Is Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu the most dangerous stretch of road in the country? Some statistics support that claim, along with growing concern among the citizens and City Council of Malibu to reduce the risk of what some describe as the Autobahn running through a quiet, coastal beach community.
Local citizen and writer Ben Marcus once described PCH through Malibu as “America’s only public NASCAR track.” In January 2009, a woman driving a stolen U-Haul raced through Malibu, cops and helicopters flying after her. The radio commentators on KNX 1070 radio following the chase described PCH through Malibu as “the most dangerous road in America.”
Statistics support the reputation of PCH as a death trap. According to www.citydata.com, there have been anywhere from one to eight traffic fatalities annually from 1991 to 2011 on PCH in the 20 years since Malibu became a city in 1990.
Just this past weekend, a large section of PCH just north of Sunset Boulevard was closed for several hours due to a Ferrari slamming into a power pole, killing the passenger and critically injuring the driver.
The accident occurred at approximately 1:27 a.m., ejecting both men from the car. The Los Angeles County Fire Department reported that the car split in half upon impact and threw the two men 30 feet, where they landed on the beach below.
The driver, who was not killed, was driving with a suspended license and had three DUI convictions. It has not yet been determined whether or not the driver was under the influence at the time of the accident but his speed was estimated at 90 mph in a 45 mph zone of the highway.
Many PCH commuters would agree that no number of sheriff’s deputies on PCH would ever eliminate speeding.
Pepperdine School of Law student Jordan DeShazer, who was personally involved in an accident at the Kanan intersection of PCH, agrees that highway is extremely dangerous.
“Having seen numerous accidents on the PCH, I never thought I would actually get in one myself,” DeShazer said. “I was stopped at the light and was hit from behind by a driver who claimed they didn’t see me. Everyone drives so fast on the PCH. She was going about 50 miles per hour and took out the entire back end of my SUV.”
Malibu city council member Laura Rosenthal announced in July 2011 that Caltrans had given Malibu a $300,000 grant to devise a safety plan for PCH. In the past year, safety concerns were magnified by the death of 13-year-old Emily Shane.
On the evening of April 3, 2010, Emily Shane was killed while walking from a friend’s house on the shoulder of PCH. The driver who took her life was travelling at 70 mph. With the loss of their precious daughter, the Shanes began “A Safer PCH” and have since gotten many other Malibu locals to join their efforts in making the road safer for pedestrians.
The Sheriff’s Teen Traffic Offender Program, also known as STTOP, is another group that has recently been developed to increase safety on PCH. This organization primarily focuses on teen drivers and informing parents of their teen’s reckless driving patterns.
With every fender bender and fatality, concern about a safer PCH increases. Citizens and the state are investing money and time, but anyone who drives the highway regularly understands that there is still a long way to go to achieve a safe PCH.