee Robert S. Sanchez, 30, of Oxnard, was later found hiding and charged with DUI, failure to stop at an injury accident, and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. The case has not yet gone to trial.
March 15-Winding Way: Amelia Ordona, 74, a caregiver going home after the night shift, was killed by a hit-and-run driver while crossing PCH with her sister to get to a bus stop. She was then struck repeatedly by six or seven more cars. The accident occurred around 6:15 a.m. before sunrise.
April 2-Broad Beach Road: James Stellar, 43, of Santa Monica was killed at 4:16 p.m. when broadsided by David Corona, 19, of Oxnard. Corona told Sheriff’s deputies he had fallen asleep at the wheel and drifted into oncoming traffic.
April 3-Heathercliff Road: A car struck and killed Emily Rose Shane, a 13-year old pedestrian walking next to PCH. The case is still under investigation by L.A. County Sheriff homicide detectives, and has been referred to the District Attorney’s Office.
April 25-Deer Creek Road: A 54-year-old Oxnard motorcyclist heading north on PCH around 1:30 p.m. was killed when a 19-year old driver from Simi Valley pulled out directly in front of him from the right shoulder.