Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

124 Comments
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By Kevin Keating

Open letter to Hannah Beth Jackson and Monique Limon

I am a concerned citizen who regularly takes Highway 154 from Santa Barbara to Santa Ynez. I, along with those commenting in support below, are saying it is time for the county to *do something* to lessen the human and economic devastation regularly on State Highway 154. I have 2 common sense suggestions that are very easy to implement and one that would take a bit of engineering by the State. 

On a regular basis, I see some of the most reckless driving examples, cars going 20+ mph over the speed limit, motorcycles and cars passing in the double yellow sections of the road.

I believe the State efforts to calm road rage have failed and have failed to avoid deadly accidents, such as the accident this past Friday, where a mother and her two children were senselessly killed when a driver crossed the double yellow line hitting them head-on and setting off a chain reaction that sparked a wildfire that could easily have grown out of control.

I am proposing that the County petition the state to do two things that will immediately make the 154 safer:

1. Lower the speed limit from 55 mph (we must take into account that most drivers exceed posted limits by 10mph which means people tend to go 65mph) to 45mph.

2. Install a highway divider at some of the hot spots for crossing the double yellow- mainly on straightaways. Such a divider would have prevented this accident. I realize this suggestion requires more study. But they need to start this process immediately as lives are senselessly being lost.

Additionally, I very much would like to emphasize that you immediately contact Alphabet (parent company of Google Maps) to immediately insist that they route all cars heading north of Santa Ynez/Los Olivos/Solvang (such as a trip to Pismo from LA) to stay on the 101. Currently, for a 5-10 min savings at most, unfamiliar drivers are coming off the 101 in both directions and driving at excessive speeds on our most dangerous road by far, a road that has on average an accident once every week or two and a fatal accident once every 3 months. we also had our most serious recent fire, the Whittier Fire caused by a passing driver pulling off the 154 and ignoring the brush. The lack of cell coverage is probably rather vexing to drivers using their phones to communicate or navigate while driving this winding, ever-changing road.

Our taxpayers in the county have had to bear the burden of the State’s incompetence- the human toll is massive in terms of deaths and maimings,  but so is the economic toll of highway investigations, rescues, closures, wildfires caused by damaged cars exiting the roadway.

There will always be accidents but there is no reason to not try- at least for one year- a new lower speed limit of 45 mph for the San Marcos Pass (from the start of the 154 to Rancho San Marcos Golf Course). I have already done the math and that is a 10-mile stretch of road. Lowering the speed limit from 55 to 45 will only add 2.4 minutes to this accident-heavy section.

In common sense terms, lowering the posted limit manages expectations and raises the threshold for aggressive road rage type incidents. Moreover, lowering the speed by 10mph means a slower accident and is in effect a 20% reduction in the potential energy of any accidents that should occur. A slower speed also gives unsuspecting and inexperienced drivers more reaction time, something which should in itself lower the rate and severity of accidents.

Now, the State may wish to claim It has studied the situation and this is the best approach. However, their study has resulted in untold death, injuries, the unreliability of the highway itself, and financial cost to our county.

If the State refuses to change the speed limit I insist that we explore all level means to compel them to change the speed on this stretch, even if for one year. Again, it is a 2.4-minute loss of time.

Longer-term, having dividers in key straightaways will serve to calm drivers tempted to pass on double yellows, as just happened in the latest tragic accident.

In conclusion, I am confident that you can accomplish one of these aims immediately- demand that Google Maps reroute drivers passing through the Santa Ynez Valley to places north and south of it to the 101. I am hopeful you will also be able to do something to calm road rage and reduce the high energy collisions we are seeing weekly and monthly in the 154.

I am posting this as an open letter on Edhat, the only remaining news outlet locally that allows us to voice our opinions via the comments section and I am Calling on my fellow Edhat users to please comment below as a form of a petition to our local government to do something about this devastating problem. The 154 is a beautiful road that would be far safer and just as convenient at a lower speed and with less out of town drivers racing through it. 

Thank you for your time and attention.


