Driving lesson

Some driving instructors take new drivers up the hill on the 17th

Q: When my son was in driver training, the instructor made him drive Route 17 on the first day. I was appalled. Is this normal? What was he thinking?

Donna Davies, mountain view

A: Some driving instructors do this to show new drivers how to deal with dangerous driving conditions. Fast driving on 17, the many curves in the road and other hazards can leave a lasting impression. When Anne – Roadshow’s daughter – had driver training, her instructor had her drive 17 from San Jose to Scotts Valley on the second day.

“It was terrifying,” she said.

Q: I grew up in the valley and Highway 17 was called “Death Alley”. As a teenager, I was forbidden to drive up the hill to Santa Cruz. It’s still dangerous, but not as bad as it used to be.

Susan McClory, San Jose

A: It definitely made an impression.

Q: I lived in South Bay for 25 years. Many improvements have been made to Highway 17. The road has been widened. New roadways, markers, better barriers and stricter enforcement have been added.

You know what hasn’t changed? Drivers. They are always careening around the road.

Ralph Durham, Sunnyvale

A: Others agree.

Q: I also go through Laurel Curve twice a week. I usually stay in the right lane, going around 45 mph, because it’s a very dangerous area. The real problem is that many cars pass me in the left lane at 60-70 mph. If people stayed at or below the speed limit, there wouldn’t be as many accidents.

Dan Brackett, San Jose

A: Okay. The speed limit is 50 mph.

Q: Over the past 19 years, I’ve driven Highway 17 from Silicon Valley to Santa Cruz and back more than 3,800 times. I saw more than my fair share of accidents on the 17th. Laurel Curve became much less dangerous when Caltans wisely completed the separation barrier and reduced the number of crossover accidents.

There are a number of places on Highway 17 that would benefit from overpasses or underpasses. These fixes can’t come soon enough.

Michael Siladi, mountain view

A: Here is advice from Highway Patrol. Don’t just focus on the car directly in front of you. Also, keep an eye on what’s happening to traffic further afield.

Q: I have driven over 17 regularly for the past 40 years. I rode it in sunshine and pouring rain, some days with winds so strong the rain was almost horizontal.

In my opinion, Highway 17 is perfectly designed for all driving conditions, if you drive the posted speed limit of 50 mph and follow slower warnings around curves. Spend money on traversal for creatures that cannot avoid conductors.

Tom Paul, Sunnyvale

A: That’s all for today, folks.

Look for Gary Richards at Facebook.com/mr.roadshow or contact him at [email protected]