Red-light runners make Costa Mesa intersection a dangerous place

Elise Gee

SOUTH COAST METRO -- Drivers who run red lights at Bear Street and

South Coast Drive contributed to 10 accidents there last year, making it

the most dangerous intersection for running red lights in the county, the

Automobile Club of Southern California announced Thursday.

City traffic engineers have begun a study to see if there are reasons

for the accidents, said Peter Naghavi, manager of transportation

services. Results of the study are expected next week.

Residents who live near the intersection speculate that it could have

to do with the timing of the signal or because of a slope on Bear Street

north of the San Diego Freeway.

In all, the Auto Club ranked five intersections in Orange County as

dangerous red-light running locations as part of National Stop on Red

Week, which begins today.

“I avoid that intersection at all costs because the timing is out of

sync with everything,” said Don Mikami, who lives in the Wimbledon

neighborhood near the intersection. “Because the light gets so long,

people get impatient. If the light were shorter, they wouldn’t be so

impatient about getting through the intersection.”

The majority of people who run red lights do so because they are in a

hurry, according to a survey by the Red Light Running Partnership, which

includes the Federal Highway Administration and the American Trauma Assn.

In addition, 52.7% of those surveyed admitted to running red lights.

At Bear Street and South Coast Drive, there are a number of

distractions that could contribute to the accidents, including South

Coast Plaza and other retail businesses, said Sgt. David Andersen of

Costa Mesa police’s traffic bureau.

The mixture of residential traffic merging with retail shoppers along

with four to five signals that accommodate various entrances and exits to

shops may also contribute to the problem, Andersen said.

Harriet Rupe, who also lives in the area, said there is a hill on Bear

Street north of the San Diego Freeway that could contribute to the red


Naghavi said that the timing of the lights at the intersection are

coordinated with other north and southbound signals in the area. However,

he agreed that the slope north of the freeway may contribute to the

traffic infractions. Engineers will study all the accident cases to find

common factors, he said.

The attention given to running red lights is warranted, Andersen said.

Because those accidents usually involve speed, he said the seriousness of

injuries associated with red-light accidents is higher.

Motorists can address the problem by slowing down and driving

defensively in anticipation of someone running a red light, he said.

Arline Dillman, the Auto Club’s chief traffic safety expert, said

drivers are courting disaster when they get to the point where they can’t

even stop for a red light.

“The only action to take when a light turns red is to stop,” Dillman

said. “It’s the law and it could save a life.”


The following intersections in Orange County had the highest number of

collisions in 1998 caused by drivers who ran red lights:

Bear Street and South Coast Drive in Costa Mesa -- 10 crashes

Lambert Road and the Orange Freeway in Brea -- 8 crashes

Orangethorpe Avenue and the Orange Freeway in Placentia -- 8 crashes

Edinger Avenue and Jamboree Road in Tustin -- 8 crashes

Lake Forest Drive and the Santa Ana Freeway in Lake Forest -- 7