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Residents Fear Speeders on Mountain Routes to Beach

July 11, 1985|BOB POOL | Times Staff Writer

Along with advertisements hawking suntan oil and hamburgers, beach-goers traveling a popular Agoura-area mountain road Monday encountered a new message: Hand-painted warnings that popular Kanan Road is a potential death alley.

The signs saying "Kanan Road Can Be Deadly," nailed anonymously onto several billboards next to the winding thoroughfare, summed up the frustration of many of the area's residents who say they are being terrorized by speeders such as the driver who caused a collision on Kanan Road that killed him and three teen-agers on June 26.

That crash, and one on a nearby road last week that killed a teen-ager and injured seven other people, have prompted homeowners' calls for stricter safety standards and tougher law enforcement on beach routes used daily by thousands of beach-goers from the San Fernando and Conejo valleys.

'In Danger Every Day'

"Our lives are in danger every day," said Estelle Friedman, who survived a Kanan Road crash in which a man was killed. "Being run off the road by reckless drivers and speeders is an everyday occurrence up here. You pull over and shake and cry before you can go on."

But the recent accidents also have prompted traffic engineers and police to say that little more can be done to improve Kanan Road and two other heavily traveled two-lane highways, Las Virgenes/Malibu Canyon Road and Topanga Canyon Boulevard.

In the fatal Kanan Road crash, a speeding sports car struck an auto carrying teen-agers home from the beach. The fatal accident last week on Las Virgenes Road killed a Granada Hills teen-ager. Accidents on Topanga Canyon Boulevard, which is used by more than 18,000 vehicles a day during the summer, have claimed two lives this year.

Forced Off Road

Friedman's close call came in 1979 when a 22-year-old Newbury Park motorcyclist forced her off Kanan Road, then crashed into her. The man's body was severed at the waist.

A neighbor of Friedman, Susan Petrovsky, a leader of the mountain area's Triunfo-Lobo Community Assn., said she has learned to "always say a prayer when somebody from my family has to drive on Kanan. . . . We think they need to put things like dots on the road to alert drivers to sharp curves and to shake them up when they're going too fast. We need traffic lights to slow people down. Maybe radar to catch speeders."

But Thomas Tidemanson, general manager of the Los Angeles County Road Department, said the roads are not the problem.

Extensive Work on Road

"Kanan Road is probably the highest-maintained road in the county," he said. "We're always looking for ways to improve it. We've just done shoulder widening, re-striping, new signs and new lights for the tunnels--extensive things. But the only thing that is going to work is for people to obey the speed limit."

California Highway Patrol Capt. Richard Kerri, whose Woodland Hills-based officers patrol the mountain roads north of Mulholland Highway, said it is common for drivers to impatiently cross double yellow lines to get around slower cars.

"The ocean isn't going to dry up in another 20 minutes. But they all think it is," he said.

Kerri said eight people have died on the mountain roads under his jurisdiction this year, up from two deaths during the same period last year. Officials at the Malibu CHP office said four people have died on mountain roads in their jurisdiction south of Mulholland Highway.

Drinking and Drugs

"In the afternoon, it's the combination of drinking and drugs and sunburn that gets them in trouble on the way home," said Sgt. Terry Enright. "In the morning, they're impatient, but they're not impaired. They usually have a better chance driving to the beach than home from it."

Calabasas Municipal Court Commissioner Richard Brand, who sentences those cited by the CHP and convicted in his court of reckless driving on the beach routes, said he is not hesitant to throw the book at drivers: A first-time reckless-driving conviction means a weekend or five days in jail, and crossing the double yellow lines means a maximum $85 fine.

"What else can we do?" Brand asked. "Maybe put small white crosses next to the road where people have died."

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