CHP crackdown reduces S-curve mishaps

A recent policing blitz on the Bay Bridge’s S-curve has helped slash the number of accidents on the deadly stretch.

Nearly 1,000 motorists were ticketed during the first several weeks of the enforcement increase, and most of them were issued for speeding on the 40 mph S-curve, California Highway Patrol spokesman Shawn Chase said. Tickets can cost drivers $100 to $300, and big-rig citations can cost thousands of dollars, he said.

The CHP launched the massive enforcement effort in response to a Nov. 9 incident when a truck driver plunged off the bridge. Tahir Fakhar, 56, was allegedly traveling at least 50 mph in a 40 mph zone while entering the S-curve, where he lost control and fell 200 feet to his death.

The accident rate on the S-curve dropped from roughly one crash per day, before Fakhar’s death, to two per week after Nov. 13, when aggressive enforcement of the curve’s reduced speed limit began, CHP figures show.

After Nov. 13, nearly 900 citations were issued to motorists and dozens more were handed out to big-rig drivers, Chase said.

Additionally, increased enforcement of traffic laws helped the CHP nab 34 drunken drivers, he said.

The S-curve — a temporary piece of roadway connecting the eastern span with Yerba Buena Island — was installed during Labor Day weekend to support efforts to replace the seismically unsound span.

Caltrans, the state transportation agency that’s replacing the eastern span, also made efforts to increase safety in the wake of the Nov. 9 accident.

The agency introduced reflective lane striping and additional speed limit signs, and painted reflective stripes on bridge barriers at the S-curve, senior bridge official Tony Anziano said.

A product called Tyre Grip was added to steel joints that connect the S-curve to the rest of the bridge to help prevent vehicles from slipping, Anziano said.

Accidents on the S-curve often occur because its sharp angles and reduced speed limit baffle motorists accustomed to a straight bridge with a 50 mph speed limit.

The sharp angles in the temporary roadway help drag traffic away from an area where the old and new bridges must both connect to a tunnel through Yerba Buena Island, Anziano said.

“The new bridge overlaps with the existing bridge,” he said.

The S-curve was designed to remain in place until construction of the new eastern span is completed, which may occur in four or five years.

jupton@sfexaminer.com

 

Hazardous roadway

60 S-curve accidents from Sept. 8 to Nov. 12
4 S-curve accidents from Nov. 13 to Sunday
873 Citations, mostly for speeding, from Nov. 13 to Sunday
$100 to $300 Cost of typical speeding ticket on Bay Bridge
34 DUI arrests on Bay Bridge from
Nov. 13 to Sunday
46 Commercial citations issued to
big-rig drivers for speed, weight and other violations
1 Person killed after plummeting off S-curve

Source: California Highway Patrol

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