Ten years of being ‘Safe on 17’

Travelling the winding curves of Highway 17 between Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties is much safer than it was 10 years ago. "I’ve been driving Highway 17 since I was 16-years-old," said Mark Stone, district five county supervisor and member of the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission. "And it was a very different road. There was very little median barrier. I would come around a curve and could swear there was oncoming traffic in the lane." Stone was among many dignitaries who addressed the press during the Safe on 17 campaign’s 10 year anniversary event at the Summit Roadhouse restaurant Monday. The campaign is a joint venture between the RTC, San Francisco Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Caltrans, Freeway Service Patrol, the Scotts Valley Police Department, California Highway Patrol and elected officials from both sides of the hill. The event also featured a bus tour of the entire mountainous stretch of the highway to illustrate the structural changes made over the years. On the Santa Cruz County side, more than $23.5 million has been spent to build retaining walls, improve drainage, widen the shoulders, and replace guardrails between the Summit and Granite Creek Road in Scotts Valley. Those improvements made wet weather driving safer, as well as improved sight distance for drivers and gave them a place to pull over in the event of a breakdown or collision with another motorist. Those improvements, combined with law enforcement and free basic tow services to stranded motorists, helped save lives. When the program began in 1998, there were 283 injuries and fatalities on Highway 17. Last year, those types of collisions dropped to 133. In other news... If you notice more CHP officers on the road than normal, you can  thank a $3.5 million grant from the state Office of Traffic Safety and The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Starting this month, the grant will fund officer overtime for the next nine months as the CHP embarks on its "Comprehensive Approach to Reducing Speed," or CARS, project. The project will focus on reducing the number of fatal and injury collisions on state highways and county roads. Officers will keep a keen eye peeled for collision causing factors, including speed, failure to yield right of way, following too close, improper turning and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Motorists can reduce the odds of getting into an injury or fatal collision by obeying the speed limit, watching out for other motorists, including motorcycles, reducing distractions and wearing their seat belts.
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3 Responses to Ten years of being ‘Safe on 17’

  1. Jerry Feldman says:

    The improvements on 17 are quite impressive, but it makes me wonder about another highway in the county, 129. While this road obviously carries far less traffic than 17, it seems as if there have been an unusually high number of very serious and even fatal accidents over the past year or two. I have driven this road numerous times, and personally, I think the speed limit is too high. It is 55 from just outside of Watsonville all the way to 101 despite the narrowness of the road and the many curves.

    Given the number of deadly accidents, I think the CHP and CalTrans should take a serious look at this road and should seriously consider reducing the speed limit.

  2. Hi Jerry, I forwarded your question to Caltrans and the CHP. While Caltrans is researching it, Officer Hugh Holden at the CHP has this to say:

    “The reader’s comments raise some valid concerns. State Route 129 is a two lane, undivided highway, and as such is posted 55 mph. 55 mph is the state’s maximum speed for such a highway (unless otherwise posted). State Route 129 is also delineated by double yellow lines from the Watsonville City Limits all the way out to the Santa Cruz/San Benito County Line, which means no passing. When hearing about major traffic collisions on State Route 129, a common sentiment is “they should reduce the speed limit.” However, in reviewing the Primary Collision Factors for the major collisions occurring on State Route 129, the majority of these collisions are caused by drivers who are failing to adhere to the existing law. Passing left of the double yellow lines and exceeding the maximum 55 mph speed limit are at the top. Many of the speeding drivers causing the major collisions are exceeding the maximum 55 mph limit by ten to twenty miles per hour. As a reminder, the 55 mph speed limit set for State Route 129 is the maximum speed, taking into consideration optimal driving conditions (i.e. good weather, light traffic, dry roadway, etc.). A common misconception is that there is a “grace” of five to ten mph over the speed limit. There is not. A maximum limit is just that, a maximum. By exceeding the maximum limit, even by one mph, a driver increases their chances of being involved in a collision. Drivers should plan to leave extra time for travel in order to reach their destination safely, always buckle up, and never drink and drive.”

    Officer Hugh Holden #14788
    Public Information Officer
    Santa Cruz CHP Area
    10395 Soquel Drive
    Aptos, CA 95003
    (831) 662-0511

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