State and local officials announce immediate safety improvements for PCH

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Bridget Thompson (top left) is shown with Asha Weir (top right), (middle, from left) Niamh Rolston, Peyton Stewart, and Deslyn Williams (middle right), and an unidentified friend (bottom right) in this undated photo. Photo courtesy of Bridget Thompson

More than $4 million invested in Caltrans measures 

Growing up in Moorpark, Bridget Thompson spent plenty of time in Malibu before attending college at Pepperdine University. Taking the beach bus to the coast every summer, Thompson would pass Pepperdine, her “dream school.” She was familiar with the dangers of Pacific Coast Highway. But on Oct. 17, the 21-year-old senior’s life would be forever changed due to one of PCH’s worst tragedies.

Thompson, a roommate and best friend of the four young women killed in a speeding crash in Malibu, was on her way to meet her fellow sorority sisters. She was going to ride with them to an evening event, but went separately do to obligations keeping her on campus. 

“I decided to meet them there. As I was on my way, it happened,” a grieving Thompson told The Malibu Times.

While the roadway was blocked that evening, a worried Thompson waited on PCH from 9 p.m. until 3 a.m. calling hospitals for any word about her friends, trying “to do what I could. I felt helpless in that moment. There was nothing I could do.”

While experiencing overwhelming pain at the sudden loss of her four best friends — Deslyn Williams, Peyton Stewart, Asha Weir and Niamh Rolston — Thompson is advocating for a safer PCH. One of her first actions was participating in the Ghost Tire memorial at the Malibu Civic Center. 

“The Ghost Tire memorial was super touching to be involved in, but also super heartbreaking to see everyone gather to see how much they were loved, my roommates and best friends,” she said.

Thompson, Pepperdine students and members of the Malibu community erected 58 white tires to memorialize those killed on PCH since 2010.

While Thompson says the memorial is a step in the right direction she hopes the conversation on highway safety doesn’t fade. “It’s going to be a constant push,” she said.

Malibu resident Michel Shane has been pushing for PCH safety since the tragic death of his 13-year-old daughter Emily Shane in 2010. The young girl was mowed down by an out-of-control speeding driver. 

Shane inscribed the name of his daughter on one of the white ghost tires at PCH and Webb Way. He said the memorial has made an impact, “100 percent.” 

Shane worked with Damian Kevitt, the founder of Streets Are For Everyone (SAFE) to install the attention grabbing landmark. 

“It’s based on ghost bikes which was started when bicyclists died in car accidents,” Shane said. “The white tires represent people who died.” 

Shane’s coalition of concerned citizens, Fix PCH, will add a new tire if there are any additional fatalities. Of the 58 tires there now, Shane remarked, “Put that in perspective. Fifty-eight in 13 years! That’s like a war zone! If you see it and it impacts you, maybe look down at your speedometer.” 

The memorial is a temporary placement for six months.

Shane would like to immediately see 100-mph-plus speeders have their licenses revoked. He advocates for speed cameras, more enforcement, steeper fines, and education. His film “21 Miles in Malibu” which delves into the decades-long dangers of PCH will be shown January 18 at Santa Monica College. 

“As we know, the brain isn’t fully developed until you’re in your mid-20s,” Shane said. “It’s not just the 12,000 people who live in Malibu. It’s the 15 million people who drive through this community every year.”

On Dec. 18, Caltrans and local officials announced $4.2 million to be spent on immediate safety measures. They include 13 digital speed feedback signs, speed limit markings to be painted on the asphalt, raising fines for speed violators and a new contract with three additional California Highway Patrol officers to concentrate on enforcement on the highway. Thirty improvements in all were announced.

In the meantime, a grieving Thompson, who spent years with her sorority sisters at Pepperdine, wants them to be remembered. 

“I want people to know that these girls were literally the most amazing people I’ve ever met,” she said. “They put everyone else before themselves. They would be fighting for change if it was me. I think it’s important we understand that these people were going to change the world, so we should make a change for them.”