The Valley's Deadliest Roads

FRESNO, Calif.

Fernando Avila of Kimura Trucking near Reedley showed me what looked like a graveyard for old cars at the corner of Manning and Alta: "They may look sore, rusty and old but they're for a purpose ... " He says they've been a lifesaver: "People don't pay attention, and next thing you know, here they come. And look at the barricades we got. Yes, it's to keep cars from going into our shop." Avila has a story for every dent, every close call. One of his customer's parents died here. "Something needs to be done. It's like anywhere else, people don't slow down."

Just over a mile north at Alta and Adams ... Mohammed Kassen has seen a lot of deadly crashes in his 20 years working at the Country Corner Market: "Two guys there, another, and two guys there, four guys this way."

Action News worked with the California Highway Patrol to compile fatal accident information for five valley counties using their Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System -- or SWITRS. We looked at three years, from 2007 to 2009, the last year complete records were available.

FRESNO COUNTY'S DEADLIEST ROADS

  • Alta between Manning and Adams (5 fatal accidents)

  • Central Avenue between Walnut Avenue and Highway 41 in South Fresno (5 fatal accidents)

  • Interstate 5 between Manning and Panoche Road near Mendota (8 fatal accidents -- 11 people died). CHP officer Axel Reyes explains, "There's nothing out there, people driving from LA to San Francisco, that long trip.They tend to doze off, and a little curve in the road, that's all it takes."

TULARE COUNTY'S DEADLIEST ROADS

  • Road 172 and Avenue 336 near Ivanhoe (3 fatal accidents -- 8 people died). A row of trees that once obstructed the intersection has been cut down. A four-way stop now control traffic in both directions, making it safer.

  • Road 120 between Avenue 424 and Avenue 440 near Orosi (4 fatal accidents -- 11 people died). In August 2009 8 people died, including several children, in a crash after a Dodge Neon being pursued by Dinuba Police ran a stop sign and slammed into a pickup. Three more fatal crashes along Road 120, within two miles, bring the total dead here to 11.

KINGS COUNTY'S DEADLIEST ROADS

  • Flint Avenue between 12th and 16th Avenues (5 fatal accidents). Each of the five intersections has had a fatal crash. The cross traffic--going 55 miles per hour or faster-- doesn't stop.

  • Utica and 6th Avenues south of Corcoran (1 fatal accident, 7 people died). Seven died in November 2007 when a family's SUV ran a stop sign, went up an embankment, rolled and landed upside down in the canal.

MADERA COUNTY'S DEADLIEST ROADS

  • Highway 41 near Road 208 (4 fatal accidents -- 7 people died). The two-lane highway between Madera Ranchos and O'Neals is notorious for turning and passing problems. Seven people have died here, in four separate accidents, including a head-on crash in August 2009 that killed three women commuting to work at Chukchansi Casino.

MERCED COUNTY'S DEADLIEST ROADS

  • Highway 152 through Los Banos. The speed limit is 35 to 55, but drivers rushing through town to Interstate 5 don't seem to notice.

Officer Reyes says the roads are not dangerous but the drivers are: "Cuz they are ultimately in control of that vehicle. They control how fast they go, when to slow down. Controlling that vehicle and obviously paying attention."

Once officers notice a trend, they take action, increasing patrols and enforcement. But safe driving always starts ... and ends ... with the person behind the wheel.

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