The 7400 Block Curve:
Guard Fail?

Highway 9 in the San Lorenzo Valley is a 2-lane state highway that runs through the Santa Cruz mountains. The only barrier between northbound traffic on Highway 9 (SR-9) and two Felton resident's yards is a flimsy guard rail system.

Since 2005, locals say at least a dozen cars have wiped-out here. A CalTrans spokesman acknowledged that this stretch of guard rail has indeed been repaired and replaced many times. He couldn't guess the total number of times it has been demolished.

So What is Causing all the Carnage?

Most crashes are caused by speeding, impaired local motorists trying to make it home after a long Saturday night. A little old lady once crashed here in a Subaru. She completely missed the guard rail but knocked down a full redwood tree.

Each time, Caltrans has had to remove the mangled metal and repair the guard rail.

Yet according to Caltrans, to minimize driver injuries when struck by a vehicle, this particular guard rail (and many like it across California) is designed to collapse, crumple and break-away.

In effect, Caltrans' actions show that it doesn't mind returning to repair and re-repair this section of guard rail over and over. Hello, Caltrans - this stretch of guard rail will undoubtedly be hit again and as per design, it is guaranteed to fail again.

Besides being completely inadequate structurally, the guard rail is approximately 40 feet too short. It begins once the vehicle is well into the curve, which is after the point where many reckless cars have actually left the road.

Conclusion: Caltrans should install a longer and stronger (perhaps concrete) guard rail at the 7400 Block Curve.

Wipeout Alley Statistics:

Date of Latest Crash: 08/13/2016 Saturday 11:45 pm

Number of Parked Vehicles Involved: 2 (1 totaled, 1 smashed good)

Description:Two parked vehicles were hit, one destroyed, when an impaired man speeding north on HWY 9 lost control of his Chevy Equinox as he entered Wipeout Alley. His vehicle veered off the road, smashed through 5 guard rail posts and, in spectacular fashion, hit a tree before taking out the two parked vehicles. The collision scattered wreckage almost 100 feet in all directions. Police estimated the vehicle was travelling around 80 MPH when it left the road, and wiped out. The driver was not seriously injured, but was arrested for DUI.

Since 2005, Number of Crashes at Wipeout Alley: 9 major crashes, 7 at the exact same spot (see image below).

Since 2005, Total Number of Parked Vehicles Hit VS. Totally Wiped Out: 10 / 8.

What is Causing all the Wipeouts at the 7400 Block Curve? Well, speeding and drinking. Most of the crashes can be blamed on impaired drivers who were unable to negotiate this particular horizontal right-to-left curve on NB HWY 9.

The above image, looking south on HWY 9, shows how easy it is for a careless driver to veer off the road. Note the crumpled guard rail on the far right.

This image shows the path and destruction left by the impaired driver of a large Dodge Ram truck that smashed right through the existing guard rail.

UPDATE: Spring 2014: CalTrans tries to make good. A CalTrans crew recently came out and installed reflective "candles" and markers along the curve.

UPDATE: Summer 2016: Of the dozen "road candles" installed in 2014, only 1 remains. Guard rail knocked down again.

Caltrans has not erected a longer and stronger guard rail (or concrete barrier) at the point where vehicles leave the road. Adding 40 feet to the existing guard rail would probably resolve this dangerous situation.