This page focuses on traffic safety in and around Waterford, but the same issues apply to essentially all of El Dorado Hills, and probably to most California residential areas.
Traffic Safety Issues
Wreck on Salmon Falls Road, July 3, 2002
Traffic patrol: How much do we have?
Collision with parked car in Waterford
Collision in intersection at Waterford back entrance
Injury accident in Waterford: Limitations of vision
Letter to County from Waterford HOA, requesting traffic law enforcement
Possibilities for reporting violations
Sample traffic violation report (factual)
Two months, four dead: A report on one of four deaths in 2000
A note on street & road "racers"
A note on "ordinary" speeding <--- Includes radar speed survey
On July 3, 2002, three teens were injured, one critically, in a wreck on Salmon Falls Road. This occurred about one mile from the site of the fatal accident at the intersection of Lakehills Drive and Salmon Falls, described on this web site in Two months, four dead: A report on one of four deaths in 2000. Like the earlier accident, this one was due to the combination of loss of control and excessive speed.
Thanks go to Village Life for the two photos
click on either photo to see a large-scale rendition. The Village
Life article reported that the most seriously injured of the three
of the car "was flown to Sutter Hospital, Roseville by the CalStar 3
with a broken spine, contusions to his brain and heart, a collapsed
a skull fracture and a broken clavicle. He remained hospitalized
critical condition at press time." Update, 2003:
It is likely that this young man was killed a year later, in 2003, as a
passenger in another rollover accident, in Sacramento. The Sacramento
Bee reported that the victim had been involved in a rollover accident
in July, 2002 which had left him paraplegic. Another passenger in the
second rollover also died as a result of injuries.
The most seriously injured teen had been a back-seat passenger and
was trapped in the car by the wreck. Emergency personnel
expedited freeing him from the wreckage despite needing to work with
live power lines immediately overhead. Fast treatment was necessary due
to the immediately obvious extent
of his injuries.
The CHP is stepping up its presence in El Dorado Hills, we're about to have one officer (Brian Hernandez) dedicated exclusively to EDH. This is still far less presence than the examples cited elsewhere in this section for Redwood City Police in Redwood Shores, but it's an improvement.
Both Serrano and The Summit have now gained the legally required County approval to permit CHP to enforce the Vehicle Code on their private streets. Officer Hernandez pointed out a special case in the law: The CHP can use radar enforcement for a residential area's 25 m.p.h. limit without having a prior traffic survey to determine the 85th percentile speed if the area's streets are less than 40 feet wide. In Waterford his measurement of Sheffield Drive, our widest street, was 39 feet 7 inches -- Waterford also can have radar enforcement of our 25 m.p.h. limit on all streets within the neighborhood.
What would be reasonable to expect?
City police departments that I've checked in northern Cafifornia have approximately 1 sworn deputy per 1,000 people in the city population, handling both traffic patrol and general law enforcement. Folsom's ratio at last report was .92, 53 1/2 sworn deputies for a population of about 58,000. The El Dorado County Sheriff's Department reports 133 sworn deputies for a population last listed as slightly less than 160,000, for a ratio of about .83 sworn deputies per thousand..
By statute the California Highway Patrol is given sole authority for traffic patrol, but in practice the CHP does not have resources for local traffic patrol. It operates almost exclusively in response to emergency calls, and at times has as little as one patrol car available for all of western El Dorado County. Since September 11 the CHP statewide has been assigned additional security-related duties, further reducing its ability to respond. Visible traffic patrol is virtually nonexistent.Waterford, The Summit, Winterhaven, and Lakehills Estates employ a privately hired security patrol service during late night hours, which has neither authority nor ability to perform traffic enforcement. 1,000 people would be a conservative estimate of the population of Waterford alone (393 lots, averaging more than 2 people per home). In these late hours we do see the security patrol often enough to know he's there, but sightings of Sheriff and CHP patrol vehicles are rare. Using the rule of thumb of one sworn deputy per thousand population, we might expect one sheriff's deputy to be effectively dedicated to Waterford. That's not the case: Patrol by agencies with full law enforcement authority is visibly nonexistent in Waterford.
The County Sheriff has better resources to supply traffic patrol services, but is prohibited by law from doing so in our unincorporated area. If El Dorado Hills were incorporated as a city this would change: Law permits the city to contract with the Sheriff for law enforcement, including traffic patrol. Exactly this was planned in the attempt to incorporate El Dorado Hills that was terminated August 22, 2001 by the El Dorado County LAFCO. The other alternative available after incorporation would be to establish a city police force.
