There is no greater pain than losing a loved one in a reckless and preventable tragedy. And testimony to that. Such was the case for Kathy Isaacs last week, who was crossing the coastal highway on Pearl Street with her husband, Stanley, when he was hit by a car who then fled the scene. The couple was having their birthday in Laguna because, well, Laguna. And in the blink of an eye, this is their last one.
This comes in the wake of the horrific accident in Windsor Hills that killed five people, including a pregnant woman. Either way, he was a speeding driver who didn’t stop when he should have.
We live in a culture that celebrates speed. In the same way that Hollywood is complicit in gun violence, auto manufacturers are guilty of promoting speed and recklessness because they sell out. Time and time again, it leads to preventable tragedies that destroy people’s lives.
The driver in this case was an 18-year-old girl, who gave up less than 24 hours later. And before you rush to judge what she was doing and why she ran away from the scene, remember that she’s still too young to drink for another three years, because her prefrontal cortex isn’t fully formed. However, it is allowed to operate a cruise missile.
It’s scary eight years ago when husband, father, and cyclist John Greg Colvin was murdered on the Coast Highway in north Laguna by a 19-year-old resident. Joan, John’s widow, and her two daughters still mourn for him every day. This driver fled the scene as well. How should his life be now, burdened with the guilt of killing a good man, and then running? Just as the perpetrator made two mistakes in a nanosecond that will leave her emotional scars for the rest of her life. It may limit the choices available to it. It makes me shiver typing these words and realizing how easy it is to be me—whether at the wheel or in the crosswalk. Because I know both experiences very well, especially on Pearl Street.
When I do my radio show in the KXFM studios above the wine fair, I often relax afterward with the adults spilling across the street at the gorgeous Seahorse (finally a lounge with sofas to rest my boney bum). And this corridor at Pearl is terrifying. Yes, the lights are blinking yellow because I’m making my way away from the curb. I take a step or two and lean in – but I never venture into the middle of the aisle. I do not trust a single driver. I pretend to walk but just drop to my feet to see if they see me and slow down. But I never commit until they are completely off. And even then, I wearily advance as I cross in front, afraid that a madman with rage might run into the gas.
It’s very dark there. From the south, cars come into the city hot. From the north, cars exit the city hot – after enduring a series of stops. This is where the path opens up for a wave of freedom. And if you’re driving fast and not paying attention, it’s very difficult to get people to cross the road – especially if they are wearing dark clothes. Blinking lights don’t seem to register with some people until it’s too late.
It’s doubly sad, because it can be prevented. For too long we’ve allowed Coast Highway to be a deadly trap for pedestrians and cyclists, particularly the section between Cleo and Pearl Streets, colloquially known as “Death Row.” It’s where kids of surfers cross in their trunks and bikinis while immersed in their phones, where the ocean can be spied at every intersection, where there are restaurants, shops, and all kinds of distractions.
I’ve written about this before, but there is one traffic gadget that has been shown to slow down cars at crosswalks and that’s to turn those lanes into big, wide speed bumps. Painted in bright colors with flashing lights. That’s what’s known as a traffic calming measure, and really, shouldn’t we all slow down folks across this stretch of town? By installing speed bumps and footpaths at every intersection, cars will have to slow down.
This is an inexpensive solution that can and will save lives. We need to take control of CalTrans to install it now, before we lose another life.
Life can be unimaginably harsh and volatile. I sincerely hope that as part of the healing process for both the offender and the victim, the widow will find her heart to forgive, although of course it may take a long time. Their lives will now be relentlessly constrained, and both will mourn this tragic turn of fate. I choose to believe that there is humanity in both, and peace somewhere outside awaits them.
Bailey hosts Laguna Talks Thursday nights on KXFM Radio. He is also the CEO of La Vida Laguna, an e-bike and marine sports touring company. E-mail: [email protected]
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