The road where Tiger Woods crashed has been notorious for decades. Now officials are hoping to fix it
The curving stretch of Hawthorne Boulevard where golfer Tiger Woods crashed this week has been the site of numerous accidents dating back to the 1970s. Officials are now weighing changes to make the road safer.
For decades, residents on the Palos Verdes Peninsula have known that the steep, curving stretch of Hawthorne Boulevard heading into the Los Angeles Basin was a danger zone.
Numerous crashes dating from the 1970s — including one in which an out-of-control truck hit a car, burning three occupants to death — sparked debates about how to make the essential thoroughfare in and out of the tony coastal area safer.
“People speed down the road all the time. It is kind of an optical illusion, and it doesn’t seem like that huge a grade, but it is,” said Keith Swensson, a retired Los Angeles County sheriff’s commander who lives in Rancho Palos Verdes.
Then on Tuesday, legendary golfer Tiger Woods became the latest to crash on Hawthorne, suffering devastating injuries to his lower right leg that have jeopardized his latest career comeback.
The rollover crash on a steep road in Rancho Palos Verdes that badly broke legendary golfer Tiger Woods’ leg and may have jeopardized his career was an accident, and no criminal charges will be filed against Woods
The accident generated international headlines and has prompted officials to take a new look at how to improve safety.
Since last January, there have been 13 accidents on the sloping stretch of Hawthorne between Silver Spur Road and Palos Verdes Drive North, according to records provided by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Four people were injured, including two with “severe” injuries.
Drivers were found at fault in all but two of the 13 crashes, the records showed.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva says he will speak with city officials about possible solutions.
County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who represents the area, plans to request a safety review of the stretch of road where the accident occurred.
“I have driven this road myself many times, and I have noticed how easy it is to pick up speed on that hill, but I did not realize how many accidents were happening there,” Hahn said in an email.
Villanueva said Wednesday that Woods’ crash was “purely an accident,” though the golfer may have been speeding downhill when his 2021 Hyundai Genesis GV80 sport utility vehicle careened over the median near Blackhorse Road, destroying a “Welcome to Rolling Hills” sign, rolling over and shearing off a tree as it landed about 30 feet on a hill shortly after 7 a.m.
Fortunately, no cars were in the uphill lanes. There were no skid marks on the road or other signs that Woods slammed hard on the brakes.
Woods did not appear to be intoxicated, and no criminal charges will be filed against him, Villanueva said.
An analysis of the SUV’s “black box” will help determine how fast Woods was going, the sheriff said, with speed “maybe a factor in this accident.”
Investigators do not yet know whether Woods was distracted when he crashed, but “we’ll find out,” Villanueva said, adding that Woods’ cellphone records could be relevant.
Nothing in the sequence of events points to reckless driving or any other crime, Villanueva said. Even if the cause was distracted driving, that would be “an infraction,” not a crime, he said.
Along with Crenshaw Boulevard, Hawthorne is one of the main routes in and out of the wealthy oceanside peninsula, sometimes called “The Hill,” which is the site of one of former President Trump’s luxury golf courses.
The descent of the hill is routine for many commuters but can be treacherous even for those familiar with the road.
Swensson, the retired sheriff’s commander, said that at the spot where Woods crashed, there is a slight right turn that is easy to miss. A good friend of Swensson died at the spot about 15 years ago.
“If you take your cellphone out or adjust the radio for a second, you are off that road,” he said.
In the 1980s, several major accidents involving out-of-control trucks led officials in Rancho Palos Verdes and Rolling Hills Estates to call for reforms, including more enforcement against trucks with overweight loads or mechanical problems.
On Hawthorne today, signs warn trucks to use lower gears, and an emergency turnout occupies the right shoulder toward the bottom of the hill.
Villanueva noted that it is easy for drivers to go faster than the 45 mph speed limit if they are not careful.
“In this stretch of road, going downhill on a curve, even if you’re not accelerating, just by gravity alone, you’re going to start going faster,” he said.
Hahn said the safety review, to be conducted by the cities of Rancho Palos Verdes and Rolling Hills Estates, will include a study of traffic volumes and speeds, as well as an examination of previous collisions.
Woods, 45, was extricated from the mangled car by L.A. County Fire Department first responders. His injuries included open fractures to his lower right leg that required hours of surgery to implant rods and screws as well as to alleviate swelling in the muscles.
Medical experts said Woods, who has been plagued by injuries for much of his career, will probably face a long recovery.
After his fifth back surgery, Woods said last weekend that he hoped to be in shape for the Masters in April.
He stayed in the L.A. area after hosting the Genesis Invitational and was on his way to the Rolling Hills Country Club on Tuesday morning for a film shoot after spending the night at the Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, said a source familiar with the investigation.
The previous day, retired NBA star Dwyane Wade and comedian David Spade posted videos and photos of themselves receiving golf tips from Woods.
Shortly after Woods crashed Tuesday morning, yet another collision occurred on Hawthorne.
A car stopping to either render aid or rubberneck was rear-ended by another car, said L.A. County Fire Department spokesman Henry Narvaez.
No one was seriously injured.
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