Last week’s deadly, fiery crash on PCH that resulted in the death of the wrong-way driver and a Navy captain in the other vehicle is just one more tragic loss in a region with way too many wrong-way driver injuries and fatalities. In addition to the two fatalities, the passenger in the car that was hit was also seriously injured and apparently two women were almost hit as well. While the investigation continues into the cause and chain of events that led to this horrific incident, we may never fully understand its roots. It could have been caused by drugs, alcohol, drowsiness or suicidal impulse. The end result is the same.
We may have the technology to reduce or eliminate the loss of innocent lives because of wrong-way drivers. Embedded in almost every freeway in the Los Angeles and Orange County metro areas are sensors that provide the CHP, news organizations and even the Internet, real time data on traffic speeds anywhere in the system. Could the programming of these sensors be adjusted to instantly alert the CHP when a vehicle is traveling in the wrong direction? Why not tie these sensor inputs into a series of flashing blue lights pointed against the flow of traffic. Then when the sensors are activated by the wrong-way driver for the next mile or so ahead, these lights would begin to flash. At 60 mph that would give drivers being approached by the wrong-way driver up to a minute to react, pull over and get out of the way. It would also immediately alert the CHP or other responding agency of the wrong way driver and they’d be able to react during the incident rather than tragically clean up the pieces.
Would this cost millions of dollars? Most likely. Would it be worth it? What are innocent lives worth? How many lives have been saved by the speed sensors already in place? How many lives have been saved by the message signs along our freeways? Pacific Coast Highway, as far as I can tell, does not have speed sensors embedded in it yet. But with these, you’d get the benefit of giving totally innocent people, leading productive lives, perhaps even defending our country, a chance to avoid the tragic fate of that young Navy captain and countless others.