Angeles crackdown yields safer highway

California Highway Patrol officers issued nearly five dozen traffic citations this past weekend on the steep and mountainous Angeles Crest Highway in response to reports of speeding motorcyclists and close-call collisions.

The enforcement campaign yielded citations for speeding, unsafe passing and other violations as California Highway Patrol officers staked out the 66-mile route popular with motorcyclists eager to test their skills on the roadway’s tight curve. Some near-collisions, including skids into oncoming traffic, have been posted on YouTube.

Officers patrolled Angeles Crest Highway by helicopter and on the ground, stopping about 150 cars and motorcycles. In addition to excessive speed and unsafe passing, they issued dozens of warnings and tickets for improperly displayed license plates, non-functioning lights and driving without a license, California Highway Patrol Sgt. Matt Armenta said. Two vehicles were impounded.

The speed limit on the highway between La Cañada Flintridge and Mt. Wilson Road is 45 mph. North of Mt. Wilson Road, it increases to 55 mph. But some sport motorcyclists treat it as their personal race track, Armenta said, adding that CHP officers have registered speeds of 95 mph on radar guns.

“Some of these guys are very aggressive and they will try and flee from us,” Armenta said. “They will even try and go around an officer trying to stop them.”

Fatalities are not uncommon — there have been three since the highway reopened in June after nearly two years of reconstruction. The first two involved cars and were believed to be a drunk-driving accident and possibly a suicide. The third involved a motorcyclist who was traveling at a high rate of speed, lost control and went over the edge.

“When they crash, they are not only hurting themselves, but sometimes they hurt other people,” Armenta said.

Officials in the foothill communities said that the reopening of Angeles Crest Highway has not yet translated into increased traffic volume on city streets. Prior to the closure, the route was popular with people traveling between Palmdale and the Los Angeles basin.

“With summer, and summer vacation the normal commuter traffic is not [what] we saw before the closure of Angeles Crest Highway,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sgt. Mark Slater, who heads traffic enforcement out of the Crescenta Valley station. “I am thinking once summer ends and people return to work…we might see an increase.”

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