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Deaths on PCH Spur Residents to Action

July 18, 1985|NANCY GRAHAM | Times Staff Writer

Since the first of the year, nine people have died as a result of traffic accidents on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, and Cathy Shapiro has decided to do something about it.

Moved by the most recent accident, a head-on collision that killed a woman and her unborn child at Corral Canyon, Shapiro started calling people. She also wrote a letter to a local newspaper, asking people to contact her if they wanted to help stop the carnage.

As a result, about 20 people met last week at Malibu Civic Center and formed a study committee.

Shapiro said she and several others were surprised to discover that, according to Highway Patrol Lt. Jerry Rudy, about 50% of those involved in accidents in 1984 were Malibu residents.

Rudy based his statistics on a sampling of the first 10 accidents on the highway each month last year.

Shapiro said she, like many Malibu residents, thought that most of the accidents on their stretch of the highway involved outsiders--commuters and beach-goers.

Inaccessible Main Street

But as Rudy explained, Pacific Coast Highway is Malibu's Main Street--a Main Street crowded by the estimated 15 million people who travel the coast highway each year for recreational purposes, Rudy said.

Instead of watching traffic, many recreational drivers are looking for free parking spots. They speed, stop suddenly and make unsafe lane changes.

The highway, Rudy said, "is very unforgiving."

Rudy also punched holes in the widely held theory that most coast highway accidents occur where canyon roads empty onto it.

He showed the study committee a large map of the Malibu coastline. Figures at various points along the highway indicated how many accidents had occurred there in 1983 and 1984.

The most accidents--124 of the total of 679--took place at Malibu Pier where a traffic signal is activated by pedestrians. Drivers must wait for a break in traffic to dart onto the highway.

Shapiro said the committee's first goal is to to make Malibu residents aware of every accident, injury or fatality on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. It intends to find out where the accidents happened, what caused them, the age of the driver, whether drugs or alcohol were factors, and whether those involved were from Malibu.

Shapiro wants to see signs posted at every point where people have been killed. She also wants signs posted at the intersections of each canyon and the highway.

Seeking Reports

She is campaigning to get local newspapers to run reports of every accident.

With the assistance of representatives of the Malibu Township Council, the PTA, Pepperdine University, the Malibu Chamber of Commerce and others, she hopes to conduct a thorough study of the accidents and to determine what can be done to stop them. The group plans to have a booth at the Chamber of Commerce fair this month, with petitions asking the state Department of Transportation to speed up the installation of four planned traffic signals. Members also want more Highway Patrol officers assigned to their community.

Rudy, who has been assigned to the Malibu office of the California Highway Patrol since 1978, approves of committee's goals.

"I think there are a couple of things the study can do," Rudy said. "We want to do a better job of educating our community. It's probably a thankless job to try to educate Los Angeles about accidents in Malibu. But it's feasible to try to educate Malibu residents.

Rudy agrees with the committee's concern about more officers for Malibu. He said he has 21 officers to patrol an area from Topanga Canyon to the Ventura County line and east to Mulholland Drive. The area includes a number of canyon roads that link the San Fernando Valley with Pacific Coast Highway.

"When I came here in 1978 we had 20 officers. We were investigating about 500 accidents yearly. Now, with 21 officers, we are investigating about 800 accidents yearly. We are not exactly overwhelming (the motorists) with officers," Rudy said.

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