Before the Highway 101 bypass, 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. Officials named San Jose’s Albertson Parkway in his memory.
While Blood Alley no longer exists, other dangerous roads in and near San Jose cause serious injuries and death. Drivers should exercise caution whenever they get behind the wheel of a vehicle but everyone should take extra care when driving on San Jose’s deadliest roads.
Even if you are the most careful driver, other drivers can still cause crashes and fatalities. We hope no family has to receive the news of a loved one passing away in a tragic crash, but this happens to many families each year in San Jose. If you suffer a tragedy in your family, you should discuss your situation with a reputable San Jose wrongful death attorney (not one who you got from a TV ad or side of a bus). You might have the right to seek justice for your loved one.
San Jose roads
Eighty deaths arose from 74 fatal San Jose traffic accidents in one recent year; 17 of those crashes involved drunk drivers while 36 involved pedestrians. Even though these numbers were lower than the overall California average, they still demonstrate the risk to drivers and pedestrians on San Jose roads. Below are some of the deadliest roads in the Bay Area.
U.S. Highway 101
U.S.-101 is a storied highway that stretches along almost the entire west coast of the U.S., passing through the San Jose area. Reports indicate that of the 80 fatalities in San Jose, 17 deaths occurred on U.S.-101. This makes this roadway the deadliest stretch of road or highway in the Bay Area.
I-280 runs from San Jose north through the peninsula to San Francisco. Originally named the Junipero Serra Freeway, many people use this highway every day and it has earned the nickname of the World’s Most Beautiful Freeway due to the scenery. Unfortunately, four people died in the San Jose stretch of I-280 in a recent year including one person who was on foot. Speeding, distraction, and aggressive driving all contribute to these deadly crashes.
#1. Highway 17
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 its dangers to unwary drivers. While Highway 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-traveled 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. Solo vehicle and multi-vehicle crashes happen nearly daily on this mountain road especially when the road is wet.
#2. Laurel Curve
The Laurel Curve is responsible for nearly three-fourths of the fatal crashes on Highway 17 that occurred between 2004 and 2010. Crashes on the curve primarily affect southbound drivers (headding toward Santa Cruz). In addition to erecting median and side 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 wrongful death of a driver on the Laurel Curve. Reports suggest that the jury might have determined that Caltrans had greater responsibility for the crash 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.
#3. Valley Surprise
Not far from the Laurel Curve, the Valley Surprise is a long curve on HIghway 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.
#4. Big Moody Curve
The longest curve on Highway 17 is the Big Moody Curve, located halfway between the summit and Lexington Reservoir in Los Gatos. This treacherous stretch of the highway features a turn that is more than 180 degrees, bracketed by 90-degree turns. Taking such sharp turns at an excessive speed is the most common cause of crashes in this stretch of the highway.
#5. Pacheco Pass
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. In some places, the road through the pass is only one lane in each direction and weary drivers returning home at night risk straying across the centerline and causing a head-on collision. So many fatal accidents have occurred on Pacheco Pass that the road, also known as another “Blood Alley,” is said to be haunted.
#6. 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. Near Palo Alto, 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. On the other side of the county, with a record 365 hairpin turns, the 19 miles of Mount Hamilton Road challenge even the most careful driver.
#7. State Route 9
State Route 9 starts in Saratoga and winds through the Los Gatos mountains through Boulder Creek and Felton and ends in Santa Cruz. It is often used as an alternate route to the faster and larger Highway 17. Highway 9 is one lane in each direction with lots of blind curves. It is a favorite of motorcyclists and bicyclists. This road can be particularly treacherous in rainy weather which can litter the roadway with fallen trees, debris and mudslides. The lawyers at Bohn & Fletcher sued Caltrans for allowing a particularly dangerous decreasing radius curve which severely injured a young man which ended in a jury holding the state laible for more than $14 million.
#8. 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 collision 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 and public entities 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 survivors of those wrongfully killed by others recover compensation for their losses while sending a message to other drivers about the need to drive cautiously on Santa Clara County’s deadliest roads.
Wrongful Death Claims in California
Each state has different wrongful death laws. California law governs who can bring a claim, what you can financially recover, the time limits for filing a lawsuit, and more. These highly specific laws can confuse you, especially while grieving the sudden loss of a loved one in a tragic crash. No matter which road was the location of the crash, an experienced San Jose wrongful death attorney can review what happened and advise whether your family might have a valid claim.