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More Use of Radar Asked for Unincorporated Areas

October 06, 1987|JOHN NEEDHAM | Times County Bureau Chief

Homeowners in the Aegean Hills area of El Toro complain of speeders on Alicia Parkway and Muirlands Boulevard. Residents of the Nellie Gail Ranch development in Laguna Hills moan that Oso Parkway has become "Oso Raceway."

To cope with speeding drivers, Supervisor Gaddi H. Vasquez of the 3rd District, will ask his colleagues today to appeal to the California Highway Patrol to begin using radar to enforce speed limits throughout unincorporated Orange County.

"Many 3rd District residents have expressed a concern about increased speeding on Santiago Road and other heavily traveled roads," Vasquez wrote in a letter to the four other supervisors. His sprawling district is in the eastern and southeastern parts of the county.

Several homeowner associations and residents' advisory groups, as well as the county Traffic Committee, have also asked that the use of radar be expanded, Vasquez said.

"It is clear that a major concern to these groups is the control of speed violations on local streets," he said.

Steve Hogan, the county's traffic engineer, said radar has been used on some roads in Mission Viejo since 1983, on some thoroughfares in unincorporated north Tustin since 1985 and on the Ortega Highway (California 74) in southern Orange County since January.

The county Traffic Committee, which Hogan heads, said in June that a recent study showed a 33% decrease in speed-related accidents since radar enforcement began.

The state Legislature has generally refused CHP requests for money for radar units if it would be used to enforce 55-m.p.h. limits on state roads, said Susan Cowan-Scott, a CHP spokeswoman in Sacramento. But the Legislature made exceptions for California 126 in Ventura County in 1985 and on California 74 in January.

Cowan-Scott said California is the only state not to use radar to enforce maximum speed limits. She said the CHP "can use radar on county roads, and we do all over the place." And the CHP can use a radar gun to enforce lower limits, such as 45 m.p.h., on state roads.

Cowan-Scott said the CHP may expand its use of radar to enforce speed limits on more state highways but added that there are no plans to use it on interstate highways.

Orange County cities use radar to monitor speed within their borders, Hogan said, and the county Sheriff's Department uses radar to catch speeders in cities in which it supplies police protection, such as San Juan Capistrano.

But in unincorporated county areas, in which the Sheriff's Department is the lead police agency, it turns over the job of "designated traffic control agency" to the CHP.

"If we can show that there is kind of a grass-roots support for (radar), the CHP is more likely to view (radar requests) favorably," Hogan said.

Cowan-Scott agreed, saying that if local communities demonstrate support for the device, the CHP will use it.

"The county will purchase it; we will maintain it and use it," she said.

Hogan said a radar unit costs about $2,000. "We're probably talking two to four units for the entire county" if the supervisors approve using the device and the CHP agrees, he said.

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