Don't blame the Crest, officials say

TravelRoad TransportationDisasters and AccidentsDrunk DrivingCalifornia Department of TransportationPersonal Data CollectionEdgar Martinez

Despite another fatal crash on Angeles Crest Highway over the weekend — the fourth since the lower part of the highway reopened in June of this year — the California Highway Patrol says that it’s drivers who are dangerous, not the road.

On Saturday, Bellflower resident Edgar Martinez, 18, was driving on the highway at 45 to 50 miles per hour when he entered a curve but failed to turn, hitting a mountainside and flipping his car, according to Officer Ming Hsu of the CHP.

Martinez died in the crash, Hsu said.

Hsu said that according to a witness traveling behind Martinez, as well as one driving the opposite direction, there was no indication he was traveling at an excessive speed. Hsu said that there were no indications that drugs or alcohol were involved.

“Maybe it was inattention, playing with his radio or something; he didn’t see the curve in the roadway until it was too late,” Hsu said.

Hsu said that an investigation was ongoing, but that unless cell phone records indicate that Martinez was on the phone at the time of the accident, its cause would be hard to determine.

“He’s the only one who could tell us, which obviously he cannot,” said Hsu.

Caltrans spokesperson Kelly Markham said that as is standard procedure for fatal accidents on Caltrans-managed roads, including those that have occurred on Angeles Crest Highway this year, the agency would assess the roadway for contributing factors. The evaluation will look at factors including speed,  weather, road design, road conditions and signage.

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FOR THE RECORD: This corrects an earlier version to clarify a statement from Caltrans. Kelly Markham's name was also misspelled.

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This was the fourth fatal accident on the Angeles Crest Highway in the three months since it reopened, but Mike Leum, reserve chief of Search and Rescue for Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept., said that the road is safer now.

“There’s a lot more safety features now than there were prior,” said Leum. “If you drive the road, you’ll see new berms that are higher and they’re angled in such a way I think it’s designed to keep cars on the road.”

Leum said that the fact that vehicles in three of the accidents managed to stay on the road showed the impact of these features.

In a fatality that police said was a possible suicide, a car went off the road and over the edge on June 10, killing its driver, a 48-year-old Monterey Park man.

“Most places, you have an opportunity to go hundreds of feet over the side. Having just one of four going over the side says to me there’s safety features at work,” Leum said.

Hsu said that the important factor was drivers being more careful.

“I’m sure you could find a lot of commuters going across the mountain to the high desert and they’ll tell you they drive it every day and there’s crazy driving out there,” said Hsu. “There’s hundreds of vehicles going across that road with no problem, it’s these drivers that are careless getting into collisions.”

All of the accidents have been attributed to driver error, including driving under the influence and speeding, according to Hsu.

“If you’re going too fast, no matter how good of a driver you are, you’re not going to make that curve,” said Hsu. “People just have to respect the mountain, respect the curves. And they’re not doing that.”
 
 

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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TravelRoad TransportationDisasters and AccidentsDrunk DrivingCalifornia Department of TransportationPersonal Data CollectionEdgar Martinez
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