Even without having traffic enforcement duties, presence of Sheriff's patrols would have a calming effect on traffic. However, the ultimate solutions to having adequate traffic patrol appear to be these:
In mid-February, 2002 a car driven by a minor struck a parked car on Amherst. Damage was relatively minor and detailed information is not available. In the absence of specific information it seems reasonable to relate this to frequently observed driving habits of many teens and young adults in the neighborhood. The most common reports that I receive through the Waterford HOA and that I witness as a resident involve speeding and disregard of stop signs. Speeding includes cornering at speeds which would otherwise be legal but which are too fast to permit seeing and avoiding unexpected obstructions, including people, that were not visible before starting a turn.
There is a good chance that this accident would not have occurred if
had adequate traffic enforcement. Drivers do develop the
suitable for a residential area when they anticipate that the streets
likely to be patrolled.
In October, 2002, two cars collided at the entrance to Waterford
Lakehills Drive, causing $6,000 in damage to the car that was hit. This
in the same intersection as the injury accident reported on the next
of this web page.
A stop sign directs entering traffic, on Cromwell Court, to stop at
No other entrance to this 4-way intersection has a stop sign, and the
traffic must yield at this point to cross-traffic on Carnelian. In this
an entering vehicle stopped, then proceeded into the intersection and
a car passing through on Carnelian.
A 15-year-old Waterford boy riding a motorized scooter was injured when hit by a pickup truck recently. This occurred at about 5:30 Monday evening, January 7, 2002 in the intersection of Carnelian and Cromwell, at Waterford's back entrance from Lakehills Drive. The teen's injuries included a broken leg.
This intersection is about 100 feet from my home. All of us who live near it are very sensitive to the frequent speeders and the stop-sign-runners who pass through it, especially as commuters return home during evening rush hour. However, this was not a case of reckless driving, the Highway Patrol's preliminary report ascribes no fault to the truck's driver. The problem in this case was visibility; speeding or running the stop sign adds yet another dimension of risk.
At 5:30 in early January dusk is fading to darkness. Human vision can do strange things at this time of day, when much of what we "see" is actually synthesized in the brain's visual cortex instead of being picked up from the eye's retina. The brain can miss seeing objects that are visibly indistinct and can occasionally synthesize images of nonexistent objects. "Objects" can include people and animals.
Even in broad daylight the brain synthesizes up to about 80% of what we see when we turn our heads, moving our field of vision from one place to another. This is a key reason why pilots are trained to scan for other air traffic by shifting their gaze from one point to another and stopping briefly at each point.
Before entering an intersection such as Carnelian and Cromwell, while halted at the stop sign, conscientious drivers check for traffic in all directions, sweeping their vision to the left and to the right. Especially at twilight, they need to stop their gaze briefly or their visual perception may literally fire too few neurons to trigger building an image of a small object in the brain.
Another perception problem is that the density of photoreceptors in the eye is large only in a central spot, called the macula. Maximum visual acuity comes from the fovea, a small depression in the macula that's packed with the highest density of color-sensing cones in the eye. Outside the macula, retinal cells producing peripheral vision are about 1/10 as dense as in the fovea: Visual acuity is about 20/20 in the fovea, 20/70 in the macula, and 20/200 in peripheral vision. Fewer cells mean fewer chances to trigger in dim light.
Also, there are no photoreceptors where the optic nerve connects with the retina. Each eye has a blind spot there, with vision at that point supplied only by the brain's own image processing. Each eye covers for the other, but in low light levels chances of seeing an object in one eye's blind spot are cut in half.
Let's add up the visual factors for the truck driver in this accident situation. The approaching scooter and its rider are optically small, its image is present on only a tiny portion of the driver's retina. Because the driver doesn't know exactly where to look, the image probably is in low-resolution peripheral vision. It may be in one eye's blind spot, or it may be moving through peripheral vision as the driver turns his head and eyes. And finally, in deep dusk the light level is very low, the needed image is about the same intensity as the background. Altogether, not many photoreceptors fire signals to the brain. The limited signals that do arrive may easily be insufficient for the brain to register a meaningful pattern, and the brain often synthesizes that part of its field of view from old data in the visual cortex.
As in flying, the goal is to see and to be seen.
The driver's first defense against missing a critical image is the pilot's technique of stopping his scan for traffic to gaze momentarily at a single point. In addition to eliminating the panning problem, this increases the chance that cumulative viewing time will produce enough consistent signals from a set of photoreceptors to make the brain perceive the pattern of a new object, even in low light. In short, don't just do a quick glance and go -- take an extra second for a better look.
