MALIBU—On July 29, Malibu residents gathered at a public meeting to discuss their concerns about safety issues on the Pacific Coast Highway. The meeting was prompted by the string of accident fatalities that have recently occurred on the famous highway, including the death of Emily Rose Shane, a 13-year-old girl.
The assembly was organized in reaction to the life of a young man that the highway has most recently claimed, 23-year-old Petty Officer Oscar Avila Mendoza, who was struck and killed by a speeding motorist. The incident occurred on July 16, when the suspect in the crash, James Sorg, had reportedly been speeding in the wrong direction. Sorg had also been killed in the collision, and another occupant in Mendoza’s vehicle has been taken to a hospital.
On April 3, 13-year-old Emily had been walking on the shoulder of the PCH roadway when she was struck and killed by the alleged suspect, 27-year-old Sina Khankhanian. A website that commemorates the life of the young girl is available at emilyroseshane.com.
Members of the meeting emphasized that the highway is still unsafe despite increased law enforcement and barriers intended to sabotage further accidents on the PCH roadway. A new program formed by a grassroots effort is being formed to reduce life-threatening dangers on the PCH, which reportedly has been rated as one of the country’s most dangerous highways.
The program, called “A Safer Pacific Coast Highway,” (A.S.P.C.H.), strives to acquire active involvement by Malibu’s Public Safety Commission, Malibu City Council, PCH Task Force, CalTrans and the Sheriff’s Department, and work with other local organizations and politicians to promote educational awareness, community activism and safety solutions to make the PCH safer for residents and visitors.
Julie Eamer, of A.S.P.C.H., told Canyon News that the program was spurred on by the highway’s recent deaths, particularly of teen girls like Emily who had been killed on the highway. “One of my girlfriends had a daughter who had died on the highway,” Eamer told Canyon News. “Her name was Sabrina, and she was 16 at the time.”
Eamer stated to Canyon News that the program was also created because PCH has had more collisions than is considered usual. “We’ve had 96 collisions on PCH in the past five to seven months,” Eamer reports. “Even though it’s common for highways to have accidents, Malibu’s PCH has become notoriously dangerous in recent months, so we’ve had more than our fair share. Some of the accidents are caused by crazed drunk drivers, and many motorists use the highway to travel to the beaches in Malibu this summer, so the highway has become more impacted than ever before.”
Eamer told Canyon News that officials from law enforcement and agencies like Cal Trans have been very supportive at the community meetings. “We have officers from the Sheriff’s station who always show up at our meetings, and they are always very compassionate,” she said. “They are also sad about these fatalities because they, too, have lost friends to these accidents. They are human too, it’s why they are always supportive. Jim Reilly, of Cal Trans, also shows up, and he’s a really nice guy; he’s always compassionate, always supportive, and he always wants to help, but there’s only so much he can do because his own hands are tied with whatever rules he has to follow. We’re all human, that’s why we all want to help.”
Eamer told Canyon News that A.S.P.C.H. community meetings was primarily set up by concerned mothers. “We are just mothers with mouths who are trying to get more people to pay attention to us. We can address these problems on many levels, and little by little we can change them. I know some issues are difficult to assess; for example, some court systems don’t know how to measure the responsibility of a person who was using prespription drugs at the time of a collision. In this case, it’s difficult to measure whether the person was abusing the drugs or affected by its side effects. I also know that the City of Malibu has just met its budget and can’t spend anymore money, but there are ways to work around these things and to get creative. Everyone at the meetings always has awesome ideas. For instance, someone always knows about a community organization that can provide emergency funding to help in some area. We also receive a lot of support by police. We recently had a D.U.I. Checkpoint in the area, and five people were arrested.
“Yes, this is a universal issue,” Eamer added, “fatal accidents happen across the board and everywhere, but we hope to get the message out there that we want to make this highway safer for everyone, especially for our children.”