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Laguna Niguel Streets: Residents vs. Cars

The past month has seen two major crashes in town. One claimed the life of a 20-year-old resident and the other left a woman with head trauma and a severed leg.

Growing up in Michigan, I spent a good portion of my life fighting Mother Nature -- rain, sleet and snow. Now, as a 20-year Laguna Niguel resident, I find myself fighting something even bigger: local drivers. 

At one point, I thought nothing could be worse than shoveling 12 feet of snow from my windshield or having to wait to get out of the driveway because the snow piles were taller than buildings.

While I like living in a warm climate, enjoy being close to the beaches and blue ocean, I am scared of driving the streets in our city.

In less than a month, we have seen two gruesome car crashes: one involved a 20-year-old man who lost his life after a car struck him while he rode a skateboard. It was a weekday around 4 a.m., and it happened on one of the busiest streets we have, Golden Lantern. Authorities still haven’t found the man who was driving the Nissan Maxima that robbed Carlos Salas of his life.

The other accident happened Monday and involved a woman who was merely walking across the street -- in a crosswalk. A car struck her near Moulton Parkway and Aliso Niguel. She not only suffered head trauma, but a severed leg. Mariam Hedayati remains hospitalized in what I am told, through a confidante, is an induced coma. She has multiple fractures and broken bones; it has not been made clear if she lost her leg. 

I know many of her friends continue to mourn her death and tell me they miss her every day.

She was trying to take a dog home after it was roaming in the street. She had it corralled along the curb a few short blocks from her home before tragedy struck. 

Every day when I am out and about, I am amazed by the way people speed up and down our streets with no fear. They weave, they tailgate, they have road rage. Young and old alike, I’m not singling out anyone. 

I see drivers texting, talking on the phone, speeding .... and for what? To get someplace 10 minutes faster? Answering a call or texting can wait.

I wanted to know if we had a lot of red light runners here. This is what he said: 

"Our stats in the city for collisions from running a red light are very low," he said. "These are very infrequent situations and if we do see an increase, we assess the collisions and intersections to see if there is something we could do differently to reduce the number of collisions. For the past year, there are not any traffic lights at intersections that would warrant us to reassess them."

I would imagine the families of those listed above would beg to differ. 

As longtime reader Leonard Kinkaide asked: "How many is that since Mara Steves' death in 2011? How many more citizens of Laguna Niguel will be injured or killed until state traffic laws are enforced? If the Sheriff's Department can't solve this problem, maybe it's time to ask the CHP to do traffic in our city. How many more crashes and fatalities before changes are made?"

We need to take notice of what’s really going on here and remember: Life is too short, slow down.

What about you? What do you think? Tell us in comments.

