My wife and I have lived up Las Flores Canyon for 25 years. Our experience has been that it’s not if an accident will happen, but when. Tragically, another accident occurred a few days after the garbage truck went off the road.
In the case of the garbage truck, my suspicion is that his brakes failed or he was carrying too much weight. Maybe this was from failed maintenance or from mechanical defect. Hopefully, the investigators will be able to make that determination. Unfortunately, the vast majority of accidents are from unmitigated stupidity, mostly on the part of the motorists and to a small part the blame can be placed upon the county.
We have had three friends drive off the road, all motorist stupidity. The first was a GI Jane in her hot new BMW who couldn’t handle the hairpin turn just below the Mia Flores home. The second was someone driving while his brain was addled with alcohol and couldn’t act quickly enough to one of the turns he encountered. The third accident was by a driver whose brain was disconnected from marijuana and I think he forgot that you’re supposed to turn the wheel when you come to a curve.
I know this sounds disgustingly cynical, but outrageous disregard for safe driving up and down Las Flores Canyon is a common occurrence. The sheriff’s department, if they had the time, could probably fund a large part of its budget just by handing out tickets on Las Flores. I have driven up and down this road at least once every day for 25 years and can state categorically that the road cannot be negotiated safely above 35 MPH.
I mentioned the county also being at fault. To start with, the turn off PCH heading south onto Las Flores is terrifying. To make that turn, you must sit in the turn lane on PCH as cars, going 50 to 65 MPH, fly around the turn just across from Duke’s restaurant. Then there’s the signal at the turn. It does three different things. Usually it turns yellow at a time when the traffic headed north has been stopped by a red light. The denizens of the canyon know from experience that they can then make the turn off of PCH onto Las Flores safely. At other times, a green arrow comes on indicating it is time to turn. This happens with no predictability. And still at other times, although rarely, the south lane has a green light while the north lane has a red. As you sit there, it is unclear if it is safe to make a turn.
Next, a short way up the road, just before The Malibu Times, is an apartment building. Parking is provided for tenants in a space cut off the road. However, the spaces are too short and the rear ends of the cars sometimes project out into the road. Someone coming up Las Flores has to swerve out into the other lane to avoid hitting these cars.
Finally, there is a hairpin turn just after Gorge road that is a blind acute angle cut against the cliff where there is no play to move over whatsoever. The cliff is loaded with rocks that do not appear to be too stable. A parabolic mirror should be placed at that turn, or at least a warning sign.
In closing I want to mention one of the obvious dangers that exist on PCH itself. Many of the exits from the various shopping malls that line the highway are made blind because parking is allowed too close to the exit. If a car or worse, a truck, is parked in that space, a driver has to edge out into traffic before he or she can see if the road is clear. I would suggest that someone from the third grade be hired to scrutinize these locations and fix the problem because that is all the education it would take to see how dangerous these situations are. But if history is any indication, nothing will be done until more needless deaths occur.