Gilbert Kluckhohn said he was certain his speedometer was registering 50 m.p.h. as he rounded a curve Monday and headed down a steep straightaway on Kanan Road.
But a radar gun aimed up the Agoura mountain roadway clocked the Calabasas man at 58 m.p.h.--eight miles over the speed limit. California Highway Patrol Officer Tom Anzelmo pulled the glum-faced Kluckhohn over.
"Truthfully, I was braking the whole way. It's not that I don't believe you, but it's just that I couldn't have been going that fast," Kluckhohn, 18, said.
The argument ended when Anzelmo showed Kluckhohn the radar unit aimed out his patrol car windshield. Its bright red digital speed readout was proof enough to Kluckhohn that a crackdown on speeders had begun Monday along the dangerous highway.
Using a borrowed radar gun, Anzelmo and another CHP officer, Randy Tackett, launched a one-year test of radar enforcement along an 11-mile stretch where crashes have left five people dead recently. Two new radar units will be put to use in early October, after the devices have been tested and certified as accurate.
"We're going to be giving more warnings at first than tickets," Capt. Richard Kerri, commander of San Fernando Valley-area CHP officers, said Monday afternoon from his Woodland Hills office. "We'll be lenient at first. We hope that the increased visibility and use of radar will slow people down."
Like most of the dozens of motorists stopped Monday by Anzelmo and Tackett, Kluckhohn escaped without a citation.
"Just the fact that drivers know radar is in use around here is going to slow people down," said CHP Sgt. Ken Josing, who observed the radar gun's unveiling on the road. "The word's going to get out."
Although the CHP has long viewed radar as an effective tool, political lobbying has kept it out of most of the state's patrol cars. So, when Los Angeles County supervisors called July 24 for its use on Kanan Road, highway patrol administrators were quick to cut through the red tape. The loaner unit had been used at the CHP's Los Angeles headquarters to check the accuracy of patrol cars' speedometers.
The use of radar was authorized by supervisors after area residents complained of the dangers of speeders on the beach route. Some residents erected a sign with a skull and cross bones symbol that warned of Kanan Road's "deadly" record.