In response to increased crashes and fatalities on highways 74 and 243, the California Highway Patrol is seeking funding and intergovernmental agency cooperation to designate those highways as State Safety Corridors. CHP Public Information Officer Darren Meyer said his agency has begun the process to classify the two mountain highways as SSCs.
Terri Kasinga, Caltrans spokesperson, said CHP contacted her agency two weeks ago and that Caltrans would support the CHP request as part of a task force that would be formed to move the designation forward. “CHP gets the grant by working with state Traffic and Safety. Grant monies get disbursed to the various state agencies that would be involved with the project,” she said. “The CHP moves it forward and we will support the process.”
SSCs are stretches of highways or paved roads plagued by frequent motor vehicle collisions, injuries and fatalities. They are deemed dangerous because of extreme topography and weather conditions, as well as other factors such as driver inattention, inexperience, speeding, distraction or DUIs, creating unfavorable driving conditions for the general users of the highways. All current SSC programs have a form of enhanced law enforcement.
Meyer said that official designation would free up funds to improve safety for all users of these highways — money for such improvements as road widening, more passing lanes and increased signage. Importantly, Meyer said funds would allow ramped-up patrolling of the affected roadways and increased aerial surveillance.
He noted recent motorcycle fatalities and increased motorcycle traffic and collisions are factors in seeking the designation. He also noted demographic changes on the mountain, with increased population growth and, consequently, increased traffic flows, are additional considerations supporting SSC designation. “It’s what was done on the Ortega [Highway 74 between Lake Elsinore and San Juan Capistrano],” said Meyer. “We’re working with authorities in Temecula who were involved in securing the designation for that stretch of highway.”
A Feb. 21 motorcycle collision in which a 29-year-old woman was killed when she crashed headlong into an oncoming vehicle is currently under investigation. Meyer said CHP has requested a warrant to secure the GoPro camera the woman was wearing at the time of the collision. “The warrant request is being hand-carried by the District Attorney’s office to a judge who will review the request. If granted we will be able to view the footage on the camera to determine if there are additional documented infractions that could require arrests.”
Meyer said that could include whether other riders or vehicles could have been contributing or causal factors in the collision and the woman’s death. “Our primary goal in seeking to view the footage is to get additional information to help determine fault,” said Meyer. If the warrant is not approved, then the camera, currently in an evidence locker, would be returned to the decedent’s family.
Meyer said he would keep the Town Crier updated as the warrant process unfolds. The paper will also follow the process toward SSC designation.