CHP grant suspended due to state budget crisis

A $1.2 million grant intended to aid the California Highway Patrol in reducing injuries and fatalities from motorcycle accidents has been frozen due to the state budget crisis, officials said this week.

The money would have helped increase patrol units and public-safety efforts in four Southern California counties with high motorcycle-accident rates, including Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange and San Bernardino, said Officer Ming-Yang Hsu.

"It was supposed to target counties that were experiencing a high number of motorcycle accidents," Hsu said. "Los Angeles is obviously one of them."

The CHP's Altadena-area office had planned to conduct a special enforcement campaign on Sunday on Angeles Crest Highway, a popular route for motorcycle enthusiasts and frequently the site of accidents. And two officers were to be posted at a safety booth at Newcomb's Ranch, a popular café on the highway, to provide information to motorists and answer questions.

"We are experiencing a slight increase in the number of traffic collisions on the Angeles Forest roadways," said Capt. Bill Dance, commander of the Altadena area. "Too often, we respond to collisions involving motorists who have lost control of their vehicles due to unsafe speed, or who collide into an oncoming vehicle as they drift over the double-yellow lines."

However, on Sept. 22 CHP officials received an executive order from the governor's office informing them that the grant had been suspended due to the state's ongoing budget crisis.

Long stretches of the highway have been closed for repairs since the winter rains and resulting slides, and are not expected to reopen until November. Nonetheless, there have been 17 motorcycle accidents on roadways in Angeles National Forest this year, Hsu said. In August alone, there were five accidents, up from a monthly average of about two, Hsu said.

The most recent Angeles Crest Highway accident occurred Tuesday at about 2:40 p.m., according to officials. A motorcyclist was transported via helicopter to a hospital after falling 40 feet about six miles north of Newcomb's Ranch.

Hsu attributed the increase in accidents to motorists who are accessing the upper portion of Angeles Crest Highway via Big Tujunga Canyon Road.

"At the beginning of the year, people were thinking the entire Crest was closed," Hsu said. "It is just [La Cañada] to Angeles Forest Highway, so more and more riders are finding they can go around the back and still access the top part of the Crest."

CHP officers will continue to promote motorcycle safety through public-awareness campaigns and patrolling, but patrol units will have to be spread out between local freeways and the mountain roads, Hsu said.

"We will still be putting officers up there, just not in the huge numbers we were hoping to get. We want to remind all the drivers to watch out for one another," Hsu said. "Be extra careful because of the increased ridership, not just during weekends but during the weekdays as well."

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