On Saturday, Aug. 16 a teenage driver allegedly speeding through Pacific Highlands Ranch crashed into a home at the corner of Lopelia Meadows Drive and Golden Lily Way. Around 5:22 p.m., neighborhood surveillance cameras captured the 16-year-old driver blowing through a stop sign at the intersection before it slammed into the garage, taking out a small window. Nobody was injured.
The incident occurred at a four-way stop that was one of 17 stop signs installed just three months ago in Pacific Highlands Ranch in an attempt to curb a growing trend of speeding and cut-through traffic in the community.
The homeowner Peter Zage and his two sons were home at the time of the crash, in the family room at the opposite end of the house. After Zage heard the crash he went out to investigate, finding a BMW lodged into the side of his garage.
Most of the vegetation in front of the garage at the corner of the streets remained untouched, suggesting that the car was airborne before it crashed into the home. The car was carefully extracted by 9 p.m. that night and the cost estimate of the damages was still pending at press time.
“We’re grateful that nobody was injured,” said Jayme Zage, who was not home at the time of the crash. Per a neighboring home’s surveillance video, less than 30 seconds before the crash, a woman with a baby stroller had just finished crossing the intersection.
According to Officer Billy Hernandez of the San Diego Police Department, the 16-year-old driver was cited for driving without a license. Jayme said he was not cited for running a stop sign, speeding or reckless driving because there was no evidence—she said she has since submitted neighbor surveillance video to the police department but has not heard back.
One video does show a teenager running from the scene immediately following the crash, in the direction of the recreation center on Lopelia Meadows.
Upon later returning to the scene, the driver told the police that he had run to get help. The driver said he was on his way to a house party and had been attempting to turn right.
Peter Zage said at least one teenage passenger was in the car, the son of the owner of the car. In the immediate aftermath of the crash, Peter said it was hard to tell who had been in the vehicle as many teenagers were on the scene, possibly from the party that the driver was headed to. One witness told a local news station that he saw four teenagers in the car, however, Hernandez said the police have no passenger information.
Jayme said the video clearly shows the driver running the stop sign and that there should be a way to estimate the speed prior to the crash.
“You want to give kids a chance to learn from this but if it doesn’t hurt a little for them, they’re not going to learn from it,” Jayme said. “There are so many kids who are coming through this neighborhood to avoid traffic on Carmel Valley Road.”
She worries that as the stop signs are new, just going up at the end of the school year, many may continue making the same mistake as school starts up next week, “It is a chronic problem that they just don’t seem to appreciate the responsibility that they’ve been given to drive a car,” Jayme said.
Jayme said running the stop signs and speeding in Pacific Highlands Ranch neighborhood is not a problem that only the teens are guilty of.
Two to three weeks ago she was stopped at a neighborhood stop sign and an adult driver went around her to go ahead through the intersection. Many drivers are impatient, not wanting to wait for the pedestrian and bike traffic crossing through. California stops are also common, she said—in the surveillance video before the crash at least four cars roll through the intersection.
“It’s a local cultural thing that we are struggling with as a community,” Jayme said. “It’s not just people who are driving through, some of it is people who live in our neighborhood and just don’t seem to care about stop signs or general safety.”
Bruce Cameron, a PHR resident and member of the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board subcommittee that helped make the recommendations for the stop signs, said he does not want this incident to be brushed under the carpet. This is the second time a car has crashed into a home in PHR, the last time was at the intersection of Lopelia Meadows and Sagebrush Bend Way in 2014.
Immediately following the accident he fired off a letter to the city requesting that more actions be taken to help curb traffic issues in the community.
“I am not a fan of speed bumps and would prefer an alternate traffic-calming measure,” Cameron said. “But in light of the entry to our community recreation center being on that stretch of road, the heavy pedestrian traffic and the wide parkway perhaps we should consider speed/calming bumps just before and just after the recreation center entry.”
From Carmel Valley Road to Quail Run, Lopelia Meadows has a landscaped median that narrows the street, however, past the bridge, the street becomes wide open. As many people are crossing at the intersection to get to the recreation center and to the schools, Jayme suggested that there should at least be painted crosswalks and possibly a stop sign that flashes during peak hours.
“The city needs to do a little more,” Jayme said. “People have mixed opinions about speed bumps but maybe that’s what it takes to just get people to pause a little bit.”