Citing concern for public confidence in the experimental car-pool lanes on the Costa Mesa Freeway, the county Transportation Commission voted Monday to hire independent consultants to study the freeway's accident rate.
Commission member James H. Beam had announced last week that he would seek an independent investigation after California Department of Transportation officials changed their figures for the accident rate several times within two months.
Monday's action only partly pleased Drivers for Highway Safety, a grass-roots citizens organization critical of the new lanes. Spokesmen for the group Monday presented petitions from several hundred drivers who claim the car-pool lanes should be open to all traffic, not just cars with two or more people.
The group cited a Caltrans report that followed the addition of a lane for all traffic on the Ventura Freeway in the San Fernando Valley. The report showed that the 25% increase in the freeway's capacity was accompanied by a 58% drop in the accident rate, contrasted with a 7% or higher increase in the accident rate on the Costa Mesa Freeway.
During its meeting Monday, the commission voted to allow single-occupant motorcycles in the car-pool lanes for the first time.
Motorcyclists had claimed that they would be much safer in the car-pool lanes than weaving between lines of adjacent, slower traffic.