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SPECIAL REPORT: Deadly Interstate 8 crashes

Wiley Jawhary

IMPERIAL COUNTY, Calif. (KYMA, KECY) - Interstate 8 is a well-known highway that runs through California and Arizona. It can also be the site of many fatal crashes involving pedestrians, sometimes even migrants.

On I-8 near Winterhaven,  thousands of cars travel through daily, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) says it's looking for speeders on this highway to help save lives, as sometimes you may come across pedestrians on this dangerous road.

On a highway with little room for error, Officer Michael Mitchell uses his loudspeaker to alert a driver that he's going too fast.

CHP says it's seen some of the worst vehicle-pedestrian crashes. That's why officers are on high alert trying to catch speeders.

"When you passed me over there, you were going 92, you slowed down to 88, and when you see me coming behind you you went to the right lane, I just need to see your license registration and insurance," officer Mitchell told a driver.

Officer Mitchell is on one of California's most dangerous highways, even putting his own life at risk on the side of the road.

According to money geek, from 2010 to 2016, I-8 was home to 134 fatal crashes resulting in 145 deaths. The Interstate is about 171 miles long within the borders of California.

From 2017 to 2010, I-8 was the sight of 83 fatal crashes. 

"We have a lot of high-speed traffic out here, sometimes we'll get people at 100 miles, 120 miles an hour, 130, the officers at the office have had 140, 150," officer Mitchell said.

But parts of the interstate can be used by pedestrians.

"We do have bicycle riders, You're actually allowed to be on the freeway for a short period of time in set locations on the freeway because there is no other access around the canals and waterways so the pedestrians or bicyclists will have to get on the freeway and it's allowed by law," he said.

To make matters worse, the border crisis is also spilling onto the highway. Historically speaking U.S. Border Patrol says the Jacumba wilderness area has seen the most activity when it comes to migrant crossings. 

"You can kind of see with the different rocks around us and different types of terrain, the ease of concealment for people crossing can easily hide and evade agents trying to look for them," Agent John Mendoza with USBP said.

But I-8 is a highway that mainly consists of flat terrain. CHP says this highway has seen major disasters. 

"But at 110 a 105 miles per hour you are moving so fast you don't have time to react to those dangers that are happening," he said.

The California Highway Patrol says it even responds to pedestrians being run over on the interstate in areas like Winterhaven and Los Algodones.

CHP says if a driver is going over the speed limit and hits and kills a pedestrian, they can be charged with vehicular manslaughter. 

CHP records show from April 2021 there have been six fatal pedestrian crashes, all six were migrants trying to evade border patrol agents and cross into the U.S.

Autopsy reports indicate the migrants were from Mexico, one was even from Honduras. 
This only makes CHP's job more intense.

"We do try to do proactive enforcement to reduce any kind of collisions out here, we have had approximately 109 collisions in the Winterhaven area," he said.

Article Topic Follows: News

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Wiley Jawhary

Wiley Jawhary is from Orange County California. He joined KYMA/KSWT in April of 2021.

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