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In the Pipeline: Distracted driving leaves map of broken lives

January 09, 2014|By Chris Epting
(Chris Epting )

The other day I was driving down Talbert Avenue. When I reached Newland Street, I saw the shrine.

Poinsettias had been placed where a huge portion of the fence had been ripped out. That's where, on Dec. 14, a car driven by a 77-year-old man collided with one driven by a 51-year-old woman. He died at the scene.

A few minutes later, I crossed Beach Boulevard and Ellis Avenue. Adjacent to the Denny's parking lot was another shrine, this one made up of flowers and candles. It marked the spot where, on Dec. 16, two teenagers died after hitting a palm tree. Their vehicle had split into at least two pieces.

Later that day I passed Goldenwest Street and Yorktown Avenue. A couple of candles were placed in front of the now-destroyed Sea Cliff Shopping Center sign, marking the spot where, early Jan. 1, a motorcyclist died. Police said he lost control of his bike.

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I have not yet driven past Garfield Avenue and Persimmon Street, but my hunch is that there is probably a shrine there too. That's where, on Dec. 18, a sedan struck and killed an 82-year-old man. No charges have been filed against the driver, police told the Independent in December.

These weren't the only traffic accidents in Huntington Beach during the holidays.

On Dec. 23, near Ellis and Demion Lane, a Nissan Cube hit a parked truck, according to police. The driver, who was airlifted to UC Irvine Medical Center with major injuries, was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.

On Dec. 28, at Brookhurst Street and Atlanta Avenue, a truck ran a red light, colliding with an SUV, according to witness accounts relayed by police. The truck rolled once before landing on its side. Both drivers suffered minor cuts and bruises. At the time, police said they were investigating.

And on New Year's Day, when I rode my bike past Warner Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway, I saw that one of the traffic light posts had been decimated the night before. The driver had been arrested on suspicion of DUI, said police Sgt. Dave Dereszynski.

As you can see, not all of these incidents involved suspected DUIs. I'm concerned about drivers in general — speeding, distracted and reckless.

Yes, this is unscientific, but every day I cannot help but notice the ever-increasing number of drivers texting, checking emails and yakking on their phones. You would've thought a law had been passed mandating that drivers use their cell phones at all times.

We are beginning to see what happens when these things go unchecked.

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