13 January 2018

Seven Carbon Canyon Road Accidents in the New Year

It's front page news in this week's Champion, as staff reporter Marianne Napoles wrote that there have been seven (reported) accidents in just two weeks along Carbon Canyon Road, most attributed to unsafe driving.

Whereas it was posted here that there were two accidents within a few hours last Monday, the article stated that there was a third.  Napoles observed that the worst of those, noted here and which involved a driver who went off the road near the S-curve and summit on the Chino Hills side and was booked for DUI, was in the same location as a 9 December crash (and there have been others over the years).

It was also noted by local residents that the spot, just west of Carriage Hills Drive, is where 8 of 28 hours would be situated if the Stonefield project, approved by the City of Chino Hills several years ago, was to be built.  Presumably, guardrails and other protective elements would be put in place if that development (the site is up for sale) was to be built.

One of those residents, who lives in the Carriage Hills subdivision, was quoted as saying, "Carbon Canyon Road is an on-going mess in any weather," referring to the fact that, while some of the recent accidents took place in rainy conditions, dangerous driving is a regular occurrence, a point made (too) often on this blog.  The resident cited growing frustration with deteriorating conditions on the state highway.

With regard to those conditions, the article pointed out that the City of Chino Hills will be considering whether to approve an agreement for a second phase of a study underway about what to do with Carbon Canyon Road with respect to traffic volum and flow, the use of the highway by large trucks, and safety. 

The first phase was discussed here last year when it was presented to the city council.  The article also stated that a cost-sharing agreement with the City of Brea will be discussed at that meeting next month.  If approved, the new phase of the study is anticipated to take about six months to be completed.

Mention was also made of efforts since the fall to address growing traffic, including truck traffic.  A recent post here recounted an encounter I had with a long, flatbed truck that had to clip a shoulder berm and go fully into the opposing lane to maneuver through the sharp S-curve.  This has happened a number of times in recent years. 

Undoubtedly, the growing use of phone apps like Waze, which don't provide information about the road's structure just its volume, has accounted for much of the sharp rise in traffic on the road, which noticeably changed in 2013.

A study completed last spring noted that, between 2010 and 2015, there were 92 accidents (again, these were the reported ones) leading to over 150 injuries and three fatalities.  About 2/3 of these were on the Brea side with improper turning and unsafe speed cited as the biggest factors. 

With regard to those seven incidents, a list was provided of the incidents, occurring between the 1st and the 10th.  Four were determined to involve speeding, with two of them specifically denoted as "speed for conditions," that is, for the rainy conditions.  It appears that some people maybe thought it would never rain again after the phenomenally dry conditions up to the end of 2017!

Another cause was someone drifting over the double yellow centerlines.  It is remarkable, though, how many drivers think making turns across double yellows, especially at the corner gas station or convenience store is perfectly fine.

The last three reported accidents did not include assigned causes, though one was the DUI.  Another, witnessed by my wife, involved a truck skidding across lanes on the last eastbound curve near Old Carbon Canyon Road and might be assigned a "speed for conditions" cause, though, again, that was not stated in the article.

One other detail:  descriptions of some of these accidents include the phrase "due to the wet road."  This is a commonplace description when crashes occur during rainy weather.

Obviously, an inanimate object cannot cause crashes, unless there is a failure in its structure, such as a loss of pavement through a cave-in, a sinkhole, and so on.  When the descriptions provided by law enforcement also say "speed for conditions," that's exactly what the problem often is.  Drivers who are accustomed to being able to drive faster and more recklessly than they should during dry conditions (and even those who don't) often don't adjust their driving for inclement weather.

Clearly, some accidents are just that.  A split second decision made doesn't necessarily imply recklessness and unlawful conduct, but a good many of the ones reported in those nine days appear to have involved those behaviors.

Studies are understandably needed and some remedies, like signs, grooved centerlines, more reflectors, and so on, are likely to come out of these.  The truth is, though, most drivers who speed and are reckless through the Canyon don't care about signs (which are often mowed down), reflectors and other measures.  They're driving the way they do because there's no one to prevent them.

Patrols and enforcement have been sporadic and spotty and virutally never happen in the evenings or on weekends, when, by far, most of the worst incidents have occurred.  Invariably, cost and staffing priorities are cited as why the presence of law enforcement is low.  Seven accidents in nine days seems, even by the jaded standards of Carbon Canyon Road, excessive.

Nothing will affect drivers' behaviors more than when they see a patrol car.  It doesn't have to be, as a city official once expressed it to no purpose, 24/7.  It just needs to be occasional and consistent enough so that it becomes known that there is a good likelihood that regular enforcement takes place.

Otherwise, the speeding and reckless driving, and the big trucks crossing lanes to navigate the curves will continue, no matter how many studies are conducted, meetings held, and articles about crashes published.

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