Citizens Highway Safety Group Is Organizing
• Plans Weekly Meetings to Address PCH Improvement
BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN
BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN
The April 3 death of Malibu High School student Emily Shane has served as a catalyst for a new push to make Pacific Coast Highway safer.
“ASPCH (A Safer Pacific Coast Highway) is a group of concerned citizens meeting to address traffic safety along PCH in response to recent tragedies,” an invitation to the community that was read at last week’s city council meeting.
“We’re friends of the Shane family, and in sadness, this has motivated us to gather and act on behalf of everyone in our community,” the announcement said.
“Everything we do is in honor of Emily, and others who have been injured or died along PCH, in hopes of preventing future tragedies. Our intent is to work with other concerned residents, the Traffic Safety Commission of Malibu, the Malibu City Council, and the Sheriff’s Department to come up with ideas and solutions to make the highway safer for everyone—motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists alike.”
The group had its first public meeting on the morning of April 19, bringing together City of Malibu Safety Commission members Carol Randall and Susan Tellem; newly elected City Council member Laura Rosenthal; Malibu Park safety activist Steve Scheinkman who ran unsuccessfully for a council seat in the recent election, and nearly two dozen concerned local residents, many of them friends of the Shane family, or the parents of Emily’s classmates.
A long list of PCH safety improvement ideas were discussed at the meeting, including bringing the California Highway Patrol back to Malibu; highway safety education; ways to prevent illegal U-turns and improve highway speed signage; how to reclaim the public right-of-way; who to call when there is a problem on PCH; and whether the speed limit on PCH could be lowered.
“It’s a state highway,” Randall reminded the group, adding that Caltrans, not the City of Malibu, oversees the road. “It’s not a minor thing to lower it.” She also warned that traffic lights were a complex issue. “It requires warrants,” she said. “There are places were it just can’t be done.”
Randall applauded the idea of returning the CHP to PCH— “CHP was taken away from us when we became a city. Four other cities have gotten them back.”—but expressed concern over calls to place K-rail in the center divider of PCH. “K-rail made me cringe,” she said. “You don’t want more problems.”
Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station Sergeant Derek Sabatini concurred, stating that emergency vehicles require the median for access. “It’s the only medium to get through in the summer,” he said.
The deputies explained that the Shane case is still under investigation and they could not discus it. “We can gather questions and get the answers you need,” they said. However, they were able to comment on some of the ideas, applauding plans to increase safety education at Malibu High School. They also explained the complex 911-call protocol for PCH.
“A 911 call is routed either to the CHP or the sheriff,” Sergeant Jim Castro said. “There’s a four-to-five minute delay in the field—10 minutes if someone is driving really fast. Most [PCH calls] come directly to us, but Topanga doesn’t.
“We have the number one ticket-writer in the state of California, but we are spread out, Malibu is long and unique.”
Castro explained that if the individuals reporting a driver are keeping track of them and remain on the line with the dispatcher it improves the chances that the suspect can be intercepted. “Malibu residents are the best ones calling and reporting,” he said.
“I spoke to Sgt. Brooks [the Lost Hill’s Sheriff’s Station traffic officer],” Malibu West resident and fire safety activist Cindy Vandor said. “Calls [about erratic driving by the suspect who struck Shane] began before Topanga.”
Randall recommended that residents call the Lost Hills station direct at 310-456-6652, rather than call 911. “That’s what I do,” she said.
However, that telephone number isn’t known by most out-of-area commuters or visitors to Malibu. And the signs on PCH say to dial 911 to report drunk drivers.
Steve Scheinkman suggested a new traffic study of PCH, and applauded the group’s plan to bring its concerns to the city’s public safety commission regular meeting. “It’s apolitical, they really listen, but they need some teeth,” he said.
“The highway isn’t in our hands but it’s worth a try,” Safety commissioner Susan Tellem said. “The highway has been studied forever, I’m not saying don’t do that. Jim Thorsen [the City Manager] always talks about the three E’s, engineering, education and enforcement. We don’t have enough enforcement. We need to double enforcement.”
ASPCH plans to continue meeting every Monday morning at 10 a.m. at 6269 Frondosa Drive, in Malibu West. All interested Malibu residents are welcome to attend.