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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on April 10th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 6 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 20, Issue 6

Grand jury had raised concerns about site of fatal crash

By CHRIS MCGUINNES

The intersection where an 83-year-old Santa Maria woman died in a crash on April 4 was the subject of a grand jury investigation five years ago.

In its 2014 report, members of the Santa Barbara County grand jury raised a number of safety concerns about the intersection of Union Valley Parkway and California Boulevard in Santa Maria, claiming that dangerous conditions on the road may be putting drivers at an increased risk for accidents.

The April 2 accident occurred at approximately 5 p.m. at that very intersection. According to the Santa Maria Police Department, the collision occurred between Judith Zimmer of Santa Maria, who was driving a 2000 Acura sedan, and an Apex auto-glass truck with two unnamed occupants inside. Zimmer was killed as a result of the crash while the two occupants in the truck were unharmed, police said.

As of April 9, police were still investigating the circumstances of the crash but believe that drugs and alcohol were not factors in the fatal collision.
According to the grand jury report, a setback for the crosswalk and stop sign on California Boulevard creates visibility problems and requires northbound drivers to “creep” into the intersection with Union Valley Parkway in order to property observe cross traffic.

“This subjects northbound drivers, particularly those turning left, to the increased risk of an accident,” the report states. “In addition, east and westbound drivers on the Parkway cannot see, nor are they warned of, the approaching intersection, also creating a dangerous condition.”

Currently, the intersection is only regulated by stop signs for north- and southbound vehicles traveling on California Boulevard. The 2014 grand jury report noted that plans for the intersection originally called for a four-way stop, but it was eliminated during the planning process. The grand jury recommended that the city of Santa Maria install a four-way stop and put up signs warning drivers of the upcoming intersection.

“Without the installation of the appropriate signage, the city of Santa Maria may be missing an opportunity to reduce its substantial risk of liability in the event of an accident at that intersection,” the report stated.

In its response to the report, the city disagreed with some of the grand jury’s findings and declined to implement its recommendation of a four-way stop, arguing that a 12-month study of accidents at the intersection and traffic volume analysis revealed that such a measure was unwarranted.

“Using this data, staff completed the stop sign and signal warrant analysis, and the intersection did not meet the necessary criteria to install a traffic control device,” the city’s response said.




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