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Caltrans defends accident-prone Tudor curve
A sweeping and accident-prone high-speed curve on Highway 99 is not to blame for this week's fatal truck-car collision in south Sutter County, a Caltrans official has declared after the area's third crash of a commercial truck in six weeks.
Jared Scott Ditri, 19, of Sacramento died instantly Tuesday in the Tudor area after turning his car from southbound Garden Highway into the path of an oncoming tractor-trailer on northbound Highway 99.
The accident called new attention to a T-intersection the state is eliminating through the creation of the Tudor Bypass, a major realignment of Highway 99 due for completion in 2012. On July 1-2, food delivery trucks also were involved in accidents at the Garden Highway intersection within 12 hours of each other, though neither mishap caused serious injuries.
Two days after Ditri's death, however, Caltrans spokeswoman Rochelle Jenkins attributed the wreck to driver error rather the road's design, and said no changes in road pattern or the speed limit are planned. The speed limit on Highway 99 is 55 mph, but has been dropped to 40 in the construction zones in the area.
"Unfortunately, people get impatient or look one way and forget to look the other, or just don't see traffic the other way," she said.
The section of highway is at the north end of a construction zone where Highway 99's new route is being built, with a much gentler S-curve, a doubling of lanes to four and a new intersection with Highway 113. Signal lights also will be installed on 99 at the crossings for 113 and Wilson Road to the south, close to a new junction with Garden Highway.
While a manager with a Yuba City-area trucking company called the rebuilding welcome and necessary, he added the road work — and the slowdowns and narrowed lanes it requires — are exacerbating not only long-standing safety problems but also the dangers of drivers' inattention to shifting lanes and temporary signs.
"Even though they roll through it every day, they're not paying attention to little things that change each day, as if nothing's occurring around them — and sometimes they find themselves in a mess," said Chuck Jones, who supervises drivers as assistant field manager for Valley Aggregate Transportation, owner of about 150 trucks.
"As drivers, they are looking out for every little thing," he said. "They have it in the back of their minds and it's pretty rough for them out there. Even though awful things occurred, people are still not paying enough attention; they're in too much of a hurry."
CONTACT Howard Yune at 749-4708 or email@example.com .