The low-visibility rider is the 'be seen' side of the same situation. Prudent motorcyclists and bicyclists have long recognized how difficult it is to be seen in traffic, most have stories about drivers who didn't see them. Motorcyclists normally ride with their headlight and taillight on even in daylight to make themselves more visible. Many wear reflective clothing at night, with white as the best color choice. Sometimes safe cycling requires mentally driving other nearby vehicles -- antcipating whether or not another driver will see see you, anticipating what they might do, and anticipating what you'll do if they do the worst.
Finally, there are others who don't carry lights: Pets,
and pedestrians. Christmas brought the last large-animal road
of 2001, a deer on Lakehills Drive. Earlier in the year two
died at night on Sheffield Drive. Many of the same vision issues
our ability to see animals or people at night in time to avoid
This means drivers need more time to recognize a hazard and have less
to react -- one more circumstance calling for careful attention to
This page contains a sample of information of a specific traffic violation observed in Waterford. One way to encourage traffic enforcement is to forward such information to the California Highway Patrol's Placerville office. The CHP may at their discretion write a letter ("hate mail") to the violator. In theory, if the CHP receives enough such complaints they may help to justify assignment of additional enforcement resources to duty in our area. If the squeaky wheel gets the grease, we need to squeak.
CHP Placerville office contacts are:Phone (530) 622-1110
FAX (530) 621-0139
If an offending driver is known to be a Waterford resident you can report traffic violations incident to the Waterford Owners Association as a CC&R violation. (See the main Waterford web page for phone and mail contact information.) The two sections of the CC&R's that may be cited are8.02: Offensive Activities: NuisancesPlease note that the Waterford HOA's authority extends only to our own residents because the CC&R's represent a legal contract between each individual owner and the Association (the group of all owners). Our streets are public and we have no jurisdiction to enforce our CC&R's against nonresidents who use those streets.
Association policy for interpretation of this section explicitly identifies moving violations of the California Vehicle Code as nuisances.
8.08: Compliance with Laws: Insurance Considerations
This section defines a basis for recognition of violations of "any law, ordinance, statute, rule or regulation of any local, county, state or federal body" as a CC&R violation. Our policy is to limit application of this provision for two main reasons: To avoid interference with other agencies responsible for enforcement and to recognize that as a matter of business judgment that it is neither practical nor appropriate for the HOA to enforce all laws. However, in the absence of adequate traffic enforcement we will consider complaints as probable violations of this section.
Finally, another local government contact who would be concerned with public safety issues would be our County Supervisor. While it is not normal to report individual violations to the County, El Dorado Hills is unincorporated and this is our main recourse to a local governmental organization. This level of government should be aware of our circumstances and our needs.
Waterford is in the part of El Dorado Hills within District 1, represented by Rusty Dupray.
Links in the preceding sentence initiate email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The web page for the Board of Supervisors is http://www.co.el-dorado.ca.us/bos/, and the Board's address and phone numbers are
330 Fair Lane
Placerville, CA 95667
FAX (530) 622-3645
This is a real report, it is not fictitious. At this time it
whether the violator is a Waterford resident.
This is a new report, the last one posted was more than 6 months old. The preceding report involved a speed of 50 - 55 mph on Sheffield, a 25 mph zone, failure to stop at a stop sign, and failure to yield right of way while performing a U turn. Now the new report:
Reporter: Paul Raveling
Date: April 26, 2002
Time: About 19:45: (7:45 p.m.)
Vehicle: Lexus, generally gold-like color (ability to assess color is limited in dusk lighting levels)
License #: 3VVJ588 California
Driver: Female caucasion, age probably around 30 to 40
Basic Speed Law (35 in 25 mph zone)
Crossing double yellow centerline to pass
Questionable stop at stop sign
The subject car overtook mine while I was driving home on Francisco Drive after dinner with my wife as the passenger. She tailgated us briefly as we approached the stop sign at the school, then continued to tailgate us for the remaining distance to the Waterford entrance at Sheffield Drive. I'd estimate that she tailgated us for about half a mile while our speed was 38 mph in a zone posted with a 40 mph limit.
When we turned right onto Sheffield I slowed to 25 mph and monitored my speed carefully, it's safe to say that it was 25 plus or minus 1 mph. She also turned onto Sheffield and continued tailgating us. About halfway through the steepest downhill part she crossed the double yellow line and passed us. This is exactly the part of Sheffield where one dog and one cat were killed last year. I accelerated to match her speed and check it; she was driving about 35 mph. This is about 5 mph higher than the mathematically-derived critical speed for this location: Above that speed a driver has insufficient maneuverability to avoid hitting unexpected obstacles such as the pets that were killed, even at maximum vehicle performance in braking and steering.
My impression was that she slowed but did not stop at the Carnelian stop sign. I won't claim to be a good witness of this because I was more concerned with maneuvering my own car at that point.
