SANTA CRUZ (KPIX 5) — While Highway 17 has long been known for rush-hour gridlock, a new study shows the freeway has become a lot more treacherous for commuters in recent years.
According to new figures, the number of collisions on Highway 17 has more than doubled in the past four years.
In 2016, there were 983. That’s a steady increase since 2013, when there were 420.
The same goes for fatalities.
From 2000 to 2014, roughly 130 to 160 people injuries and fatalities per year on the highway. But last year, that number jumped up to 262.
The CHP says part of the problem is they’ve lost numerous of officers to retirement. Additionally, when new hires come on board, veterans are taken off patrol to train them for up to four months.
That means fewer speeding tickets are given out.
In 2013, an average of 27 tickets per day were issued. In 2016, that number dropped to 18 per day.
“We’re definitely working to try and remedy that situation,” said a CHP spokesperson. “We have officers on Highway 17 now dedicated every day.”
The CHP Santa Cruz office says they’ve hired 15 new officers in the past year, with more on the way.
They say it’s not just about writing more tickets. Having more officers on the road is a visual deterrent.
“Without a doubt, when the public sees the highway patrol out here, they slow down,” said CHP Sgt. Grant Boles.
And finally, there are just more cars on the road.
Data from Caltrans shows the number is climbing every year. In 2015 it was up to 59,000 per day.
But that was two years ago. The latest numbers are likely much higher.
Keith Cranmer has been commuting over the hill for the past 30 years. He’s not sure more officers writing more tickets will stop speeding.
“I am somewhat callous to the speed limit. More of them will give me greater problems,” said Cranmer.