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Tragedy Waiting to Happen?

With 50 accidents in 16 years, the intersection of Lakeville Highway and Pine View is a big concern for local police. But despite the collisions, Caltrans doesn't want to install a traffic signal. What gives?

Police describe it as a dangerous stretch of road with a tragic history.

Fifty accidents have occurred here, injuring 35 people and killing two over the past decade and a half.

Despite the accidents, Caltrans says the intersection of Lakeville Highway and Pine View Way near Kaiser hospital does not warrant having a traffic light installed, partly because there aren’t many cars traveling on Pine View.

But Petaluma police say the area is ground zero for accidents with drivers speeding on Lakeville and aggressively changing lanes while others slow down to turn at the intersection.

“From a traffic safety perspective, a traffic signal would absolutely help because there are far fewer people running red lights than speeding,” says Sgt. Ken Savano, head of the traffic division for the Petaluma Police Department. “But I also understand that Caltrans can’t just be putting in a traffic signal every time there is a request for one.”

Caltrans did not respond to a request for a comment in time for publication, but Savano says the city has a good relationship with the agency and that they understand the problem, yet are constrained by budget cuts.

Without state help, Petaluma police are left to deal with the intersection as best they can, by ticketing speeding motorists and those that make unsafe lane changes. 

The department has also applied for a grant to turn one of the eastbound lanes on Lakeville into a turn-only lane to keep cars that are slowing down separated from other traffic.

But it could be months before funding is allocated and the restriping done.

“We can cover our eyes and pretend that it’s not happening, but it’s not going to make the problem go away,” Savano said, adding that the high rate of accidents is why enforcement in the area has been increased. "“We’re not going to just sit by and wait for the next fatal accident."

(About 15 percent of all citations within city limits within the past year were given out on Lakeville Highway.)

But, he said, the public can do its part by slowing down and driving the speed limit, which is 45 miles per hour west of Pine View and 55 miles west of the intersection. “It’s that simple.”

Most of the accidents in the intersection are caused when drivers turn left from Pine View onto Lakeville or slow down on the highway to turn onto the smaller street.

The first fatal collision (since police have been keeping data) occurred in 2001, when a 24-year-old Vallejo man was killed when his vehicle was struck by another car and rolled over.

The second fatal collision occurred in 2003, when Michael G. Bosmans, a 51-year-old from Canada was struck while riding his motorcycle through the intersection. Today, a wooden cross by a redwood tree marks the spot Bosmans died.

Another cause behind the accidents is less obvious.

In 2003, Kaiser expanded its Petaluma location, increasing the number of visits to the hospital. Over the next decade, numerous accidents involved elderly drivers traveling to and from the hospital for eye exams, Savano said.

“We have very concrete data that supports this,” he said.

The police have met with Kaiser officials and installed directional signs encouraging drivers to utilize alternate routes. (Asked about the prevalence of accidents involving patients, a Kaiser spokesman said that 3 accidents a year did not constitute a problem.)

Savano says it's only a matter of time before another major accident occurs in the area.

“The reason there haven’t been more accidents is because we’ve done a tremendous amount of enforcement there,” he said, “But it’s causing us to divert our attention from other areas of town. And at the end of the day, we can’t always be there."

Are you concerned about this intersection? What could make it safer?

Bookworm August 10, 2012 at 02:34 PM
Soooo, how many deaths does CalTrans require to merit a signal? How about no right turn for those leaving the Kaiser parking lot? Make it a requirement to go to McDowell, where there is a light at Lakeville,, and they can turn left or right more safely?
Adorabelle August 10, 2012 at 04:30 PM
I was going to say the same thing about no right turns but make it no left turns onto Lakeville that way the driver isn't driving to get over the 2 lanes of traffic that goes speeding by! A right onto Lakeville should be fine but would definitely be better if they make that one lane a turn only onto Pine View. I do take Lakeville to turn onto Pine View when I go to Kaiser but when I leave Kaiser I never turn right onto Lakeville as it's too dangerous. I always to down Pine View to Cypress then McDowell to the lights and onto my destination. Now Kaiser saying 3 accidents in 1 year doesn't constitute a problem is total BS! One accident in my humble opinion constitutes a problem!!
Diana Holmes August 10, 2012 at 05:32 PM
I am one of the people who wrecked my car at that intersection because a person leaving his appointment at Kaiser for whatever reason pulled out and left me nowhere to go but into him - i was incredibly lucky because my car broke loose and I slid into him and the area where my back seat WAS took the hit and I was not hurt - he had a large truck but the impact did damage to his frame - I travel that road a lot, and have seen the accidents and numerous near misses - it is just a matter of time before we have another fatality. That intersection is also out of the city's jurisdiction, and after the accident I had to wait for the highway patrol to come and take my statement, I waited for over an hour and they never came!
Sandi Melia August 10, 2012 at 06:22 PM
CalTrans, come on now, get with it! Isn't this part of your job? You gotta be out of it. Seriously, if it was your family members or friends getting hurt or killed there, would that wake you up? Just get it done, like yesterday!
Carolyn Andrews August 10, 2012 at 06:46 PM
I used to work across the street from Kaiser and now work a block over. Kaiser brings in a lot of elderly and ill drivers who didn't see those redirectional signs or who are worried about getting lost back in there. There is also a lot of truck traffic on Lakeville and going to and from the many businesses inside this area. A light at Pine View would also help those trying to turn in or out of S. McDowell Extension so they should count those drivers too.
Karina Ioffee August 10, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Hi Diana. Actually, that intersection is considered part of Petaluma Police's jurisdiction, as of 2005. So that's why it's PPD that keep the accident data.
Kevin King August 10, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Just make it a ticketed-violation for turning left from Pine View way onto Lakeville Road. Maybe even close down the left turn lane from Lakeville to Pine View. No light needed.
Marshall West August 10, 2012 at 08:32 PM
As residential and industrial development begins to encroach down Lakeville towards the 37 (inevitable, no?), it would make sense to now add a stoplight at Pine Vine for the safety of both directions of traffic. I observe many cars speeding well beyond the speed limit in that stretch going by Kaiser (60 to 75mph), making it dicey to make that left turn onto Lakeville. Let's see some traffic enforcement!
The Fool August 11, 2012 at 04:20 AM
Until we are willing to fund what we want, another, less costly solution would be to slow Lakeville as it approaches Petaluma. Slow it to 40 or 45 before the city limits. That, plus the no-turn ideas would probably reduce the number of accidents. Of course, any change in speed limit also requires a study, but its implementation is as easy as a sign.
Darris August 11, 2012 at 11:05 PM
I like these solutions Ned. Anytime we can reduce speed we reduce the incidence of accidents, especially catastrophic accidents. If there are more elder drivers using this road, reduced speed allows these drives a bit more wiggle room for physical and mental thought and response. Raising all of the alternative solutions mentioned in a city meeting would be a good idea.
Troy August 12, 2012 at 03:04 PM
I use Lakeville Hwy, many times; at least once a week. And I have seen accidents out at Pine View on Lakeville Hwy. The speed limit there is 45 MPH, though many are trying to do at least 55 MPH, trying get through the 2 lanes going east on Lakeville Hwy, before the lanes become 1 lane. And that is not the only place along Lakeville Hwy that accidents happen, mostly do to those that want to do over the speed limit. I remember when CHP would be out there all the time and stopping people for speeding. Even a large truck tail gated me when I was doing the speed, and motorcycles just fly by.
Kathleen Jones August 12, 2012 at 03:12 PM
Add to that the near-future increased traffic when the 101 Petaluma bridge work starts! Many daily 101 commuters will be choosing the 116 - 37 alternative route.

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