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.
Frank Damrell says
Yes, safety is one justification, and logic would dictate that all travel at high speeds is dangerous, especially when vehicles are crossing traffic or entering traffic, as Mr. Frohman’s example at Hart Road illustrates. History shows that 120 between I-5 and 99 was also a deadly stretch, whose safety improved when it was developed into a freeway in 1995, and this likely contributed to the drop in fatalities on 132 this past decade, as cross valley traffic opted for the northern route.
Another justification for improving 132 is environmental, as traffic congestion on 99, 120 and 205 spews exhaust into our valley air. And, what is stalled in that stop and go traffic? Delayed goods and commerce vital to our region’s economics. Our wine, canned peaches and tomatoes, almonds, dairy products, etc., are heading to the Bay Area at 25 miles an hour, increasing transportation costs.
Coincidentally, these traffic jams brings this conversation back to safety…because when traffic stops suddenly on a freeway, inattentive or speeding drivers often have fatal collisions they otherwise would have avoided in steadily moving traffic. See this tragic story: http://www.modbee.com/2013/08/12/2859557/major-accident-on-highway-120.html
While I have been angered by risky or negligent drivers, I have never been involved in an accident with one. However, I have been rear-ended numerous times in stop and go traffic, by people who were otherwise obeying the speed limit (interestingly, none of them drove pickups or SUV’s). Additionally, with two or more lanes travelling in the same direction, I can always maintain the posted speed in a right hand lane, foregoing the obscene histrionics and flashing lights of a tailgater in the fast lane.
NOTE: the citing of four drivers dangerously crossing double yellow lines is yet another example of an agressive behavior that would not happen on a 132 “freeway;” and while drunk driving is a serious concern, increased video survellance, road sensors and flashing yellow lights will not decrease the risk intoxated drivers pose to society.
It seems to me the concerns expressed by Eric Caine about preserving Wood Colony, Mapes Ranch and the Dos Rios Wildlife Preserve is the true concern of opponents of 132 expansion, and this can be managed by limiting off ramps to a minimum (2 east of the river and one west of the river) and passing Denny Jackman’s farmland protection proposal.
Eric Caine says
I would like some restrictions on 132. Freeways and expressways tend to expand and induce growth. We should think hard about how to preserve the intrinsic values of the land along 132 as well as how to avoid adverse impacts to Wood Colony.