Safe on Highway 129 Corridor in the works?

Dear Street Smarts, Q I have driven from the Westside of Santa Cruz to my job as a lawyer in Morgan Hill via Highway 129 round trip for the past 10 years. It is a beautiful but dangerous stretch of highway. I believe that it is much safer now that there is absolutely no passing allowed. However, a head-on collision is the foremost danger on the route. Drunken idiots, reckless speedsters, and inattentive or careless drivers are the primary source of serious crashes. In fact, just this morning some woman in the opposite lane started to stray into oncoming traffic before almost over correcting herself into a ditch. Short of spending millions to make a divided highway, I’m not convinced that lowering the speed limit or even increasing police presence will make it any safer. I think that the most dangerous drivers on the route are those that do not drive it everyday. Regular commuters and residents are acutely aware of how bad the accidents can get out there. We read about the deaths and the injuries with dreadful personal interest. We witness the aftermaths first hand. I think a cost-effective solution is to bring this awareness of the danger to everyone who drives the route — use signs. Place a number of signs in strategic locations informing drivers of the terrible statistics — how many people have been killed and/or injured on the highway as of a certain date, how many head-on collisions have there been, how many children have died, how many drunk driving arrests or alcohol related accidents have there been, etc. Be specific. Be as shocking and graphic as reason and good taste allows. Put the statistics in various locations along with reminders not to pass illegally or drive drunk or use cell phones, etc. Make them short so that they are quickly readable and not a hazard themselves. Make them in different languages. It certainly will not eliminate the possibility of an accident, but it might prevent a few. It may give someone something to think about. It might shock or remind a driver to pay attention and to drive well. Personally, one of the strategies that I employ on the road is to always follow another vehicle -- preferably a tractor-trailer -- like a tailback following a fullback. I also try to drive closer to the shoulder than the middle line when possible. Nothing is full-proof, though. It’s a risk to drive that road, but fully realizing the risk makes my drive a little bit safer. Thanks. Tim, Santa Cruz A Safety improvements of some sort may be coming to State Route 129, if the local California Highway Patrol office gets its way. Next month, the agency plans to apply for a grant from the state Office of Traffic Safety to pay for added enforcement and safety-oriented signs along the corridor, said Officer High Holden, CHP spokesman. One sign option would be to require motorists on Highway 129 to use their headlights during daytime hours, he said. The road already has rumble strips down the median to make motorists aware that they have crossed over the center divide. In the meantime, the CHP has asked the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission to write an endorsement letter that would be included with the grant application. The commission agreed to discuss the request at an upcoming meeting. The proposed grant request is in response to numerous traffic collisions on the road. Since Jan. 1, 2003, some 417 collisions on State Route 129 have killed 12 people and injured 134 others. Meanwhile, 271 crashes resulted in property damage only.


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One Response to Safe on Highway 129 Corridor in the works?

  1. Robert Bixby says:

    I just can’t agree with the writer’s suggestion for more signage on highway 129. Over the years we’ve added so many signs to our state highways that no one sees any of them. Recently on Highway 17 southbound near Granite Creek exit I counted over 30 signs in about 1/4 mile.

    I can’t really agree with the no passing changes recently made either. Following drivers going 35 miles per hour stretches the patience of the most patient driver. And I’ve never seen a single driver use the turnout lanes.

    The only viable solution in my mind is enforcement. I rarely see the highway patrol on 129. They are over extended and have fallen far behind in numbers as a percentage of the population. I would like to see comprensive coverage on the highway that includes speed, tailgating and failure to yield (use turnouts). People don’t read signs, but they definitely pay attention when their pocketbooks and ability to drive are affected.

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