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STREET SMART

TGIF-Hour Is a Deadly Crapshoot for Freeway Motorists

August 09, 1993|HUGO MARTIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Are all those drunk, inattentive and outright rude drivers on the road today making your commute feel like a deadly crapshoot?

Do the headlights of oncoming cars resemble snake eyes?

Well, to improve your odds on the road you might want to avoid driving on Fridays between 5 and 6 p.m.--the deadliest time of the week, according to accident figures for 1992 compiled by the state office of traffic safety.

During the "TGIF" rush hour last year, 3,155 accidents that injured drivers or passengers occurred on state highways--more than any other one-hour period of the week.

In fact, if you really want to improve your odds, stay off the road entirely on Fridays. Last year, 53,902 injury-causing collisions occurred on Fridays, more than any other day of the week.

"Fridays and motorists don't mix," said Peter O'Rourke, director of the state agency, who attributed the statistics to motorists rushing home to start the weekend and paying less attention to driving.

So when is it safest to be on the road? Try Sunday mornings between 5 and 6 a.m., when there were only 291 injury collisions during the entire year--the least for any one-hour time period.

I guess even lousy drivers rest on the seventh day.

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Dear Street Smart:

To avoid the congested Ventura Freeway in the morning, I usually travel Ventura Boulevard between Topanga Canyon and Sepulveda boulevards, sometimes continuing to Laurel Canyon Boulevard to reach my Mid-Wilshire office.

Traffic along Ventura Boulevard generally moves quickly due to the extra lane created by the posted "No Stopping Between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m." signs on the eastbound side of the boulevard.

But I regularly see cars parked along this stretch and I never see parking-enforcement officers patrolling the area. Secondly, the extra lane disappears between Tampa and Wilbur avenues. There is room for the lane, but no striping on the road. Third, why does the lane stop at Sepulveda Boulevard? Why not extend the "No Stopping" area east of Sepulveda Boulevard?

Cheryl Becker Leff, Woodland Hills

Dear Reader:

It can be quite a jolt to cruise along at 35 m.p.h. and find that your lane has suddenly disappeared in front of you. That sort of thing can lead to ulcers, high blood pressure, stress and rashes. Well, OK, not rashes.

In answer to your first question, parking-enforcement officers are out there looking for scofflaws. But Peter Martinez, a supervisor for the city's parking enforcement department, said his unit has, at most, only 18 officers to cover the entire Valley. Sometimes, there is only one officer working Ventura Boulevard, he said.

The big problem along the "No Stopping" zone is that motorists often do stop, usually to grab some cash at an ATM or cappuccino at a coffee shop, Martinez said. By the time parking-enforcement officers roll up, the motorists have their cash and caffeine and are back on the road.

As to why the lane does a disappearing act between Tampa and Wilbur avenues, it's because the street is just a few feet too narrow to fit the extra lane.

The extra lane could be extended east of Sepulveda Boulevard, but, according to Tom Jones, a city traffic engineer, there are many businesses east of Sepulveda that rely on street parking. Besides, he said the extra lane is not in high demand east of Sepulveda because many commuters heading east on Ventura Boulevard don't go further than Sepulveda. Instead, they turn onto Sepulveda or the San Diego Freeway to get to the Westside.

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Dear Street Smart:

I am a daily commuter on the Hollywood Freeway. On most days, I notice traffic slows and often stops approaching the Highland Avenue on-ramp heading north. The reason is clear. All traffic entering the freeway there comes up the hill from Highland and merges into the fast lane. The speed of the entering traffic is much slower than freeway traffic. But a bigger problem is that one-third of the cars entering from Highland immediately begin to cross the five lanes of traffic in order to exit at Barham Boulevard, which is the next exit.

Why can't traffic coming on at Highland be denied the ability to exit at Barham by a lane barrier?

Ken Mateer, Arleta

Dear Reader:

Caltrans spokesman Russ Snyder acknowledges that this section of freeway "does not have the optimal design." In layman's terms, it's a mess.

But Snyder said Caltrans engineers believe installing concrete lane barriers amid speeding traffic would risk causing vehicles to hit the barriers.

Caltrans is considering adding wide, white striping at this section to create a wide buffer zone between merging traffic and cars arriving in the fast lane from the south, he said. This would discourage merging motorists from trying to zip across the five lanes to get off at Barham Boulevard.

Snyder said it's unclear when such improvements would be made. "It merits further study," he said. In layman's terms, don't expect to see a change in the next few days.

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Dear Street Smart:

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