Traffic collisions in San Luis Obispo hit their lowest point in more than 15 years in 2014, while the number of DUI arrests rose to their highest level since 2002.
Crashes involving bicyclists or pedestrians also dropped, according to the city’s most recent traffic safety report analyzing collision data from 2014, which was presented to the San Luis Obispo City Council on Jan. 5.
Still, there were 201 injury collisions in 2014 — down from a peak of 315 in 2004 — which led San Luis Obispo Councilman Dan Rivoire to note, “I think we’ve got some work to do, but the foundation is unbelievable.”
Bicycle collisions had dropped since 2009, decreasing 20 percent from 2013 to 2014, even as ridership increases, city officials said. Jake Hudson, the city’s transportation manager, said the decline was partly because of the city spending more on projects to improve rider safety.
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Although pedestrian-involved crashes jumped to 39 in 2013, which the city attributed to more people walking to their destinations, that number fell again in 2014 to “normal” levels — 24 collisions that year.
There were also 445 DUI arrests in 2014, up from 377 the previous year. City officials attributed the increase to a grant-funded DUI enforcement patrol officer.
One traffic-related fatality occurred in 2014. A 22-year-old San Luis Obispo man was struck by a vehicle shortly before 5 a.m. on Feb. 8, 2014, while standing in the roadway on South Higuera Street near the city limits, south of Los Osos Valley Road.
The location with the highest number of collisions in 2014 — 10 crashes — was Calle Joaquin and Los Osos Valley Road, with a pattern of rear-end and broadside collisions. City staff plans to monitor the area after construction is completed on the massive widening project at the Highway 101 interchange.
201Number of injury collisions in San Luis Obispo in 2014, the lowest number of collisions in 15 years
There were a total of 13 crashes along the stretch of Los Osos Valley Road between Froom Ranch Way and the northbound Highway 101 on- and off-ramps. The safety report noted ongoing construction of the overpass as a contributing factor.
City staff uses the annual report to identify projects to improve safety for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians. Eight projects were completed or underway in 2014 and 2015, including new green bike lanes at Santa Rosa and Walnut streets, Broad Street and Orcutt Road, and California Avenue at the intersection with northbound Highway 101.
Eight locations with higher collision rates were identified for new projects in the report, such as protected turns or flashing yellow lights at Grand Avenue and Monterey Street, which had four collisions in 2014, and the intersection of Marsh and Santa Rosa streets, which had five crashes.
Projects also are proposed for two additional locations with high crash rates, but no money is currently available to fund them: the intersection of California Boulevard and Taft Street, which gets especially busy, when Cal Poly students are heading to class; and Broad Street from South Street to Orcutt Road, where there’s been a pattern of rear-end collisions and crashes with vehicles entering and exiting driveways.
A roundabout, estimated at $800,000, is proposed at California Boulevard and Taft Street. There were two crashes there in 2014 and six in five years, with a pattern of collisions between cyclists and motorists turning left onto Taft Street.
“I think it’s a really dangerous area and I’m glad you identified it,” said Mayor Jan Marx, suggesting that funding for the project be discussed during midcycle budget hearings scheduled for Feb. 16.
City Manager Katie Lichtig suggested that the council wait to allocate any money toward that project until city officials know whether they will need any reserve funds to repair El Niño-related damage later this year.