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124 Comments

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Chip of SB Oct 28, 2019 03:33 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

Great write up! I support this effort 100%. Severe crashes seem to be occurring with alarming frequency on 154, and I agree we need to take action to stop it. As much as I dislike a lower speed limit, I agree that it makes sense in this circumstance and adds little driving time . In the long term, I would suggest widening the road, adding lanes, and most importantly adding a median barrier. As it stands right now, I don't feel safe driving highway 154. I know it adds a little time to a trip, but i would highly recommend taking 101 as an alternative. It's a much safer and smoother drive.

monkeyboy Oct 28, 2019 03:49 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

Didn't think about that, but a 45 MPH speed limit would make the google algorithms no longer recommend this road as the faster route. Might be the only chance to change this recommendation.

a-1572303609 Oct 28, 2019 04:00 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

The algorithm wouldn't have changed the outcome of this accident except for the Denali driver, because the other two drivers were locals. The one who caused the accident should have known better.

Factotum Oct 28, 2019 03:39 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

Excellent and fully endorsed. Thank you. Please let us know how our local state senator and local state assembly person respond.

a-1572302514 Oct 28, 2019 03:41 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

Can we implore the Sheriff Brown to install a high tech system of traffic enforcement for this road? It's obviously dangerous to pull over cars to ticket them along this stretch. Why not use some of the new technologies used on toll roads, etc to enforce the speed limit? (Radar, & cameras, etc) This madness has GOT TO STOP! Can we get a GOFUNDME to pay for it?

a-1572302889 Oct 28, 2019 03:48 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

I generally hate the speed enforcement cameras, but in this case it is worth it and they should be installed throughout the length of the 154 highway. Installation can be implemented as soon as possible, and revenue generation will make it self-funding so there is no budgetary increase. Adjust the speed limit in future as needed.

a-1572307894 Oct 28, 2019 05:11 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

So is that why there’s no enforcement of speed limits? I think it is SB County Sheriff’s job to enforce speed limits.

SDP Oct 28, 2019 05:11 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

So is that why there’s no enforcement of speed limits? I think it is SB County Sheriff’s job to enforce speed limits.

monkeyboy Oct 28, 2019 03:47 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

You will never get Google to change their recommendations to take 154...there is literally no one there to contact. An alternative might be large signs clearly warning that 154 is a dangerous undivided road and pointing back to the freeway onramps. Put one at each 101 offramp and 1 as you are entering 154, with a final sign at Foothill telling them through traffic, 101 only.

Factotum Oct 28, 2019 04:00 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

Speed limit reduction on San Marcos Pass will make it a less desirable choice and therefore take longer than staying on Highway 101. Does Google only measure miles or times traveled over similar distances?

monkeyboy Oct 28, 2019 04:11 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

They measure times...every phone with google services reports to google to give them travel times and traffic information. Those red areas on google maps traffic are all happy little android phones calling home to google.

SantaBarbaraObserver Oct 28, 2019 05:51 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

A few stop signs or lights would do the trick. One at the top of the pass at E Camino Cielo, one at the golf course and one at the lake entrance. They'd add 20+ min to the bypass and change the GPS routing.

a-1572319947 Oct 28, 2019 08:32 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

Reducing the speed will have ZERO effect.
Accidents are caused by the careless. Speeders. Drunks.
They will continue to do that if the limit is 30mph or 60mph.
Lowering the speed will only encourage more dangerous drivers.

CoastWatch Oct 28, 2019 04:01 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

LOL! "Sheriff Brown....??? " The locals and commuters know how to drive on 154 in a sane manner. The problem lies with the fact that lots come to the SYV from LA and China who come to the wineries and Casino- Most have no clue how to drive a curvy laden mountain road with opposing traffic... You can't fix STUPID.

a-1572305077 Oct 28, 2019 04:24 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

Neighbors have been calling it "Blood Alley" for years. Big signs at both end of the valley with this name and a few wrecked vehicles ought to do the trick.

