Recent deadly crashes highlight dangers on Highway 49

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PLACER COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) -- Highway 49 in Placer and Nevada counties is familiar to deadly car accidents.

Two more lives were lost just last week in separate collisions. Last Wednesday, a 21-year-old man died after swerving into oncoming traffic. Two days later, a 55-year-old woman passed away after she did the same.

They are the exact type of fatal collisions Bruce and Deborah Jones have spent the past 15 years trying to prevent along Highway 49.

“You know, if anyone needs support that’s been injured out there, we are there,” Deborah told FOX40. “We’ve been through it, we know what’s happening.”

In 2003, the couple was involved in a wreck near their Grass Valley home.

Later, they started Citizens for Highway 49 Safety after another wreck in the same area.

Chet Krage also joined the cause, meeting with the public and Caltrans to work on solutions.

Krage said extra streetlights and turn lanes have been added over the years but the real changes would come with a hefty price tag.

“What’s left is the stuff that’s causing 30 million or 50 million dollars,” he explained.

The three said one of the biggest issues is head-on crashes. Unlike Interstate 80, which has a barrier between each direction, Highway 49 has just a turn lane.

The 21-year-old driver who died last Wednesday was driving in the turn lane just before crashing.

“On a clear stretch, almost all straight, and it’s been puzzling for us. But that’s the area we're getting the major loses,” Bruce said.

CHP Auburn Officer Dave Martinez told FOX40 a divider or rumble strip would help but drivers just going the speed limit would be the biggest benefit to saving lives.

“There are a number of factors that contribute to that and speed is, obviously, the number one,” he said. “A lot of these things could be prevented if people slow down.”

Other recent changes on Highway 49 included sidewalks being installed in Auburn. That was in direct response to two 15-year-olds being struck and killed by a truck back in 2016.

Bruce said Caltrans does have plans to put in roundabouts on certain dangerous sections of Highway 49 to help slow down traffic so people don’t speed as much.

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