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Don't blame the Crest, officials say

Fatal crashes on the highway are result of dangerous driving, officials say.

August 17, 2011|By Daniel Siegal, daniel.siegal@latimes.com
  • An SUV passes cyclists traveling southbound on Angeles Crest Highway at around mile marker 32 in the Angeles National Forest above La Canada Flintridge on Wednesday, July 13, 2011. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)
An SUV passes cyclists traveling southbound on Angeles…

Despite another fatal crash on Angeles Crest Highway over the weekend — the fourth since the lower part of the highway reopened in June of this year — the California Highway Patrol says that it’s drivers who are dangerous, not the road.

On Saturday, Bellflower resident Edgar Martinez, 18, was driving on the highway at 45 to 50 miles per hour when he entered a curve but failed to turn, hitting a mountainside and flipping his car, according to Officer Ming Hsu of the CHP.

Martinez died in the crash, Hsu said.

Hsu said that according to a witness traveling behind Martinez, as well as one driving the opposite direction, there was no indication he was traveling at an excessive speed. Hsu said that there were no indications that drugs or alcohol were involved.

“Maybe it was inattention, playing with his radio or something; he didn’t see the curve in the roadway until it was too late,” Hsu said.

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Hsu said that an investigation was ongoing, but that unless cell phone records indicate that Martinez was on the phone at the time of the accident, its cause would be hard to determine.

“He’s the only one who could tell us, which obviously he cannot,” said Hsu.

Caltrans spokesperson Kelly Markham said that as is standard procedure for fatal accidents on Caltrans-managed roads, including those that have occurred on Angeles Crest Highway this year, the agency would assess the roadway for contributing factors. The evaluation will look at factors including speed,  weather, road design, road conditions and signage.

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FOR THE RECORD: This corrects an earlier version to clarify a statement from Caltrans. Kelly Markham's name was also misspelled.

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This was the fourth fatal accident on the Angeles Crest Highway in the three months since it reopened, but Mike Leum, reserve chief of Search and Rescue for Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept., said that the road is safer now.

“There’s a lot more safety features now than there were prior,” said Leum. “If you drive the road, you’ll see new berms that are higher and they’re angled in such a way I think it’s designed to keep cars on the road.”

Leum said that the fact that vehicles in three of the accidents managed to stay on the road showed the impact of these features.

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