Malibu community honors victims of road traffic for World Day of Remembrance 

0
4918
Some of the 58 white tires, each representing a traffic death on Pacific Coast Highway since 2010, are shown at PCH and Webb Way on Nov. 19 during a World Remembrance Day vigil. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

Ghost tires placed to honor four Pepperdine students, also known as “Our Girls” to the community

On Nov. 19, World Remembrance Day, 58 white tires, each representing someone who died in a traffic collision on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, were installed on PCH and Webb Way.

After four Pepperdine students were killed in a violent crash last month, loved ones called for safer conditions on the highway.

Deslyn Williams, Niamh Rolston, Asha Weir, and Peyton Stewart, also referred to “Our Girls,” from their loved ones, were killed in the accident that occured on Oct. 17. 

The PCH Taskforce and Streets are for Everyone organized the vigil on Tuesday night and Sunday morning, and family and friends of the Pepperdine students signed their white tires with their names.

The Ghost Tire Memorial was inspired by the Ghost Bike (also referred to as a Ghost Cycle or White Cycle), a bicycle roadside memorial placed where a cyclist had been killed or severely injured, usually by the driver of a motor vehicle

Damian Kevitt, executive director and founder of Streets are Safe for Everyone, said while the installation is usually displayed at the scene of the incident, it was too dangerous to place the tires where the four girls were killed. 

“PCH is too dangerous; we actually couldn’t place it at the location because it was far too dangerous to have this happen at the location where these four young ladies were killed,” Kevitt said. 

There have been 58 fatalities on PCH since 2010.

“We’re starting in 2010 because on the 3rd of April 2010, 13-year-old Emily Shane lost her life on PCH, and since then, her family has been fighting for change on PCH,” Kevitt said. 

Kevitt introduced Ellen Shane to be the first speaker. 

“I literally felt a painful whole in my heart for months, what is really tragic about recalling that day 13 years ago is that, as with Emily, 57 other preventable deaths have occured on the very same road, Pacific Coast Highway,” Shane said. “Every car on the road is a potential weapon; every driver who lets go of being vigilant for even a split second is potentially the cause of a tragedy.” 

Ellen’s husband, Michel Shane, produced the recent film, “21 Miles in Malibu,” as it exposes the dangers of PCH. 

“The mission of this film [is] to make this highway a safer place, to educate anyone driving here to be aware and stay aware as they traverse the highway,” Ellen Shane said. “My hope is that Michel’s efforts, and measures being implemented, stop the accidents and deaths on this road.” 

Pepperdine student Bridget Thompson spoke at the vigils on Tuesday and Sunday morning, honoring her friends and the lives lost on PCH. 

Thompson said she stood on the side of PCH until 3 a.m. that night her friends were killed, crying and begging for her best friends to be OK.

“I lost my sisters, I lost my everything, but it wasn’t just me that lost everything,” Thompson said. “On October 17, we lost four girls who were going to change the world: Deslyn Williams, Niamh Rolston, Asha Weir, and Peyton Stewart. They were four of the most ambitious, loving, selfless, and kind people you’ve ever come across; it was an absolute privilege to be loved by them.”

Thompson called on Caltrans to take action and make PCH safe for everyone. 

“It needs to be fixed before it’s your best friend, your sister, daughters,” said Thompson. 

PCH Taskforce member Tina Segel thanked the tire company for the tire donations as well as Anawalt Lumber for the donations of the paint and supplies. 

“These tires were donated by the Tire Man in Thousand Oaks, and we want to thank Sean, they’ve been amazing, they gave us the tires, they delivered the tires to us and Rieff from Anawalt Lumber donated the paint, the spikes, the masks, and the gloves that we needed to complete this project, so the community has really came together together, ralphs donated the donuts, starbucks donated the coffee, every single person that we asked has said, ‘What can we do,'” Segel said. “I felt like it brought us together in such a way, this is our community, and we want to make it safe, and we want to do whatever we can to make PCH safe.”

Many of the families and friends at the gathering called on authorities, such as the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), to improve the roadway. They have all joined a community group called Fix PCH, which advocates for installing speed cameras, increased fines, and lower speed limits. 

Malibu/Lost Hills Captain Jennifer Seetoo was one of the featured speakers at the PCH Taskforce meeting the city held earlier that day and honored the four women during the vigil on Tuesday night. 

