Seven traffic accidents in ONE DAY??!!!
| ||People in Southern California cannot drive in the rain at all!|
When one mentions Southern California, images of Hollywood, UCLA, USC, Disneyland, and sunny beaches are but a few of many, many things that come to mind instantly. The latter is usually an extension of the Mediterranean climate zone in which Southern California resides: warm to hot summers. Winters are somewhat wet but much more pleasant than the freezing winters that, say, the East Coast or the Rockies experiences. Recently, however, Mother Nature threw Southern California a few curve balls. Three weeks ago marked the beginning of a heat wave that burned the region with high temperatures averaging over 106 degrees F for a full week. Following the heat wave was one and a half weeks of high temperatures averaging in the 90 degree F range, which is around the typical high temperature range Southern California experiences annually. Four days ago on Tuesday, the temperatures dropped to the mid 80s and by Thursday, the temperatures dropped to the 70s with a chance of rain. By late afternoon yesterday, the rain started pouring over Southern California.
The sudden downpour alludes to my introduction. What is it about the rain that makes people suddenly unable to control their vehicles? Just how slow are people to change their driving style and habits, especially in inclement weather? We are such warm weather people here in Southern California, and we drive accordingly. When the weather is warm, we take the top off on the convertible (if we have one) and cruise leisurely, perhaps along PCH. When the weather is hot, we retreat to Starbucks, Jamba Juice, Coldstone, the mall, or the beach. In order to beat the heat, however, we drive more quickly or hurriedly than usual, whether we drive with the AC on or with the windows down in order to generate wind, even if it is hot.
That being said, many of us were most likely driving in our usual manner (of about 5-10 miles above the speed limit) as recently as Friday morning, indeed, yesterday, before rain began sweeping through the area by mid-afternoon, catching many, including myself, by surprise. My drive home from work in Simi Valley at 7:30PM last night was excruciatingly slow as the rain continued to come down. Just three miles into my drive home eastbound on 118, I looked ahead about a half mile and saw an unmoving cluster of red brake lights. Fortunately, I was driving just 50 miles per hour and had time to evaluate an alternate route. I took the Yosemite Ave. exit and headed southbound, eventually making my way towards Santa Susana Pass Rd. and reconnecting with the freeway at Rocky Peak Fire Rd. As I traversed the Pass, my suspicions were confirmed: a multi-vehicle accident occurred at an uphill s-curve portion on the eastbound lanes of the freeway just after the Kuehner Dr. on-ramp. That particular portion of freeway has been the site of many accidents, even on dry, cloudless, full moon-lit nights. I can only surmise that people on the rightmost lanes are taken by surprise by the vehicles that enter the freeway on Kuehner, giving them little time to react. I have observed people engage in evasive maneuvers to avoid entering traffic from that on-ramp, narrowly avoiding cars in the middle of the freeway. I have already made it a point to move to the lane next to the center divider as soon as I enter the freeway and deviating little from my position until I am about to make the transition to 405 south for school or north for home. Even after I traversed the Pass and re-entered the freeway, the drive continued to be slow. I finally got home at 8:40PM, taking an unprecedented 70 minutes to drive 34 miles.
Even though a storm rolled through Southern California last night, complete with thunder and lightning, there was no rain during my drive to work this morning. (I was asked to work overtime and I took it.) I was very thankful for the respite and I made it to work at 6:15AM without using my windshield wipers even once. The pause in rain turned out to be a lucky break. During my second break at 10:10AM, the loud sound of heavy rainfall echoed through the warehouse. I happened to be at a computer at the time, so I looked up the animated weather map of Simi Valley on Weather.com. At that very moment, a storm cell was making its way through Simi Valley, and we were right under it. The rain calmed down for over an hour. At 11:20AM, another storm cell made its way through and made a racket once again. Fortunately, there was a reprieve when I left work at noon and headed to lunch at In-N-Out. Following a leisurely lunch, I took off at 1PM and headed home. What I saw on the way home, though, will stay with me for some time.
Driving eastbound up the hill on 118 just before the Los Angeles County line, I observed three vehicles on the shoulder of the freeway along with three California Highway Patrol vehicles and five cops. The three vehicles, all fairly recent models, apparently pulled over to the shoulder in the exact order in which the accident occurred: the leading silver SUV had read-end damage, the rear black sedan had front-end damage, and the middle silver sedan had extensive damage on both ends. Incidentally, the accident occurred at the exact same location as the accident that occurred last night. A quarter mile ahead was a fourth vehicle accompanied by a fourth CHP vehicle and a sixth cop. Though there was no damage to the person's vehicle, they may have witnessed the accident and pulled over to provide their account of what they saw.
