The California Highway Patrol and county Board of Supervisors are negotiating a plan to allow radar patrols on Topanga Canyon Boulevard in order to cut down on speeding.
Dawson Oppenheimer, an aide to Supervisor Mike Antonovich, said no decision on the use of radar will be made until the CHP and the state Department of Transportation complete a study of speed-related accidents on the boulevard. However, both Oppenheimer and the CHP said the study is expected to confirm that radar should be used.
State funding for radar is heavily restricted because of opposition by many legislators. But the CHP has formed partnerships with several county boards that have purchased radar equipment for the patrol cars, as Los Angeles County would do if the proposal is approved by Caltrans.
Filled With Speeders
Jan Moore, president of the Topanga Canyon Town Council, said the community asked Antonovich to back the proposal because commuter traffic heading from the San Fernando Valley to Santa Monica each morning--and home again each night--has filled the canyon with speeders.
"We're trying to make this road safer because it is terribly dangerous now," Moore said. "The commuters heading for the freeway seem to think this is a racecourse--I mean zooooom!"
Speeds up to 55 m.p.h. are allowed on the boulevard, which is a state highway, but some tight curves and heavily developed areas are restricted to 30 m.p.h., Moore said.
"People just ignore those speeds," she said. "Schoolchildren walk home along it in the early afternoon and get the early commuters coming home, and this is really dangerous."
If radar is approved for Topanga Canyon, it will be the third major radar patrol route created by the Board of Supervisors in the Malibu area in the last two years.
CHP Officer Craig Klein said radar is now used "with great success" along Pacific Coast Highway and on Kanan Dume Road.
"We obviously favor the use of radar in Topanga because of the increase in accidents there, and we want (Caltrans) to go along with us on this," Oppenheimer said.
However, CHP statistics show no increase in speed-related accidents over the last four years in Topanga Canyon. In fact, according to the CHP, the number of accidents attributed to speeding drivers actually dropped from 44 in 1983 to 31 in 1985.
Nevertheless, Klein said the CHP "is wholeheartedly behind" the proposal, which he said will cut down not only on speeding, but on another major cause of accidents, attempts to pass slow-moving cars.
CHP statistics show that attempts to pass are the third-largest cause of accidents on Topanga Canyon Boulevard--behind speeding and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Klein said such accidents are a persistent problem in the twisting canyon, where slower drivers create traffic backups instead of turning out.
"We do ticket the people who hold up traffic, but we have a problem with the slow movers who tempt a lot of the fast drivers to pass in unsafe conditions," Klein said.
With radar, Klein said, "we'll be able to catch the speeding driver well before he attempts to pass a slow car."
Klein said the likely outcome of the Caltrans-CHP study would be a proposal to approve radar patrols on a one-year trial basis, perhaps in combination with the reduction of speed limits in the canyon.