405 Freeway

Traffic Engineers Fiddle While Big Rigs Crash

The L.A. Times published an article by Dan Weikel listing the most dangerous parts of Southern California’s highways where most semi truck accidents occur each year. Although this information is important in educating the public, attorney Ronald Goldman believes more must be done. He believes Congress, the Department of Transportation and Cal-Trans must make highway safety a priority.

The L.A. Times recently reported that there are four stretches of Southern California freeways that experience “most big rig crashes per mile annually.” Dan Weikel’s article says that those freeway sections are: “…the 710 at the 60 in the East L.A. Interchange, with 7.2 accidents; the 710 between the 105 and the 91, with 5.8 accidents; the convergence of the 60 and 57, with six crashes; and the 5 between the 710 and the 605 and the 10, also in the East L.A. Interchange with 6.6 crashes.”

It is all well and good to remind people to be more careful drivers, but it cannot be disputed that safe driving admonitions have been often given and regularly ignored. While it is good to keep up public education to try to make drivers more aware of the crazy risks they take to gain a few car lengths, or to shorten their trip by cutting across lanes, more—much more—needs to be done.

It is often the innocent, careful, driver that suffers the catastrophe triggered by the scofflaws who speed, weave, drive while drowsy or impaired, text while drivingand otherwise drive dangerously. When a big rig tractor-trailer collides with a passenger vehicle, the results are almost always devastating, as death or catastrophic injury can be expected.

And, that is where the traffic engineers must come into play. Lane design, markings, speed limits, lane restrictions for big-rigs and other traffic control devices must be re-thought to minimize the danger to the travelling public especially, in those high danger zones. Maybe they need to do a better job separating commercial trucks from other traffic. While some studies show that shifting big rig traffic to night travel does not reduce accidents and might increase them due to sleep deprived drivers, perhaps dedicated tractor-trailer lanes in dangerous freeway stretches need to be considered.

Making our freeways safer and getting the most out of the engineering professionals takes money. Money to study, design and implement safer roadways. Congress cuts the budget for infrastructure needs, our legislature parsimoniously meters out money for these projects and the travelling public pays the greatest price in human misery or death.

We cannot afford to ponder at a leisurely rate solutions to the problem of unsafe highways. A sense of urgency must be instilled into the political process and a fire needs to be lit under the Department of Transportation and Cal-Trans. It is not enough to study the issue. The cost in human suffering demands swift action to make our freeways safer.


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