Traffic cops say La Jolla streets safer than others, but problems remain

By Pat Sherman

Though San Diego police say there are fewer collisions and traffic problems in La Jolla than in other San Diego communities, The Jewel has its share of hotspots where speeding and unsafe driving practices persist.

“With the amount of traffic you have going in and out of La Jolla it could be a lot worse,” said police Sgt. Eric Hays, a supervisor in charge of four officers who patrol La Jolla via motorcycle. “We’ve got a sporadic amount of accidents here and there — one could be an improper turn, one could be possibly speed related, but nothing really stands out.

“The major problem is the La Jolla Boulevard corridor going in and out of La Jolla, as far as speed goes,” he said.

During the past six months, there were four accidents in the 7400 block of La Jolla Boulevard, just south of Peal Street, including two caused by improper turns.

“The speed limit is only 25 through there, but people obviously speed through,” Hays said. “You have a lot of driveways coming out, cross-streets, and people parked on both the east and west curb-lines. So, speed’s always a factor on La Jolla Boulevard. It’s a major thoroughfare”

Hays said his officers frequently monitor the intersection of Pearl Street and La Jolla Boulevard to check for cell phone use and improper turns.

“If you’re in a straight lane and you realize you needed to turn left and now you make the left from that lane, it causes confusion for other drivers,” Hays said. “We have a lot of violations of that nature.”

Southbound on La Jolla Boulevard, from about the 7100 to 7200 block (between Fern Glen and Nautilus Street) is the area of La Jolla’s highest speed complaints, Hays said. There were 79 citations issued there during the past six months, including 68 for speeding.

Further south on La Jolla Boulevard, in the 6400 block near Winamar Avenue, police handed out 130 citations, 115 of them to people talking on their cell phones while driving.

Race to the Cross

Though it’s known for its stunning homes and vistas, motorists on La Jolla Scenic Drive South aren’t exactly slowing to take in the view, with 180 citations issued in the 6400 block (near Soledad Park and the Mt. Soledad Cross), 162 of them for speeding.

Further up, at the intersection of Cardeno Drive and La Jolla Scenic Drive South (near All Hallows School), police issued 67 violations, including 58 for violation traffic signals.

At the intersection of La Jolla Scenic Drive North and Moonridge Drive, police issued 120 citations, 108 of them for violating stop signs.

At 8657 Villa La Jolla Drive, between Gilman and Nobel drives, police reported eight vehicle accidents in the past six months, including those caused by violations of the right-of-way, speeding or following too closely.

Hays also noted several bicycle accidents in the past month, including one at Girard Avenue and Virginia Way on Jan. 17 that resulted in minor injuries.

“We’ve had a couple of them that have been pretty significant, but nothing really of any major violation of the law,” Hays said. “It’s mostly inattention or somebody not seeing the bicyclists.”

Kathleen Ferrier, policy manager with Walk San Diego, which works to make San Diego’s streets more walker-friendly, said her organization has been working with city officials and residents along Torrey Pines Road to advocate for improvements along Torrey Pines between Girard Avenue and La Jolla Shores Drive.

“There are no crossings along there and there’s not a complete sidewalk system,” Ferrier said. “There are as many as 60,000 cars going along that stretch each day, using it as a connection to Interstate 5 or other parts of La Jolla. For pedestrians and bicycles, it’s pretty dangerous.”

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Ferrier said the two main conditions that make an intersection dangerous for bicyclists and pedestrians are dual turn lanes, which she said create 32 potential conflict points in either direction, and the widening of roadways.

“The result is that it’s a wider distance for the pedestrian to cross, especially for aging populations or kids,” she said. “Pedestrians have to rely on vehicles to do the right thing.”

A national report issued last year, titled “Dangerous by Design,” ranked San Diego as fifth out of 50 regions for having the highest number of pedestrian fatalities.

Top 5 Collision Spots (Aug. 1, 2011-Jan. 31, 2012)

1) 8657 Villa La Jolla Drive = 8 accidents

2) La Jolla Boulevard, 7400 block = 4 accidents

3) La Jolla Parkway, 2400 block = 3 accidents

3) Torrey Pines Road, 3300 block = 3 accidents

4) Prospect Street, 600 block = 3 accidents

5) Girard Avenue, 7500 block = 3 accidents

Top 5 Citation Spots (Aug. 1, 2011-Jan. 31, 2012)

1) La Jolla Scenic Drive S., 6400 block = 180 citations

2) La Jolla Boulevard, 6400 block = 130 citations

3) La Jolla Scenic Drive N. and Moonridge Drive = 120 citations

4) La Jolla Boulevard, 7100 block = 79 citations

5) La Jolla Scenic Drive S. and Cardeno Drive = 67 citations

*Source: San Diego Police/