Responding quickly to Los Angeles County's call for help, California Highway Patrol officials last week pledged the speedy introduction of radar and more officers on Agoura's treacherous Kanan Road.
Four new officers will be assigned Aug. 1 to the CHP's West Valley Station in Woodland Hills, which is responsible for patrolling the dangerous stretch of the twisting mountain road, Assistant CHP Commissioner Harold R. Jones said.
His agency is expediting the paper work required for radar to be used in a crackdown on speeders, Jones said from Sacramento.
The CHP action on Wednesday followed a unanimous vote Tuesday by county supervisors to buy two radar units for use on Kanan Road and on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. Board members also agreed to ask the CHP to use the devices in a yearlong test of their effectiveness and requested that more officers patrol Kanan Road.
Angered by 5 Deaths
The board's move came after Agoura-area residents reacted angrily to the deaths of five beachgoers in Kanan Road accidents in the past month. Homeowners demanded better speed-law enforcement and new safety measures for the twisting, 11-mile mountain road--popular as a summer beach route for San Fernando and Conejo valley residents.
Assignment of the four new officers will put the West Valley CHP office within two of its authorized 79-officer strength. Jones said the four will be graduates of the CHP training academy's summer class.
He also said there is little doubt that CHP Commissioner J. E. Smith would approve radar use on Kanan Road if the proper county request forms and court-mandated speed surveys for Kanan Road and Pacific Coast Highway are forwarded to Sacramento. Smith was reportedly out of the capital last week and unavailable for comment.
Although local CHP officials predicted on Tuesday that it could take as long as four months to put the radar units in use, Jones said that Los Angeles-area patrol administrators were "put to work right away" Wednesday on the paper work. "I'd hate to put an end-of-summer time frame on this, but we'll certainly do what we can to expedite the process," he said.
Mobile Radar Units
He said the two radar units to be purchased by the county will be capable of operating from a moving patrol car. That way, Jones said, CHP officers will be able to keep a visible presence on Kanan Road while clocking speeders along the mostly two-lane, 50-m.p.h. route.
Agoura Hills city officials, meanwhile, said they have acted to immediately increase the visibility of police along Kanan Road.
Mayor John Hood said that county sheriff's deputies assigned to Agoura Hills through a city-county contract have been ordered to travel between the city and their Malibu sheriff's headquarters by way of Kanan Road until further notice. Deputies usually use Las Virgenes Road.
"We have three cars per shift, and that could add up to 18 patrol cars a day along Kanan Road," Hood said. "That will increase the visibility of police to speeders."
No Primary Responsibility
Although deputies do not have primary responsibility for traffic enforcement in unincorporated areas, they can issue tickets and arrest reckless drivers on Kanan Road. In Agoura Hills, deputies use radar to enforce speed limits on city streets, including a short stretch of Kanan Road near the Ventura Freeway.
Capt. Mark Squiers, commander of the Sheriff Department's Malibu Station, said Agoura Hills has experienced a 29% decrease in injury accidents since radar was put into use last fall. "We know radar works," he said.
Squiers said he hopes that radar use is eventually extended by the CHP to Mulholland Highway and Las Virgenes Road, two other Agoura-area mountain routes popular with beachgoers. He said he favors creation of a special summer CHP task force to beef up traffic enforcement in the Agoura and Calabasas areas.
Agoura landowner Arthur Whizin said Wednesday that a skull-and-crossbones billboard that will warn motorists of Kanan Road's danger will be erected on his property next Monday afternoon. The sign will be donated by local businessmen.