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Senate OKs Resolution for Radar on Ortega Highway

Times Staff Writer

Radar could be used to catch speeders on Ortega Highway, a winding road known for its scenic beauty and high accident rate, under a resolution passed by the state Senate Monday and sent to the Assembly.

The non-binding resolution by Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach) calls for the California Highway Patrol to begin using radar along the 25-mile highway to police speed laws if requested to do so by the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

County Supervisor Thomas F. Riley, who represents most of the south county area traversed by the highway, asked Bergeson to carry the legislation, and the CHP endorsed it.

Riley said he had received “numerous letters and telephone calls” complaining of excessive speed by motorists along the highway, which runs from San Juan Capistrano through the Cleveland National Forest and ends near Lake Elsinore in Riverside County.

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Traditionally, California legislators have been reluctant to allow radar-enforcement on state highways. But Bergeson said Ortega Highway--also known as California 74--"deserves special attention.” She explained that the road’s accident rate is “154% above comparable state highways.”

Currently, the freeway system in Ventura County is the only place in California where radar is used to enforce speed laws on state and interstate highways. The CHP launched a pilot program with radar there several years ago.

Last year, the CHP reported there had been 16 deaths and 277 injuries in a 22-month period along Ortega Highway. Law enforcement officials fear that the numbers could climb as development occurs along the corridor and traffic increases.

Bergeson declined to speculate on the chances for passage of the measure by the Assembly, adding, “There is always a natural resistance to radar.”

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