Before the Highway 101 bypass was completed, a segment of the Monterey Highway between Morgan Hill and San Jose was the site of so many traffic fatalities that it became known as “Blood Alley.” Ironically, Gary Albertson, the activist who lobbied for improvements to reduce deaths in Blood Alley, died in a collision on that road. San Jose’s Albertson Parkway was named in his memory.
While Blood Alley no longer exists, other dangerous roads in and near San Jose contribute to personal injuries and wrongful deaths. Drivers should exercise caution whenever they get behind the wheel of a vehicle, but extra care should be taken when driving on San Jose’s deadliest roads.
California State Route 17 connects San Jose and Santa Cruz. While it is only about 26 miles long, Highway 17 earned the nickname “Killer 17” for the dangers it poses to unwary drivers. While S.R. 17 is a four-lane divided highway at its northern and southern ends, the road loses lanes as it carves a winding path through the Santa Cruz Mountains. Among the hazards on the heavily travelled road are narrow shoulders, blind curves, and the unexpected appearance of mountain lions and deer bounding across the road. Three sections of the road known as “Killer 17” are particularly dangerous: the Laurel Curve, the Valley Surprise, and the Big Moody Curve.
The Laurel Curve is responsible for nearly three-fourths of the fatal accidents on S.R. 17 that occurred between 2004 and 2010. Accidents on the curve primarily affect southbound drivers. In addition to erecting median barriers to prevent drivers from entering northbound lanes, Caltrans added a high-friction surface that is meant to slow drivers down as they encounter a noisy, rough ride.
A jury recently found Caltrans partially at fault for the 2012 wrongful death of a driver on the Laurel Curve. News reports suggest that the jury might have determined that Caltrans had greater responsibility for the accident if the judge had not decided to prevent the victim’s family from introducing accident data from the Laurel Curve area as evidence in the trial.
Not far from the Laurel Curve, the Valley Surprise is a long curve on S.R. 17 north of the Summit Road overpass that too often surprises northbound drivers with its steep downhill slope. Speeding drivers who are unfamiliar with the road frequently collide with the median, particularly when the pavement is wet.
Big Moody Curve
The longest curve on Highway 17 is the Big Moody Curve, located halfway between the summit and the Alma Fire Station near Los Gatos. This treacherous stretch of the highway features a turn that is more than 180 degrees, bracketed by 90 degree turns. Taking the sharp turns at an excessive speed is the most common cause of accidents in this stretch of the highway.
Located in the Diablo Range in southeastern Santa Clara County, Pacheco Pass is part of State Route 152. It is the main route between the Santa Clara Valley and the Central Valley. According to dangerousroads.org, so many fatal accidents have occurred on Pacheco Pass that the road is said to be haunted. The road through the pass is only one lane in each direction. Weary drivers returning home at night risk straying across the centerline and causing a head-on collision.
Mount Hamilton Road and Alpine Road
Two of the five most dangerous roads in the Bay Area, as identified by the San Francisco Chronicle, are in Santa Clara County. Alpine Road, lacking a center divider and filled with blind turns, is a risky drive even for people who are familiar with its twisty course. With a record 365 hairpin turns, the 19 miles of Mount Hamilton Road challenge even the most careful driver.
San Jose roads
According to City-Data.com, there were 52 deaths arising out of 49 fatal San Jose traffic accidents in 2013, up from 42 deaths in 39 fatal accidents in 2012. In 2013, the highest number of fatal accidents (5 each) occurred on Blossom Hill Road and on U.S. 101.
Wrongful deaths on deadly roads
While the poor design or condition of roads may increase the risk to drivers who use them, fatal traffic accidents are nearly always the result of careless driving. Drivers who speed on wet roads, who try to pass when they should be patient, who cross centerlines without regard to oncoming traffic, who drink before they drive, who drive while using their cell phone and who fall asleep at the wheel all contribute to traffic fatalities.
Every fatal traffic accident is a tragedy. If you drive on any of the dangerous roads near San Jose, please be careful. Nearly every collision can be avoided by using common sense, obeying traffic laws, and respecting the rights of other drivers.
We would prefer that fatal traffic accidents never occur. When they do, we try to help surviving family members by bringing wrongful death claims that hold negligent drivers accountable for their carelessness. We know that no amount of compensation will bring a loved one back to life, but we also know that no person who dies in a traffic accident would want his or her family to experience financial suffering due to lost family income. We help the surviving victims of a wrongful death obtain compensation for their losses while sending a message to other drivers about the need to drive cautiously on Santa Clara County’s deadliest roads.