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Road fatalities on Napa County's Silverado Trail

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  • 8/30 Napa Valley Register
    Published Tuesday, August 30, 2005, in the Napa Valley Register Recent fatalities on Silverado Trail highlight dangers of local roadways By Carlos Villatoro
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 31 4:08 PM
      Published Tuesday, August 30, 2005, in the Napa Valley Register

      Recent fatalities on Silverado Trail highlight dangers of local

      By Carlos Villatoro

      It's been a deadly summer along Silverado Trail. Five people have
      perished in traffic accidents on the Trail in the past two months, and
      three of those fatalities happened within two days of each other.

      Even with those gruesome numbers, so far 2005 has seen fewer
      fatalities on Napa County roads than had occurred by the end of August
      in 2004.

      The Trail was the site of three fatal accidents last year, and it is
      regularly among the most dangerous roadways in the county. Stretches
      along highways 121, 29 and 128 round out the grisly list of
      treacherous roads, places where 28 fatal traffic accidents have
      occurred in the last three years.

      Most law enforcement officials agree that speed is the primary factor.

      "People are in too big of a rush to get where they are going," Napa
      Police Cmdr. Steve Potter said. "We live in a society that's
      fast-paced, and we don't like to take the time to plan out (trips)."

      Using cell phones, tending to children, eating or drinking, searching
      or reaching for items inside the vehicle and similar distractions can
      cause accidents. Driving while tired or drunk are also major
      contributors to accidents.

      "Sometimes bad things are going to happen to people," Potter said.
      "All we could do is give recommendations to reduce bad things

      Potter said that planning out trips, reducing speed, being courteous
      to drivers, focusing on the road and obeying traffic laws at all times
      will greatly reduce the risk of being involved in an accident.

      CHP Officer Jerry Rico said he recommends that motorists keep a high
      visual horizon and remain alert.

      "You might just see that situation develop ahead of time, it might
      give you (time to react)," Potter said. "That's all it takes for most
      people, is that split second to avoid or drastically reduce the amount
      of damage or injury."

      The place where the most recent spate of accidents occurred is where
      the Trail meets Oak Knoll Road, a straightaway stretch that features a
      broken yellow line allowing faster drivers to cross into the oncoming
      lanes to pass when conditions allow.

      On Aug. 17, Erika Hills, 61, was killed there when an 18-foot trailer
      broke loose from truck and hit her Mercedes. Just two days later,
      Randel Lachmiller, 35, of Napa, and Mark Weatherby, 44, of Healdsburg,
      were killed when they collided head-on. Weatherby's car had drifted
      into oncoming traffic.

      On July 5 two nurses, Sarah Kim and Hilary Gregory, both 26, died from
      injuries they suffered from an early morning crash on the Trail. The
      other driver involved in the double-fatal, Gus Amador, 60, of Napa,
      was critically injured.

      The California Highway Patrol and Napa County Sheriff's deputies are
      entrusted to patrol Silverado Trail and most other parts of the
      county. While they are concerned about the trouble on the Trail, Rico
      said, "There is no pattern that anyone can come up with."

      Rico said investigators are still determining the causes of the two
      most recent accidents, and have attributed Kim and Gregory's accident
      to alcohol.

      He also said law enforcement officers are out watching drivers on the

      "We are writing citations on Silverado Trail," Rico said. "We know
      that it's one of our main arteries into our valley so it has to be
      patrolled. It's a lot of responsibility and people expect to see us
      on the major roadways and also on the streets that they live on."
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