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STREET SMART

Streets, Not Freeways, Are the Worst Places for Accidents

September 30, 1996|LEN HALL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dear Street Smart:

Please settle a bet between me and a friend. I say that, after midnight, there are more fatal traffic accidents on the freeways than on side streets. I would even go as far as to say that there are more serious nonfatal traffic accidents after midnight on the freeways than on side streets. Am I right?

Tim Chu

Irvine

No, your friend is right, basically because there are so many more streets than freeways, said Robin Witt, a public affairs officer for Caltrans.

Although specific statistics are unavailable, there is no question that serious accidents of all kinds, particularly fatal accidents, happen more often on side streets.

The worst hour of all, by far, is about 2 a.m., Witt said. The highest accident rate on any street is between midnight Saturday and 3 a.m. Sunday, Witt said.

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Dear Street Smart:

Driving south on the Santa Ana Freeway recently, I noticed a sign that says "55 Next Left," so I moved over to the left lane. About a quarter-mile further, there is a sign that indicates the Costa Mesa (55) Freeway is the next offramp on the right! I quickly changed lanes very dangerously. Later, I rechecked, and the first sign was still there!

Herbert J. Kandel

Costa Mesa

A spokesman for Caltrans said there are indeed two signs on the Santa Ana Freeway that seem contradictory. The reason is that buses and car-poolers using the carpool lane exit to the Costa Mesa Freeway on the left, while other drivers exit on the right, said Albert Miranda, a Caltrans spokesman.

Most drivers who see both signs are those using the new Grand Avenue onramp to the southbound Santa Ana Freeway, Miranda said.

"You almost have to actually see the signs to understand how they work," Miranda said. "But it does work rather effectively. We have not had any other calls with questions on the signs there."

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Dear Street Smart:

I have recently attended several events at the Pond of Anaheim. Upon exiting the parking lots, there seems to be a lack of adequate signage directing drivers to the easiest route back to the freeways.

This is particularly true trying to get back on the southbound Orange Freeway. Considering how close this freeway is to the Pond, it should be much easier than the roundabout way required traffic flow takes you, and then forces you to guess where to go.

Andy Krattner

Huntington Beach

"We hope drivers leaving the Pond are not relegated to guesswork, because we do have signage," said Jim Paral, a principal traffic engineer for the city of Anaheim. "But, to promote safe and efficient movement of traffic, we direct drivers leaving different parking lots in different directions.

Most people arriving at the Pond enter off of Katella Avenue, he said.

"But, unfortunately, we cannot have everyone leave that way, even though it may be the most direct and shortest route," Paral said. "If we did, we would have tremendous congestion and delays and safety problems."

For better movement of traffic, drivers leaving some of the parking lots are directed north to Ball Road and others are directed north to Cerritos Avenue, where they must go under the Orange Freeway, he said.

"We believe we get most people out of the parking lots in orderly fashion. If anyone has a specific question, they can call Anaheim's traffic engineering division at (714) 254-5183."

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Dear Street Smart:

While driving south on the Corona del Mar Freeway recently, I noticed a new sign that said: "End Freeway 3/4 of a Mile." But below that, it says: "MacArthur Blvd. 1 Mile."

To me, it seems that if the freeway ends, how can you go the extra quarter of a mile to MacArthur? Perhaps Caltrans should have told us that when the freeway ends, you will be on MacArthur.

Toni Reger

Irvine

Both signs are actually correct, Caltrans' Miranda said. Currently, the Corona del Mar Freeway southbound does end three-quarters of a mile from that point. After that, a long offramp funnels drivers to MacArthur Boulevard, Miranda said.

The confusion will end once the link to the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor is completed, sometime in late November or early December, Miranda said. At that time, the Corona del Mar Freeway will continue all the way to San Juan Capistrano.

Street Smart appears Mondays in The Times Orange County Edition. Readers are invited to submit comments and questions about traffic, commuting and what makes it difficult to get around in Orange County. Include simple sketches if helpful. Letters may be published in upcoming columns. Please write to David Haldane, c/o Street Smart, The Times Orange County Edition, P.O. Box 2008, Costa Mesa, CA 92626, send faxes to (714) 966-7711 or e-mail him at David.Haldane@latimes.com. Include your full name, address and day and evening phone numbers. Letters may be edited, and no anonymous letters will be accepted.

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