SBTownie Oct 28, 2019 05:15 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

Exactly. I keep seeing mention that out-of-towners are somehow to blame. Yet all of the heinous accidents I can recall in recent months were all local-involved.

a-1572304656 Oct 28, 2019 04:17 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

Barrier - absolutely not. You are going to get animals that get hit because they can't make it over the barrier and that will give no drivers any room for error. They will have to hit the barrier or go over the side. I do believe more CHP pulling over not only those speeding but those that refuse to pull over or make people pass on the right in the passing areas. Going too fast and going too slow are issues. There is not enough enforcement. Presence of either speed cams or CHP will make people slow down.

LCP112233 Oct 28, 2019 04:20 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

Agree that there is certainly not enough enforcement. And I am an animal lover. But human lives should come before animal lives every day.

a-1572305162 Oct 28, 2019 04:26 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

I'm pretty sure my average car can't just run over a dead deer or even a large raccoon that has been hit in the roadway without having to swerve. I don't have the clearance. There will be more dead animals hit which will remain on the roadway and cause problems for more drivers. There have been a lot of deer standing on the sides of 154 as the days get shorter and the lake gets lower.

a-1572305175 Oct 28, 2019 04:26 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

I'm pretty sure my average car can't just run over a dead deer or even a large raccoon that has been hit in the roadway without having to swerve. I don't have the clearance. There will be more dead animals hit which will remain on the roadway and cause problems for more drivers. There have been a lot of deer standing on the sides of 154 as the days get shorter and the lake gets lower.

a-1572305186 Oct 28, 2019 04:26 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

Check out the lane barriers on South Patterson overpass for an idea that may be feasible. I wouldn't want to hit it at high speed, but it will prevent passing and allows for critters to sneak across the road easily.

sharky76 Oct 28, 2019 04:42 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

I also would not be for barriers and I think you bring up some solid points as why not to have them. I really think the answer would be in trying to reduce the amount of traffic on the road. Especially from drivers without "local knowledge" who were directed to the 154 by GPS or other mapping system. Easier said than done I understand, but I think that approach would be best.

a-1572311878 Oct 28, 2019 06:17 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

What about those white plastic barriers that are like white plastic stocks with reflectors spaces 15’ apart? There are ways to deter without injuring wildlife or damaging cars.

a-1572304953 Oct 28, 2019 04:22 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

By far the easiest fix is to increase CHP or Sheriff's presence. This will deter people from bad driving/speeding without the need of re-engineering the entire road. Why they haven't increased patrols already is very concerning. The 154 has been notorious as a death trap for as long as I can remember and it remains as one of the least patrolled roads I've been on. Get to work!!

a-1572305482 Oct 28, 2019 04:31 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

This road is so dangerous that it is too dangerous for law enforcement to stop cars along it. All emergency personnel are instructed not to use lights blaring along this road, because drivers don’t know or won’t yield to emergency responders even. I think a high-tech solution is the best idea for this road. It still won’t solve the DUI drivers though, but I do all Ike the barrier idea, because it makes that narrow road even more treacherous. They should definitely ban trucks if they aren’t already.

a-1572305852 Oct 28, 2019 04:37 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

4:31 - is that true? LE doesn't stop cars because it's too dangerous? If so, please cite a source for that. That is outrageous! There are plenty of pull outs on the way up the pass from SB and there are some on the backside too. They NEED to be busting reckless drivers somehow on that road, otherwise, why even keep it open? Sounds like a massive lawsuit waiting to happen!

dulcinea Oct 28, 2019 04:32 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

Thank you for taking action on this very important topic. There are a lot of us who feel both terribly sad and enraged about the loss of life on the 154, and the most recent accident hit home for many. If we can do anything to help please let us know via Edhat. From a very concerned citizen whose heart is hurting.

sharky76 Oct 28, 2019 04:34 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

I have driven (or ridden in a car) since I was a little boy on the 154. Living in SYV and having lots of family meant a lot of trips back and forth on the pass. My Mom would always get behind a car and stay there. Her reasoning was they would take the brunt of the impact should someone make an ill-advised overtake or a drunk driver was coming the other way and came across the line. Morbid, but probably sound reasoning to protect her two children that rode with her. In the (many) years since I've seen so many near-misses and crazy drivers on that road.

I realize this is largely anecdotal, but I believe the data will back it up: the pass is significantly more dangerous in recent years. It is something I've noticed/experienced and it stands to reason. More cars, more people, more tourists, more mapping software recommending it as a "shortcut"... it all adds up to more accidents.

