By Jason KUROSU
and Charly SHELTON
Between 2007 and 2009, 10 fatalities and 195 injuries involving motorcyclists occurred on the Angeles Crest Highway before it was closed due to the destruction of the Station Fire. Since being reopened on June 3, there have already been four fatalities, three by car and one motorcyclist.
In response, the California Highway Patrol posted additional patrols on the highway last weekend. The additional patrols’ weekend presence, which included eight police cars, seven police motorcyclists and a CHP helicopter, were announced earlier in the week on television as part of a safety campaign.
Motorcyclists, who routinely cruise the winding switchbacks of the highway, still showed up for the weekend, but kept the speed conservative. The number of motorcyclists present was also comparatively low to average weekends. As with the much-in-advance public announcement of Carmageddon, the CHP’s announcement of its enhanced presence more than likely contributed to a low turnout.
The additional patrols came with the funding of an OTS (Office of Traffic Safety) Funded Corridor Grant. Safety has long been a priority with the dangerous driving on the Angeles Crest Highway, according to California Highway Patrol officer Ken Denmon.
The CHP’s enhanced presence “has been going on for a year, but we really stepped it up this weekend,” said Denmon while patrolling the highway.
Denmon’s patrol on Saturday was a relatively uneventful one, which had him mostly issuing verbal warnings. Many of the officers characterized the highway as a “ghost town.”
However, Denmon assured that “we’re not trying to turn people away.”
He added, “In keeping with the terms under which we’re working today, our main focus is safety for the motoring public. We’re working today under grant funded resources to provide motorcycle safety and prevent injuries and fatalities.”
The highly visible CHP detail most likely contributed to an uneventful Saturday for the Montrose Search and Rescue Team as well.
Many of the ’Crest calls generally include vehicles over the side of the road, and with the high CHP presence, not one vehicle overturned in the local area, which ends about 40 miles up the ’Crest from La Cañada. Last year, they had approximately 80 rescue calls from lost hikers, vehicle accidents and other life threatening situations.
Even though there were no rescues, the infamous Poodle-dog bush was in full bloom. Near campsites and on roadsides entire hillsides were covered in beautiful purple flowers that cause the unwary to break out in itchy blisters.
From the CV Sheriff’s Station Deputy Jason Johnson was infected a few weeks ago. After nine days, he broke out in the first blisters. He said they were uncomfortable and itchy, but not unbearable. After about four weeks, the lesions went away without any further problems, though some deputies who were infected and scratched did end up with staph infections due to the treatment of the sores.
As a reminder, visitors to the ’Crest are encouraged to not stray from trails if in Poodle-dog bush areas. Wear protective clothing when coming into contact with any plant in question and try to avoid areas that may have the bush.