One of the justifications for building the Route 132 Freeway is safety. The argument ignores the reality of a history of fatal accidents on all of our area freeways.
Drivers of pickup trucks and SUVs in the Valley hit the freeway with the spirit of invincibility. Because they’re surrounded by heavy metal, they think that they need not worry about a crash. They speed, tailgate, honk their horns, and flash their headlights as a normal manner of driving. They loath anyone in their way, making obscene gestures at other drivers who have the audacity to drive at the speed limit.
I use Route 132 from the Modesto City limit to Interstate 580 every Tuesday evening. Every time I drive the route, I see illegal driving.
Tuesday, July 15th, a car passed others by crossing the double yellow line at Bogetti’s Orchard at about 6PM. On the return trip at about 10:30PM, three different cars passed me at a high rate of speed, crossing the double yellow line on a curve! One of the three drivers had his headlights turned off.
On another Tuesday evening, I saw a car pull out of the Chevron Service station at Hart Road and Route 132 into the path of a semi-truck rolling at the 55 Mile Per Hour speed limit. A collision was narrowly averted.
Does anyone doubt that this sort of risk taking will eventually result in another fatal accident?
Drunk drivers are common on the freeway system after 10PM. Over the years, this driver has observed numerous near misses. On two separate occasions in the past year, I called 911 to report drunk drivers and followed them until they crashed, before the California Highway Patrol could intervene.
Pickup and SUV drivers are just as aggressive on freeways as they are on two lane roads, cutting in and out and doing all sorts of risky maneuvers. Fatal accidents usually result from risky behavior and aren’t really accidents as much as they are acts of deliberate risk or willful negligence.
Freeways enable drivers to go faster than on two lane roads, offsetting the added safety that freeways purportedly promote.
Government Action Won’t Fix the Problem
The number of fatalities on Route 132 in the last ten years seems to have dropped compared to previous decades. This may be the result of stepped up traffic enforcement by the California Highway Patrol (CHP). Officers are frequently seen writing citations along the Route 132 corridor. The dangerous driving practices seem most prevalent when the roadway does not appear to be patrolled, around rush hour and in the evening hours after 10PM. Traffic volume is way down after 10PM, so the CHP moves its resources to more heavily travelled roadways and Route 132 becomes the Indianapolis 500 speedway.
At the intersection of Hart Road and Route 132, the roadway in advance of the traffic signal shows numerous skid marks. The intersection could be made safer if Caltrans installed flashing yellow warning lights in advance of the signal changing to red. The disadvantage of such a system is some idiots will speed up to try and beat the signal change. The disadvantage might be overcome by putting road sensors farther in advance of the intersection.
Another method to slow traffic on Route 132 would be to install traffic cameras and issue citations via electronic surveillance. This method isn’t popular among those who habitually speed. Red light cameras have been removed from most cities because of the numerous court challenges and general unpopularity among vocal interest groups.
Stiffer fines have not been much of a deterrent to aggressive driving. Given the general attitude of lawlessness, fatal accidents will continue to be a way of death. Although California’s vehicle code says that driving is a privilege, licenses are given out like driving is a right. Horror stories about unfit drivers abound in the media and reckless driving can be witnessed on most area roadways any time of the day or night.