State Route 17, commonly known as Highway 17, connects San Jose to Santa Cruz. It is the main road for many commuters, and beachgoers on the weekends, between Silicon Valley and the coast. When traffic is light, it oftentimes flows fast; but, the road can often also be jammed with heavy commuter or vacationer traffic. Being a road that cuts through the coastal mountain range, Highway 17 is characterized by tight turns, steep grades and other risks and has been named the Most Dangerous Highway in California. Collisions on Highway 17 often cause serious injuries, permanent disabilities and even wrongful death. If you or a loved one was involved in a car accident at Laurel Curve, Big Moody Curve, the Glenwood Cutoff, Lexington Reservoir, near the Summit or anywhere along this route, then you need a local attorney who understands this dangerous roadway. The attorneys at Golden State Lawyers, APC have extensive experience with Highway 17 – both as lawyers and as commuters. Partner Robert Bohn, Jr. lives along this corridor and commutes this route daily. Since we are local, we understand how frequently accidents happen particularly in this area. We also understand exactly how dangerous conditions can get when this road gets wet. If you or someone you know needs the help of experienced Highway 17 lawyers, then we are the firm to call.
What Makes Highway 17 So Dangerous?According to several sources, the number of serious and deadly crashes on Highway 17 has more than quadrupled in the last decade. In 2016, for example, there were 983 crashes, as compared to 420 in 2013. This increase has led locals and news outlets to name it one of California’s most dangerous highways. Some of these include:
- Heavy traffic. As more and more people move to this area or visit nearby cities, the traffic on SR 17 has increased. Such tight conditions can increase the risk of a crash, especially if a traffic jam causes a sudden decrease in speed.
- Sharp turns. Highway 17 cuts through the Santa Cruz mountains, and so it features many winding curves and turns. However, this can be dangerous, especially at high speeds.
- Blind curves. Sections of the highway have retaining walls, heavy foliage and other barriers that inhibit visibility around turns. This can cause deadly crashes, as drivers traveling at high speeds may not see an obstruction or slowed traffic around a bend until it is too late to avoid a collision.
- Slippery conditions. In the winter, the Santa Cruz mountains get a lot of precipitation, creating dangerously slippery conditions. Snow and ice are particularly deadly around the Summit and Laurel Curve.
- Narrow shoulders. Highway 17 has sections that have narrow shoulders around tight curves. This can be extremely dangerous at high speeds and in heavy traffic.
- Animals and other obstacles. The Santa Cruz mountain range is home to deer, mountain lions, wild turkeys and other animals that often run out into the road and can cause serious car accidents.
- Distracted drivers. Mobile phones, smart cars and other technological advancements have increased the number of possible distractions for drivers. In fact, distracted driving is now a leading cause of car accidents nationwide.
What Are the Most Dangerous Sections of Highway 17?Highway 17 passes through several cities and intersects with multiple highways and state routes. It also transitions from four lanes to eight, and only certain sections of it have dividers to separate traffic. An accident can happen at any point from Santa Cruz to San Jose, including areas in Los Gatos, Scotts Valley and Campbell. However, certain sections have become notorious amongst local drivers for the high number of accidents that happen there. These areas include:
- Laurel Curve. This curve, which intersects with Laurel Road, is perhaps the deadliest stretch of the highway. It was remodeled in 2012 to prevent left-hand turns, however, which has reduced the numbers of accidents and deaths.
- Glenwood Road. This intersection has been the site of numerous accidents and deaths in traffic accidents.
- Big Moody Curve. This portion of the highway is named after Big Moody Creek, which runs beneath it. The curve is more than 180 degrees and also features additional 90-degree turns on either end.
- The Summit. Officially known as Patchen Pass, the Summit is the highest point of Highway 17, and also features an interchange with State Route 35. The slope down from the Summit intersects with several feeder roads as well. Heavy congestion combined with the angle of the road can cause serious accidents.
- The Valley Surprise. North of the Summit is a sharp curve. The angle combined with the step slope cause many unprepared drivers to strike the median. This may in turn cause multi-car pile ups.
- The Cats and Lexington Interchange. The northernmost point of the dangerous section of Highway 17 where accidents frequently occur is between The Cats restaurant and the first interchange – for traffic to and from Old Santa Cruz Highway and Bear Creek Road. This is an area where traffic often begins to back up and where collisions frequently occur.