(Editor’s note: Michel Shane, the producer of the documentary “21 Miles on Malibu,” sent CTN an email on December 25, 2023. Last night, another person was killed on PCH; I wrote this as an opinion piece. The man killed was in his 30s and died at the scene of the crash north of Decker Road around 6 p.m.)
By MICHEL SHANE
On this Christmas Day, I write not with the usual festive cheer but with a profound sense of sorrow and a burning urge for change. As we gather with family, basking in the comfort of familiar company, the shadow of a grim reality looms over us. Last night, another life was claimed on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), marking the 59th fatality recorded on the sign at Web Way.
Pause for a moment to reflect on the magnitude of this tragedy: 59 lives were abruptly extinguished, leaving behind a ripple effect of grief and loss that touches countless more. This grim statistic is more than just a number; it’s a testament to the irreversible damage caused by our collective negligence and inertia.
This past week, California’s Secretary of Transport announced a significant investment in PCH, a gesture greeted with rounds of applause and self-congratulation. But as I recall the seven long years it took to merely synchronize traffic lights, this fanfare rings hollow. In that time, an average of 35 people perished each year on what should be a safe passage.
It’s not as if PCH is a seldom-used backroad. With an influx of 15 million visitors to Malibu annually, the potential for disaster is ever-present. And yet, we accept this reality with a fatalistic shrug, assuming that the tragedy always befalls ‘someone else.’ But I can tell you from bitter experience it’s a different story when you become that ‘someone else.’
A recent article by Madeline Brozen, Deputy Director of UCLA’s Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, hit the nail on the head. She stressed the urgent need for curb extensions, lane narrowing, improved signal timing, and automated speed enforcement systems – measures glaringly absent from CalTrans’ proposed safety improvements for PCH.
CalTrans claims to prioritize safety, but these are empty words without decisive action. However, the responsibility doesn’t lie solely with them. We, the public, are complicit in this ongoing tragedy. We’ve become complacent, assuming it’s someone else’s problem to solve. But when it’s your loved one who’s been taken, you’d give anything for an extra minute, an extra hour, an extra day.
Promises of future reforms like speed cameras and legislative changes offer some hope. Yet, we need immediate, tangible solutions to prevent the death toll from rising further. A comprehensive redesign of PCH in Malibu is long overdue.
We must educate our youth, instilling in them the understanding that speeding is as lethal as drunk driving. It’s high time we shifted our mindset, making safety a shared responsibility rather than someone else’s burden.
As we step into the New Year, let our resolution be to transform PCH from a death trap into a safe, scenic route. Let’s allow the stunning beauty of Malibu to mirror the quality of our lives – safe, serene, and worth preserving.