I think the letter above is interesting and I think a discussion is good. I did see another comment in another thread with an interesting idea: make the 154 a toll road with local residents (county residents?) eligible for a free "pass". I don't claim to have the solution and I'm not necessarily for or against any particular idea, but I do think that a toll road is one that should be added to the mix and may have some merit. Particularly with regards to getting people that have their GPS or other mapping system "recommend" the 154 as a route to have them offered the 101 instead. It may also lower traffic for commuters that could use the savings in time the 154 offers, while offsetting costs associated with such a dangerous route.

a-1572306276 Oct 28, 2019 04:44 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

As far as local (which I would be) but don't you think the 'CHUMASH HIGHWAY' is going to be giving lots of FREE PASSES to those that go to the Chumash casino if it were a toll road? Free tokens or reimbursements of the cost to gamble. Just saying.

sharky76 Oct 28, 2019 04:58 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

No doubt the casino is a factor. And my guess would be they would not be in favor of anything that would lower traffic on that road. I may be wrong. I can't speak to the efficacy of the toll road idea. It is just one I thought was interesting and worth discussing.

sharky76 Oct 28, 2019 04:58 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

No doubt the casino is a factor. And my guess would be they would not be in favor of anything that would lower traffic on that road. I may be wrong. I can't speak to the efficacy of the toll road idea. It is just one I thought was interesting and worth discussing.

sharky76 Oct 28, 2019 04:59 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

No doubt the casino is a factor. And my guess would be they would not be in favor of anything that would lower traffic on that road. I may be wrong. I can't speak to the efficacy of the toll road idea. It is just one I thought was interesting and worth discussing.

EDIT: Sorry for the multiple posts. I meant to reply to this comment.

a-1572375651 Oct 29, 2019 12:00 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

SHARKEY... long before the casino and Google maps when the Chumash rez attraction was a Bingo parlour Hwy 154 was a killer. Back then the attraction was the vineyards and pastries. It still is. The change? Instant feeds with outrageous and attention grabbing or righteousness sphinctering "news". Nothing's changed just the delivery mode for hearing about stuff.

giftedinSB Oct 28, 2019 04:35 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

Support 100%, especially installing highway dividers. Seems there is a horrific accident on the 154 every week these days, which is far too many. DO SOMETHING, LAWMAKERS!!!

macpuzl Oct 28, 2019 05:04 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

Might want to edit the sentence: "But they need to start this process immediately as moves are senselessly being lost."

erinmackey Oct 28, 2019 05:13 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

There is power in numbers. Please check out the petitions that I and my friend Lowri have created for road improvements. Sign if you agree with either of them. Thank you . https://www.change.org/p/s-monique-limon-stop-fatalities-by-increasing-road-safety-on-highway-154 and https://www.change.org/p/3rd-district-supervisor-joan-hartmann-not-one-more-on-154

a-1572316870 Oct 28, 2019 07:41 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

Everyone, it’s Kevin the original poster. I’m asking all of you to please copy and paste the change.org petitions set up by Erin. What she has done is wonderful and has already garnered over 1,500 signatures combined!!

Let’s make this an election issue and save future lives, as well as untold money for the county with each accident avoided. You don’t have to agree with any specific proposals, just signing means you are imploring the County and State to DO SOMETHING.

Kevin

http://chng.it/2ShHV28LcY

erinmackey Oct 28, 2019 09:09 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

Thank you Kevin! I have been informed that Senator Jackson, Supervisor Hartmann, Assemblymember Limón, and Supervisor Hart will now hold a HWY 154 safety taskforce to explore solutions.

Please send them your letter. You have great ideas!

senator.jackson@senate.ca.gov
jhartmann@countyofsb.org
assemblymember.limon@assembly.ca.gov
ghart@countyofsb.org

a-1572308036 Oct 28, 2019 05:13 PM
Opinion: Highway 154 Needs to Change

101 is a far safer route to & from SB unless you're hellbent on getting to the casino at 90mph so you can start losing money & getting sauced up.

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