She continued up Sheffield, again accelerating past 25 mph, then turned right into one of the cul de sacs -- it was either Hartford or Camden, I was sufficiently focussed on identifying her vehicle that I actually don't recall now which it was. I pulled in after her and found that she had stopped at the head of the cul de sac. I also stopped, got out of our car hoping to communicate with her, and she decided to drive on. She turned right onto Sheffield and that's the last we saw of her.
As a brief mention, the next example (involving a different driver)
less than a minute later, but there was no opportunity to read a
number. Just after we parked in our garage a younger woman,
in her 20's, went by in a black car, I think it was a Volvo. She
right onto Carnelian from Sheffield and left from Carnelian ont
Court, to leave Waterford. Both her straight-line speed and her
acceleration on cornering were too high to permit maneuvering in the
of encountering one of the usual unpredictable obstacles -- children,
cats, dogs, deer, turkeys, and such.
Saturday, November 3, brought two incidental sightings of "racers" (racing themselves, not others) on Lakehills Drive, both at an estimated speed of about 80 m.p.h. The unusal part was a rare "opportunity" to "talk with one".
Lakehills Drive is a narrow two-lane road, with negligible shoulder width over most of its length. Most of the roadway has very little if any room for lateral maneuvering -- if any evasive action is needed is has to be almost entirely braking. The road is fairly straight, but visibility is limited by its path over hills and hollows. Animals are common enough on the road; within the past week I've slowed to a crawl three times for them, twice for turkeys and once for deer.
This is the road where an 18-year-old was killed a year and a half ago, impaled by a timber from the fence that he crashed through. There was good evidence that his speed was also in the general neighborhod of 80 m.p.h, like Saturday's racers. Probably also like whoever literally cut a deer in half by hitting it a few years ago.
The good side of high performance driving is that it helps drivers to learn the limits of their vehicle and themselves and to develop some skills that can be useful in salvaging a dangerous situation. The downside is that most look only at maneuvering limits, neglecting visibility limits and shortcomings of human visual perception. They're likely to think in terms of distance needed for turning or braking without a clear understanding of how reaction time affects these. Many lack the understanding and judgment needed to avoid dangerous levels of trailing throttle oversteer if they enter a curve too fast. Bottom line: Traffic fatalities are the #1 cause of death for American teenagers, and 2/3 of those fatalities are males.
The kid I "talked with" on Saturday was a prime example of the high-risk group. "Talked with" is within quotes because there wasn't much perceptive listening involved. He was full of a sense of how adept he was, some of the evidence being that he "has driven this very car at 140 m.p.h.", if anything is wrong it's something other people are doing, whether in their own driving or in their appraisal of his. His remarks showed that he might have potential to learn more of what he needs to know if he lives a few more years.
The other Saturday racer also needed luck. He made a hard-running turn from Salmon Falls onto Lakehills, using both of Lakehills' two lanes to handle his speed, as I approached that intersection from the opposite direction. If I had been there 3 seconds earlier his choices would have been either a head-on collision with my truck or a fast excursion off the side Lakehills to join the ostriches downhill from the corner.
First, just the facts. The page below shows results of a fresh radar survey of traffic speeds, done by the El Dorado County Department of Transportation on Sheffield Drive, in Waterford:
The good news is that by some measures this is a modest improvement when compared with a radar survey done at the same place, same time of day on June 24, 1993. Benchmarks such as 50th percentile and 85th percentile speeds are down 3 m.p.h. since then. These percentage-measured improvements are somewhat offset by a 31% increase in traffic, 46 vehicles per hour now instead of 35 per hour then. In both surveys the effect was that drivers honored the posted 25 m.p.h. speed limit as a lower limit instead of an upper limit.
What does this mean in terms of traffic safety?
Waterford old-timers may remember some exercises in physics that I talked about in newsletter articles, relating to actual encounters such as a little girl on bicycle and a loose dog in the street. Those exercises showed a critical speed of 31 m.p.h. If the driver's speed in these situations had been more than 31 m.p.h. he would have nailed the girl or the dog. 50% of the traffic in this radar survey was faster than that speed.
Almost all the time we luck out, but sometimes the chance combinations of time, place, and velocities combine in the worst possible way. So far I've only had to report deaths of pets and wild animals, but if nothing changes it's just a question of time until a human, most likely a child, is killed or seriously injured.
The good news is that a large percentage of Waterford residents are
driving safely on our streets. The bad news is that many are not,
they typically don't realize it. This is the group that would
most from adequate traffic enforcement, those who would tend to change
driving habits. Until we have that enforcement, speeding reports are
for 35 m.p.h. speeding -- risk isn't limited to street racing.
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