Holiday travel proves perilous for many drivers across California

FRESNO COUNTY (KFSN) -- The thousands of Valley residents returning home from holiday trips aren't the only ones moving Monday night.

A new winter storm is pushing toward central California and threatening to make this first week of 2017 a wet one. Commuting across the state has been bumper to bumper out due to holiday travel.

The busy week on California highways has been tragic. There have been four fatalities in Fresno and Kern County since Christmas. According to AAA, the year-end holiday travel period runs from Friday, December 23 to the first Monday of the year.

The worst accident on I-5 occurred Saturday when 40 cars collided where I-5 and Highway 99 meet at Wheeler Ridge near Bakersfield. Two people were killed, a 50-year-old man and a 37-year-old woman. At least five other people were injured in the chaotic pileup believed caused by fog.

On Thursday, four people were hurt when a Greyhound bus and a big rig collided on I-5 near Kettleman City. On Tuesday, an 83-year-old Hayward man was killed in a four-car pileup on I-5 and Shields Avenue.

Last Monday, a Gardnerville, Nevada woman, Robin McElheny, was killed when a wrong-way driver crossed the median on I-5 near Derrick in the Cantua Creek area and hit her SUV. Two children were hospitalized. Her husband John said I-5 is a dangerous highway.

"There are so many wrecks on that highway," he said. "There's so much population that's overgrown the interstate. There's always wrecks all the time. I think medians would be great."

What John meant are barriers in the medians, which could have stopped a car crossing the highway. When I-5 was built, it was believed that the wide spaces between the north and southbound lanes were enough. But studies have shown barricades can reduce head-on crashes by 80 percent.

Cal Trans has complained they don't have the funding to build them. CHP officer Kenny Antonetti says most I-5 crashed are caused by drivers not paying attention.

"There's a multitude of reasons," he said. "They can happen from a median emergency that causes someone to drive across lanes to inattention, cell phones when driving - just drive."
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