Jeanette A. Fratto October 04, 2012 at 04:36 PM
I keep thinking of that old saying, "haste makes waste" when I read about the terrible accidents that could have been prevented. I'm a 28 year resident of Laguna Niguel and every day on the road I see careless and impatient drivers. Almost daily I view a near-accident when someone passes unsafely, or cuts in front of another car. Of course Laguna Niguel isn't the only city with nutty drivers. If people would realize a car can be a dangerous weapon and not be in a hurry, or text, or talk on their cellphone (yes I see it all the time even though it's illegal), and pay full attention to the road, maybe we'd see a big drop in accidents.
GoalJudge October 04, 2012 at 04:53 PM
The problem we have is that Moulton/Golden Lantern is another conduit through the community. When the 5 is backed up, people take this street instead. I know I do. It's deceptively open with 3 lanes each side and generally good visibility. Drivers overestimate their driving ability and speed in such conditions, not realizing that the intersections are huge opportunities for accidents. Add in impaired (allegedly, at least in the case of Ms.Steves) and distracted driving and it's a bad recipe. I regularly see speed traps on Moulton and Alicia in Laguna Hills. It wouldn't be a bad idea to have one somewhere between the 73 and Crown Valley. We have kids crossing Moulton to get to either Laguna Niguel Elementary or Bergeson Elementary and it's only a matter of time before one of those kids gets injured or killed. In fact, I think that already happened a few years ago when a driver hit a kid crossing Moulton on a foggy morning when the kid was trying to catch the bus.
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) October 04, 2012 at 05:07 PM
@Jeannette: I agree, all it takes is some awareness and yes, a car is a weapon not to be taken lightly.
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) October 04, 2012 at 05:09 PM
@Goal: Yes, a child was hit a few years back you are correct. Wondering how soon before another just like you are. My parents live in a community here and the drivers fly by at 45 MPH inside the gates where it is a 15 MPH zone.
randy October 04, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Seems owning a gun is safer in the city of LN than the motor vehicle.
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) October 04, 2012 at 05:33 PM
@Randy: I think you might be right!
randy October 04, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Maybe the ped (walking or biking) will need more safety protections (helmets, body armour, pedcam recording, etc. when they are exposed by any moving motor vehicles on the public streets. Vulnerable unless the drivers know better?
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) October 04, 2012 at 06:09 PM
@Randy: Maybe us drivers will have to start wearing helmets?
Shirley October 04, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Debbie, this is a wonderful article. I hope people that "don't know" will read & understand we're not just a sleeply little city. Among the dangerous drivers are many other things going on In LN that would curl the ears of many citizens. However this is about the driving in LN, it's past time for the City to do studies to lower the speed limit on these main thoroughfares that are secondary freeways. Yes, law enforcement has to catch the speeders, but I don't think that will be a big problem. Among the ones they catch there are that man,y if not double that many, speeding around the city as I type this.
Charles October 04, 2012 at 10:00 PM
I don't think there is much you can do other than to make defensive decisions. We've been hearing the dangers of drunk driving for 50 years. Problem still exists - not sure if is even better statistically. Texting/distracted by personal electronics is another thing I doubt we can do much about. It's a new added risk to being out and about. There are probably technological methods to reduce the risk but it probably isn't cheap (if it was, the problem would have been solved by now). Still, look at all the pedestrians out there who make unwise decisions: walking/running in the street while there is a perfectly good sidewalk available. Even worse, walking with (instead of against) traffic - into the sun (blinding the driver approaching from behind), while wearing headphones: BOOM hit from behind and never saw it coming. I drive 5 MPH down my street coming home from work because there are little kids who just might dart out from behind a parked car and I want to set an example to my neighbors.
Jeff Santoni October 04, 2012 at 10:11 PM
Kid you not ... I posted the following on my FB page on Sept 14th ... it has gotten just way too out of control! "Dear Laguna Niguel motorists (cars, truck and motorcycles). I have been a proud member of our community for 17 great years, and truly think we live in paradise. Unfortunately, I am absolutely aghast at the total lack of courtesy and safety when it comes to watching for bicyclists, joggers and walkers. When you are sitting at a red light, and the pedestrian WALK LIGHT COMES ON, that means someone is CROSSING THE FLIPPING STREET! I understand you are in a hurry to get home, or to happy hour or heck, you even are distracted by that last minute call or text HOWEVER, pay attention. That person and dog you just barely missed also wants to get home. I've been hit by cars three times in my life, twice walking and once on my motorcycle. I doubt neither Ducati (my dog) or myself have many more lucky breaks left. Please, Please, Please pay attention to pedestrians before something horrible happens that changes everyone's life forever."
Shirley October 04, 2012 at 11:07 PM
Jeff, it isn't paradise. I said that in my comment. Get involved with city affairs & you will learn quickly this city has problems, more than anyone realizes.
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) October 04, 2012 at 11:13 PM
Thanks Shirl: The question remains, at what point will the city wake up?
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) October 04, 2012 at 11:14 PM
Charles: Great insight, but there has to be an answer ... a give and take.
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) October 04, 2012 at 11:15 PM
Jeff: Was this a foreshadowing to my article! Nicely written.
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) October 04, 2012 at 11:15 PM
Shirl: It is somewhat paradise ...
Shirley October 05, 2012 at 12:56 AM
Debbie, if you walk & drive around with your binders on, yep paradise. Now as far as the weather goes today i wouldn't want to be anythere else, however I initally chose LN for the weather.
Frieda Wales October 05, 2012 at 02:12 AM
Studies have shown that wide open streets like Golden Lantern / Moulton do have statistically more/worse pedestrian accidents that narrower lanes. That's why some newer municipalities are opting for narrower streets, even if they have the room to make wider streets. It also discourages people from cutting through as a way to get to another town. In a city I lived in a few years back, there was a stretch of road where people complained that there were too many stop signs and they wanted lights put in, but the city insisted on the multiple stop signs so that drivers would be discouraged from using the road as a pass-through and only local residents would use it. They also restricted trucks from using the city roads unless they were making a local delivery. They used the fact that the heavy trucks damaged the roads and made it too costly for the city. Maybe it's time Laguna Niguel, Dana Point, and Aliso Viejo consider ways to slow people down on Moulton/ Golden Lantern.
Charles October 05, 2012 at 02:18 AM
There may be a solution, pick two: cheap, fast, effective. If the solution is fast and cheap, it won't be effective. If it is effective and fast, it won't be cheap, if it is cheap and effective, it won't be fast. People have always complained about drivers - this is nothing new. People have always complained about speeders in residential neighborhoods. One solution might take away too many rights. Another solution may cost too much. We deliberately bought a home at the end of a cul de sac (and a flat street - great for playing) for this very reason. Our kids are relatively safe from drivers.
randy October 05, 2012 at 04:26 PM
Please drive slowly to save gas money. Stop buying alcohol to save gas money at safest driving habit. Good start to clean up motor driving acts.
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) October 05, 2012 at 08:19 PM
PCMama: You are well informed, how'd you like to blog for LN Patch?
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) October 05, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Good tips and advice, thanks Randy.
randy October 05, 2012 at 08:32 PM
Add speed bumps, no?
Catherine Chandler October 05, 2012 at 10:36 PM
Rancho Niguel Rd. is like the Jersey Turnpike. Forget trying to cross the street or pull out from one of the residential complexes or side streets. I wish they would put in stop signs or traffic lights to discourage all of Orange County from considering this residential street to be an extension of the 5!!
RJ October 09, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Biggest mistake moving to Del Prado. Can't make a left out of there because of traffic on Rancho Niguel. Can't make a right if two or more cars are waiting to make a left because of parked cars. Can't make a right on red safely at Moulton because it ISN'T good visibility. A lot of Moulton/Golden Lantern is hilly AND curvy and 50 mph is just way too fast so close to residential and schools. Slow down, pay attention and get out of robot mode.

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