“We need to focus on education, we need to focus on enforcement, and we need to focus on engineering to protect the people, the 15 million people that come here every year that enjoy this beautiful beach,” Seetoo said. 

Before the vigil on Tuesday, the city held a special public meeting of the PCH Taskforce at Malibu City Hall with city, county, and state elected officials and Caltrans to discuss ways to address dangerous conditions on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. The PCH Taskforce is a coalition of law enforcement, traffic engineers, Caltrans, and local and state elected officials that work to find solutions to make PCH safer for all users, from the McClure Tunnel in Santa Monica to the Ventura County line. 

State Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (42nd District) chaired the meeting, and was joined by State Senator Ben Allen (24th District); Malibu Mayor Steve Uhring; LA County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath (3rd District); Malibu City Manager Steve McClary; Malibu-Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station Commanding Officer Capt. Jennifer Seetoo; Rafael Molina, Deputy District Director, Division of Traffic Operations, Caltrans District 7; and Lee Haber, Chief Safety Officer, Division of Traffic Operations, Caltrans District 7. 

Molina and Haber represented Caltrans at the meeting on Tuesday and said they have been conducting speed studies to identify where they need to focus on safety.

“Our goal is to lower the speed limit on PCH,” Haber said. “Our goal is to complete daytime and nighttime reviews by December.”

Residents who spoke asked for more enforcement on PCH and for Caltrans to begin making progress on their actions. While Molina and Haber said, “Safety is their number one priority,” residents didn’t believe their words matched with their actions.

Founder & CEO at Vivid Candi Creative Chris Wizner spoke during the meeting in the morning and at the vigil that same evening. 

“I don’t want this to ever happen again,” Wizner said. “I’ll just give my point from Caltrans and what I saw today at the PCH Taskforce [meeting] — I didn’t see empathy, I didn’t see activeness, I saw passiveness. I didn’t see solutions, I didn’t see an action plan, I saw a lot of words that we’re the right words, it felt textbook, but I feel the passion, I didn’t see it, and I doubt I’m going to see an execution, and I’m quite sure, I’m not the only one, so Caltrans FixPCH.”

At Sunday’s memorial, Seetoo extended her condolences to the families of the four girls.

“This Thanksgiving, there will be an empty seat at each of their Thanksgiving dinners, their beautiful lives were taken by a speeding driver,” Seetoo said. “We have 58 tires, representing the lives of 58 whose lives have been cut short, due to traffic collisions, just on PCH in Malibu.”

Seetoo pointed to four white tires with no names.

“These tires represent the future victims, lives that will be cut short here on PCH if nothing changes,” Seetoo said. 

Barry Stewart, father of Peyton Stewart, spoke during the memorial and acknowledged the city and safety officials in attendance, but also wanted to bring attention to the empty seat that was saved for a representative from Caltrans. 

“I understand that they sent a letter to the organizer of this event, declining their participation in this event but reiterating, ‘Safety is their number one priority,'” Stewart said.

According to Caltrans, during the past 10 years, there have been more than 4,000 collisions on PCH in Malibu. Speeding and improper turns are the most common contributing factors to collisions, both of which will be directly addressed by the Signal Synchronization Project. 

According to the city’s website, “All of the parties gave updates on their efforts, including lowering speed limits, increasing traffic enforcement, getting speed cameras, increasing funding, and various traffic safety and engineering projects. Supervisor Horvath is working on permanent enhanced traffic safety enforcement from the Sheriff’s Department on PCH to ensure that we can sustain Capt. Seetoo’s current enhanced enforcement. 

Senator Allen and Assemblymember Irwin will be co-authoring a bill to allow photo speed cameras on PCH in Malibu.”

To date, the city has allocated and spent approximately $39 million on traffic safety improvement projects on PCH. The city currently has $8 million of funds obligated towards future PCH safety improvement projects. The City of Malibu released a list of improvement projects they have been working on since 2015.

On Nov. 13, the City Council approved declaring a local state of emergency to address the PCH safety crisis.

McClary announced that the city and CHP are currently working on a contract to bring back CHP patrols to PCH in Malibu in early 2024. The city has begun working on getting PCH in Malibu designated a Public Safety Corridor. The city is funding overtime for an additional officer per shift. The city said Seetoo has begun enhanced traffic safety enforcement and additional patrols on PCH in Malibu.

Community members are urged to continue to contact their local elected officials to voice their support for ongoing efforts to improve PCH safety in Malibu.