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Editorial: A pound of prevention

broken windshield

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On Friday the 13th, a little after 6 p.m., in the midst of the homeward-bound, market-bound, party-bound crush of traffic that routinely courses up and down Fifth Street West, especially at the end of a workweek, three vehicles entered the zone of confusion that occupies a virtual rectangle at the edge of the Safeway parking lot.

An 18-year-old Vallejo woman, southbound on Fifth, was waiting to make a left turn into the Supermarket entrance. The driver of a northbound car, stalled in traffic, graciously motioned for the southbound car to turn in front. The 18-year-old’s gray sedan pulled across the temporarily blocked line of traffic to reach the relative safety of the Safeway lot, when a northbound motorcyclist, unaware of the generous gesture executed ahead, pulled around the waiting northbound car and slammed into the side of the turning sedan.

The motorcyclist suffered moderate injuries, and was reported at fault, but the strange voodoo that seems to alter accurate perception, jam good judgment and otherwise interfere with the safe interaction of vehicular and pedestrian traffic at that particular confluence of people and cars was apparently at work again.

In the past six years, two people have died and at least three more have been injured in what appears to be an otherworldly accident zone. Following the last fatality, members of the City Council voiced strong opinions about studying the problem and finding solutions. The impetus for that effort seems to have been lost, however, as time passes swiftly by. We suspect it will return the next time someone is seriously injured – or killed – as we believe will inevitably happen.

It seems at times at least moderately miraculous that more accidents have not happened there. Also miraculous is the absence of more motorized mayhem at the equally complex intersection where Sonoma Highway Crosses Verano Avenue at the edge of Maxwell Farms Regional Park. Hazardous transit occurs there in several directions. Eastbound vehicles on Verano trying to cross Sonoma Highway to make a left-turn toward the Springs, sometimes encounter westbound cars coming straight at them because they can’t see where the oncoming traffic lanes are.

Worse, vehicles exiting Maxwell Farms to travel westbound on Verano into late afternoon sun, are practically blinded as they try to discern traffic headed their way out of the glare. Most of the cars exiting Maxwell are stuffed with children from the Boys & Girls Club, and witnessing their exit from the park can make you hold your breath.

We’d love the county to take a look at that complex of in-and-out traffic and try to make better sense of it.

One other point of potential vehicular conflict of which we’ve become aware could be corrected with nothing more complicated than some hedge clippers or a small chain saw.

Drivers exiting the parking lot at the Field of Dreams, right beside the police station, must pull uncomfortably out onto First Street West to see past an annoying shrub along the shoulder to the north that blocks the view of any cars that might be plummeting down Norrbom Road. Remove the offending bush and the sightline is improved 100 percent, as is safe exit on to First Street. The fix would take about five minutes. A similar trim of bushes north of the Overlook Trail parking lot would add even more safety.

A pound of prevention, as one might say, is worth a ton of cure. And maybe someone’s life.

  • Steve Klausner

    All so very true, but what can you do about it?

    • Rev. Mike Wicks

      I think that the first thing we all should do, and I know it sounds easier than it is, is realize that when we head to Safeway at peak traffic times, everyone needs to have a little patience and stay aware of what’s happening around you. If everyone were a little more patient, and willing to offer the right of way to someone that is just trying to get in the parking lot, I’m sure it may get contagious and all of us can follow suit. I mean, did you really have to go down there at these peak times? I find myself asking myself this same question, so I am going to make a conscious effort to avoid the peak time rush. Let’s all give it a try while the answer is getting figured out. Thanks for your time.

  • Chris Scott

    This has to have been suggested many, many time before, it’s pretty obvious. Stop left turns into or out of the Safeway – 5th St West driveway by traffic ordinance and installing a median barrier (i.e., curbing.)

    Left turns there across traffic are both dangerous and tie up traffic in both directions as cars line up waiting for the driver turning left.

    Lots of people will holler how inconvenient it will be for them. They will get over it, or not.

    If there had been no left turn there the accident would not have happened.

  • Peter Craig

    The answer is right turn off Napa street for east bound Napa street drivers and south bound
    5th street drivers (use left turn signal at 5th st. south bound to Napa st. east bound)