Continuing eastbound through Porter Ranch in San Fernando Valley on 118, on a straight, flat stretch of freeway, I saw a chorus of brake lights. Just seconds before I saw the lights, a storm cell hit suddenly, bringing forth heavy rainfall. Hitting the brakes should have been the last thing one would do when driving in wet conditions. Unfortunately, it was the first thing a lot of people in front of me did. They did not hit the brakes just because of the rain, though; another accident had occurred just after the Tampa Ave. exit, where the freeway goes downward to dip below the overpass and curves left. It must have happened very recently because there were no cops on scene yet. There were three vehicles involved, all sedans from the late '80s/early '90s, and pulled over to the shoulder. This time, the front two cars had read-end damage while the rear car had a smashed front end. The last vehicle probably rear-ended both cars. The front driver pulled over next to the Tampa on-ramp just after the overpass. The middle driver pulled over under the overpass, perhaps to take shelter from the storm. The rear driver parked right behind him.
I decided to pass the 405/118 interchange in favor of an alternate route to I-5 north via the Laurel Canyon Blvd. exit since the 5/405 merge causes traffic to slow down on 405 although, for some reason, traffic remains consistent on 5 north despite the merge. I drove under the 405/118 interchange and, just past the interchange, observed a third accident on the westbound lanes of 118: a black SUV with rear-end damage to the rear passenger door and trunk; and a large, red pickup truck with a smashed front grill. No cops were on scene, but a flatbed truck from Metro Freeway Service Patrol (FSP) had pulled over in front of both vehicles on the shoulder, yellow lights full on.
I took the on-ramp to 5 north at Lauren Canyon Blvd. in San Fernando, expecting the traffic to be lighter. Unfortunately, traffic slowed to a crawl just before the San Fernando Mission Blvd. exit. It turned out that rainwater was draining across all lanes of traffic and people wanted to tread lightly through the flowing water. I don't blame them at all. I wouldn't want to hydroplane and crash into one of the many temporary cement barriers that have been placed by Caltrans due to a freeway-widening project. I drove through the water and continued on my way, only to realize the irony of my carefulness: a single semi truck had, indeed, crashed into the cement barriers in the center divider on the southbound side of I-5 just after the merge of the truck route, before the 5/405 merge. The truck driver was very lucky, as were the people behind him; the semi-trailer went straight into the cement barriers with the truck instead of going sideways and, thus, causing a real traffic nightmare with a multi-lane blockage. Ostensibly, speeds picked up just after the accident and stayed consistent through the 5/405 merge.
I continued on 5 north, hoping that the drive would be clear all the way to Santa Clarita. Unfortunately, in Sylmar, just two miles after the previous accident, on 5 south just before the 5/210 interchange, was yet another accident: a dark blue sedan rear-ended a pickup truck. The bumper of the truck was bent more than 45 degrees downward, while the sedan's grill was damaged. Both drivers were waiting in their cars, apparently waiting for either Metro or CHP to arrive.
I always hope that I never witness anybody get involved in a car accident, nor witness its aftermath. I would have liked to think that the semi truck accident I had seen was the only such accident I would see for a long time. Unfortunately, I didn't have such luck today. While driving through Santa Clarita, traffic suddenly came to a crawl just before the McBean Parkway exit. I was in the leftmost (#1) lane and had no chance of making the McBean Pkwy. exit. As traffic crawled at 5 miles per hour, I plotted my move to the rightmost lane so that I could exit at Valencia Blvd. and take either The Old Road all the way home or Tourney Rd. to Magic Mountain Pkwy. and hop back onto the freeway there. I chose the latter, worried that The Old Road would be crowded with displaced drivers who had taken McBean. As I drove along the exit lane for Valencia Blvd. I peered underneath the overpass and saw the cause of the traffic holdup: a semi-truck jackknifed just after the overpass and took up three lanes of traffic! I made my way to Tourney Rd., which turned out to be a very uneventful route and I made it to the freeway entrance of I-5 north on Magic Mountain Pkwy. It was going to be a smooth drive just three miles from home...or so I thought.
As I entered the freeway, I remember thinking, Okay, seeing six car accidents in a single day is more than enough. Having seen one accident was one too many for me already. Unfortunately, just one mile past Magic Mountain Pkwy., on the southbound lanes of I-5, I saw the seventh accident: two cars collided and ended up at opposite sides of the freeway. A green sedan was situated alongside the shoulder of the freeway, the trunk completely crushed in. On the center median was a newer model dark red SUV with its front end completely crushed in, along with damage all along the driver's side. The SUV was askew, settled diagonally across the center median and #1 lane. A firetruck, paramedics, and two CHP cruisers were parked with the sedan: nobody was immediately attending to the driver of the SUV. As I was drove past the Truck Stop before the 5/126 interchange, I was a CHP officer and ambulance driving along the shoulder with their lights on. I really hope they were headed for the driver in the SUV.
I have never been so relieved to get home safely. How I got home in 50 minutes amid seven accidents is very unusual, but I am truly grateful I was involved in none of them.
| ||Posted 9/22/2007 11:20 PM - 540 Views - 2 eProps - 1 Comment|
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