Reduce speed limit on Highway 129

Q         The improvements on Highway 17 are quite impressive, but it makes me wonder about another highway in the county, Highway 129. While this road obviously carries far less traffic than Highway 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 mph from just outside of Watsonville all the way to Highway 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. Jerry Feldman A         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 10 to 20 mph. 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 10 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.” I’ll give a full report when I get more information from Caltrans. Stay tuned!


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2 Responses to Reduce speed limit on Highway 129

  1. Jerry Feldman says:

    I think the officer’s comments are missing the point. If there are so many deadly accidents, then something is wrong. Either the speed limits or road configurations are wrong or the CHP is not patrolling the road and enforcing those limits enough. On highway 17, success has been achieved through a number of changes – reducing the speed limits in places, installing a center divider, and putting greater CHP patrols on the road. In all my times on highway 129, I have never seen a CHP officer. If they are going to keep the speed at 55, then they surely need more patrols.

  2. Hi there Jerry,

    Here’s the response to your question from Caltrans:

    “Thank you for your email. We appreciate contact from the public pertaining
    to safety on State Routes. is a web
    link that will help to explain, at least in part, the reasons for some of
    the decisions we make that affect the highways in your area. This link to
    the Automobile Club of Southern California explains what can and cannot be
    accomplished through speed zoning. A second good link is Contrary to popular belief,
    a reduced speed zone is quite ineffective in forcing people to drive at a
    speed that is lower than they feel is prudent and safe.

    The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) is the Federal manual
    adopted and used nationally for standard traffic control issues (Cities,
    Counties and States). The other source for consistently setting speed
    limits is the California Vehicle Code (CVC). We collect data that becomes
    a Traffic and Engineering Survey that legally allows law enforcement to use
    radar in catching flagrant offenders. The Vehicle Code defines speed traps
    and disallows them, thereby making the enforcement of a reduced speed limit
    impossible where a speed trap exists. In addition we know from past
    studies that lacking saturation enforcement, the average speeds being
    driven do not change significantly as a result of posting more signs, or by
    lowering the speed limit.

    To lower the limit here would create a speed trap. We have legal standards
    to follow setting speed limits as legislated by law. The link above
    explains these issues. As the area developments we will continue to
    monitor the area and change the speed limit accordingly.”

    Susana Z. Cruz
    Public Information Officer /
    Portavoz de Relaciones Públicas
    (805) 549-3138
    (805) 549-3326–Fax

    Let me know if you have further questions.

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