Bennett Valley Road 'Speedway'

Part 1

“Bennett Valley Road is a racetrack!” commented Lt. David Hoff of the California Highway Patrol at the May 25 First Responders Town Hall. The CHP is the agency responsible for responding to traffic issues on BVR. Better enforcement could go a long way to calming the speeders out here, but Hoff admits the agency is understaffed, with only 46 officers to cover the entire county over three shifts on a given day.

CHP incident logs for the last few years reveal some disturbing facts: that since 2018 there have been 223 reported traffic accidents on BVR, spanning from Warm Springs Road to the BV Golf Course. And these are only the reported incidents, the true statistic is quite possibly double/triple this number. Among these are 106 injuries, and 4 fatalities. Please scroll down for a map.

Vehicular accidents are not only painful and harrowing for the drivers and their victims—they are also traumatic for residents along Bennett Valley Road, who are often the true first responders.

Melania Kang, a BVR resident, says “We keep filling up our garbage cans with broken fenders, glass, and car parts”.  

She and her husband Steve Baker regularly respond to accidents caused by speeding and unsafe passing along their BVR frontage. This kind of fraught emotional experience takes a toll on folks who seek peaceful, quiet enjoyment of their property. At some times of year, they come across three or more crashes in a week. Way too many. Melania expresses her fears: “One of these days I’m worried I am going to go out to one of these wrecks and find someone I cannot help”


Bennett Valley Road—a Perilous Racetrack?

Steve Baker and Adrian Baker-Kang flank the 'crash tree', site of a fatal accident on BVR

By Steve Baker and Adrian Baker-Kang

On May 2nd around 6:00pm, I was doing some work inside our house on Bennett Valley Road when I heard an all-too familiar sound: another car wreck. It's an awful, sickening sound, because I immediately think of the people involved and how injured they might be. The wreck had knocked out power in the area. I called out to my wife Melania, and then went outside and ran down the driveway.


I saw an older Dodge van that had come around the sharp curve in the road and had smashed into the utility pole, snapping it in half. The van was laying on its side; debris was scattered everywhere. The driver - a dazed young man - was just crawling out through the broken-out front windshield and was being helped by one of the workers who had been doing some work on our house. I asked the driver if there were any other people in the van, and he said there weren't.


I flagged down traffic that was coming around the blind curve while the injured man was helped up into our driveway away from the broken utility pole, which was the cause of the crackling sounds and electric sparks up in the wires. Some other drivers had gotten out of their cars and helped to direct traffic, too. Melania brought a blanket and a pillow for him, and she and some other people were there to comfort him until EMT's arrived. They assessed and treated him and then took him to the hospital. At about 10:00 that evening, utility workers started to repair the damage, and power to the area was restored around 4:00am. 

Paramedics aid an injured driver in May 2023

One of three crashes at this spot in May 2023

On May 6, I heard another crash. I went down to our other driveway, and observed a wrecked Prius. The driver was out of the car and thankfully wasn't injured. It had been slightly raining, and an oncoming car had swerved over into his lane, and caused the Prius to wreck. Later, after the tow truck had taken the Prius away, I walked down and picked up pieces of debris left behind.


About two weeks after that, as I was pulling out of the driveway for an appointment, I noticed a vehicle across the street that appeared to be parked in a strange way up against a tree. As I passed it, I saw skid marks in the dirt. The airbags were deployed and I realized it had been wrecked. I called Melania and asked her to go check on it. She went down and saw that no one was in the car, and then called the Sheriff's office to advise them. (She confided she had approached the vehicle with trepidation, fearing the worst...I knew that feeling, and it's not pleasant)


The large oak tree across the road from us bears the scar of a wreck that took the life of a young man before we moved in. One time a guy crashed through the fence/gate of a field where a large bull and some livestock graze. The driver was okay; I alerted authorities about the need to fix the fence/gate ASAP to keep the animals from getting out on Bennett Valley Rd.  In the five years we've lived here, I've lost count how many wrecks I've seen on this stretch of road. Cars and trucks in ditches. Up against fences. Crashes. Ambulances, Police, Fire Department personnel, clean-up crews. People on stretchers. Occupants of crashed vehicles sitting and standing. This is basically a country road that many drivers use like a freeway. And it's always amazing that people think they can drive as fast on rain-slick roads as they can on dry roads. 

To be continued: In the upcoming September issue of the VOICE, Part 2 will consider solutions to the problem.

We would like to hear from other residents who have experience 

with unsafe driving and crashes along our main artery.  

Please share any thoughts and similar stories with 

Bennett Valley Road experienced 54 reported crashes in 2018 alone, between the golf course and 

Warm Springs Rd.  More maps are being compiled using recent data.