Speeding tickets will be handed out on an assembly-line basis this summer to beachgoers who race along a dangerous Agoura-area mountain road, California Highway Patrol officials said Tuesday.
Two teams of officers will clock Kanan Road speeders with radar guns, and two other teams will usher offending motorists into special stopping lanes where citations will be issued to three or four drivers at at time, CHP officials said.
Authorities said the crackdown will begin the week of June 23, when the school year ends. It will be the first trial during peak traffic of a one-year test of radar enforcement along an 11-mile section of the road.
Use of radar was ordered by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last July 23 for the twisting mountain route. Officials acted after five people were killed on the road last June, bringing to nine the number of traffic fatalities there in two years.
Test Ends Nov. 1
But supervisors specified that radar units could be used only for 12 months to determine their effectiveness. The test period will end Nov. 1.
Radar is used routinely by highway patrolmen in other states, but its use has proved politically controversial in California.
State lawmakers have rebuffed efforts to place radar units in CHP cars, although counties are authorized to buy them for use by the CHP on specified streets. Officials said the CHP now uses radar in only 21 areas of the state.
CHP administrators said radar has lowered the Kanan Road accident rate and has been embraced by mountain-area residents who frequent the roadway.
There has been only one fatality on the road since radar enforcement began, and that happened when a truck's brakes failed near Pacific Coast Highway.
Malibu-based CHP officers, who use their Kanan Road radar gun south of Mulholland Highway, said that, since last November, the accident rate in their jurisdiction has dropped 31% from the corresponding period a year earlier. Injuries have fallen 53%, they said.
Woodland Hills-based patrol officers, who have been issued a radar unit for use on Kanan Road north of Mulholland Highway, said the accident rate in their area has similarly declined, although statistics will not be calculated until this November.
"Public response has been exceptional," said Lt. Jerry Rudy, head of the CHP's Malibu office. "I never would have believed it.
"We published a survey in the local newspaper, and 74% of the people favor radar's use. Our problem is that the outside communities are not aware we're using radar. They're not aware of the hazard on that road, either."
Praise From Residents
Capt. Richard Kerri, commander of the Woodland Hills CHP station, said he has received cards and letters from Agoura residents praising the radar program.
"We are very impressed with the radar and the change it has made on Kanan Road," homeowner Karen DePew wrote Kerri last month. "You have given us hope, and for this we thank you and bless you."
Kerri said he will ask supervisors to make Kanan Road radar a permanent fixture after the one-year test ends.
"We're pleased. We'd like to see better results in terms of speed reduction, but we've had no fatalities there since last June," Kerri said.
He said heavy summertime beach traffic will offer a good test of radar's effectiveness.
Patrolmen from the two stations experimented with the team-ticketing concept during Easter week, Kerri said. About 800 tickets were handed out to speeders stopped in special lanes designated by plastic cones.
Malibu CHP Sgt. Terry Enright said the assembly-line system employs a radar-equipped officer who radios descriptions and speeds of offenders to ticket writers about a mile ahead. Those officers flag down the drivers without having to chase them.
"During Easter, we cited some people twice. Sometimes twice in one day, only five miles apart," Enright said. "By the end of Easter week, we slowed traffic on Kanan down by about 10 m.p.h."
Woodland Hills CHP Officer Kenn Rosenberg said speeds have crept back up since then. The speed limit is 50 m.p.h.
Rosenberg said the CHP hopes to contact high schools in the Simi and Conejo valleys before the school year ends to tell students of the summertime enforcement.
"This past weekend we caught a motorcyclist going 106 m.p.h. up there," he said. "I'd say that radar is making that road safer. But that whole road is a windy canyon road and there's no place you can really relax and let down your defenses."