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CHP Works To Save Lives On Ortega Highway

“State Route 74 has a higher than usual number of motorcycle incidents,” said CHP Officer Nathan Baer of the OC to Lake Elsinore stretch.

In 2010, three motorcyclists died on the stretch of Ortega Highway between Lake Elsinore and Orange County. During that same year, 27 motorcyclists were reported injured on this same route this is so infamous for its dangerous curves and steep cliff edges.

“State Route 74 has a higher than usual number of motorcycle incidents,” said CHP Officer Nathan Baer of the OC to Lake Elsinore stretch. “And some incidents are never even reported. They just pick up their bikes and leave.”

The only other California route to have such high collateral damage for motorcyclists is the Angeles Crest Highway, better known as State Route 2, Baer said.

So far this year, Baer said that thanks to Ortega Highway safety enforcements and public awareness, crashes and fatalities have dropped here. In 2011, the Lake Elsinore-OC stretch has seen 13 injury collisions involving motorcycles with zero motorcycle fatalities.

On Sept. 3, Baer and three other CHP officers worked SR 74 near the El Cariso Fire Station to enforce safety. With such a high black-and-white presence, motorists were generally well behaved. But speeding tickets were still handed out to drivers who exceeded the reduced 45 mph limit through the El Cariso community, and some drivers got nabbed for failing to obey the maximum 55 mph limit on other parts of the roadway.

“If you’re going faster than 55 mph, you’re just wrong – it’s not safe,” Baer said. “If you speed, there’s a good chance you could crash up here.”

Or kill someone.

During a Patch ride-along with Baer, the long-time CHP veteran pulled in and out of driveways along the Ortega. Exiting out of the Hell’s Kitchen drive with Baer at the wheel, the visibility in either direction is just a few hundred feet.

Both Hell’s Kitchen and the Lookout Roadhouse further to the east are popular biker destinations along the Ortega.

“These are dangerous spots,” Baer said. “And imagine what it’s like for the residents here,” Baer said of the blind curves. “All of their driveways are like this. If someone comes speeding through, there’s a high chance of a crash.

“This is an easy road to get in over your head,” Baer continued, noting that for motorcyclists, the danger increases.

During the Sept. 3 ride-along, dozens of motorcyclists cruised through the area. Some came through slowly on Harley-Davidson roadsters, others zipped quicker on high-speed sport bikes.

“Seventy-eight percent of motorcycle crashes statewide are the fault of the motorcyclist,” Baer said. “They’re either experienced riders who hot-dog it and push too far, or they’re novice riders.”

Baer said novices should avoid the Ortega, but said ultimately the highway should be for everyone to enjoy.

“We want people to come up here and enjoy riding a motorcycle without getting hurt,” he said. “If people would just obey the rules of the road, we wouldn’t see so many crashes.”

Wretch September 13, 2011 at 02:40 PM
It is not just motorists that drive fast. The fools on road rockets aka motorcycle drivers are just as dangerous. I drive the Ortega highway on the weekends and they race up and down the highway and around curves faster then most vehicles.
kevin newman September 13, 2011 at 07:00 PM
see on tv all the stuff about being careful motorcycle s what no 1 seems under stand is that you don't see the sign saying for motorcycles to be care of drivers. I 'll b on the freeway driving at a good 45 or 70 w miles an hour some idiot motorcyclist will still driving between the cars when you not supposed to ..there should be new laws on motorcyclist not just on cars and not cars just trying to look out for motorcyclepeople who ride motorcycles not all but mosttake more of an advantage on the little ones that are there for motorcycles .as for the otega highway the former roommate has video of him and his friends deliberately racing down that mountain .they do not care about safety .
Anna September 13, 2011 at 11:08 PM
So true on motorcycles. Car driver too! I hate it when your going the speed or 5 mph more than the speed & in your rear view mirror you see about half a mile behind (if you can see but on long stretch of ortega parts) a car or more & next thing you know their up your tush! The best one of all are the vehicles who are up your tush & have children in the vehicle.....no care for child safety & what are they showing are future generation (that they own the road!) & don't care for thy neighbors life and theirs!
Anna September 13, 2011 at 11:10 PM
Missed spelled words: Our not are and maybe Tush. oops

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