On the day that Tiger Woods crashed his car in Los Angeles, winding up with a rod in his leg and several broken bones, sheriff’s deputy Carlos Gonzalez told reporters at a news conference that he regularly writes tickets to drivers on that stretch of road for going 80 miles per hour when the speed limit is 45.
Hawthorne Boulevard isn’t just dangerous because drivers go too fast. It’s hilly and curvy, and the intersection with Palos Verdes Drive, about two minutes from where Woods crashed, was the site of seven accidents from last January through July. Considering that the Hawthorne-Palos Verdes intersection is in Rolling HIlls Estates, that’s a lot of collisions. In the city of L.A. proper, the top 10 list of most dangerous intersections cuts off at eight crashes for January through June, and the urban sections of Los Angeles are a lot more densely populated than Rolling Hills Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes, where Woods had his wreck at the corner of Hawthorne and Blackhorse Road.
Through a public records request, Deadspin obtained data from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on all of the accidents for 2020 for the 1.35-mile stretch of Hawthorne between Palos Verdes Drive and Silver Spur Road. There were 13 total collisions.
While the stretch of road can be described as accident-prone, and there are several factors that make it a tricky stretch to drive, the accidents tend to boil down to “someone was driving like an asshole.” Eleven out of the 13 accidents were reported by the Sheriff’s Department as having a party at fault, and nine were at the busy intersections at either end of the segment.
It would be nice to be able to look at what happened and say, definitively, that this is a road that needs safety upgrades. And, given what Gonzalez said about lead-foots there, perhaps the speed limit does need to be lowered from 45, and more traffic calming measures added. But ultimately it remains up to drivers to operate their vehicles safely.
Drivers carry responsibility with them every time they get behind the wheel, though, and that includes heeding traffic laws and being vigilant about road conditions. Woods is lucky to be alive, but even though there may be several accidents along the stretch of road where he crashed, there’s a difference between that and being able to put the blame for the crash on the road itself.
In this case, it’s a winding, hilly stretch of slightly less than a mile and a half between two major thoroughfares, and Hawthorne has a complicated role in the area’s traffic pattern.
As a through route, it’s not fantastic, and it has many side streets sprouting off into the local community. Silver Spur and Palos Verdes intersect a short distance from where Hawthrone crosses Palos Verdes. But Hawthorne continues north to connect with the Pacific Coast Highway, on the other side of which it’s designated as California Route 107. From there it runs pretty much straight north to the 405 freeway up in Lawndale.
Hawthorne to the south is, then, a road with tricky configuration, not far from where it’s perfectly straight, and mixes traffic traversing the more suburban layout between the PCH and the Point Vicente Lighthouse with traffic that’s been coming down from the north off a very straight boulevard, while also serving as a shortcut for locals between Silver Spur and Palos Verdes.
It was right in the middle of this stretch, at Hawthorne and Blackhorse Road, that Woods had his accident. At the time, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the area “has a high frequency of accidents,” and given the layout and traffic patterns, that does fit logically. It also doesn’t mean that Hawthorne is so perilous, it’s like driving in the Alps during a blizzard, 365 days a year.
The details of the crashes along Hawthorne don’t paint a picture of a road where the biggest problem is something other than careless drivers.
January 3: A man driving under the influence in a minivan sideswiped a pickup truck as both were driving east.
January 4: A man cited for unsafe speed in his Mercedes rear-ended an SUV.
January 7: In a hit-and-run incident, an SUV backed into another SUV, then drove off.
January 11: A woman ran a red light and broadsided another woman making a left turn. This crash, at the intersection of Hawthorne and Palos Verdes, was the only one of the year to result in what the Sheriff’s Department termed “severe injury.”
February 4: Two drivers making a left turn at Silver Spur and Hawthorne sideswiped each other.
February 26: A woman changing lanes bumped a car making a left turn, and their collision also involved a car stopped in the road.
February 27: A 17-year-old going west on Palos Verdes at Hawthorne managed to hit a car going north and a car going south while being at fault under the category “Traffic Signals and Signs.”
March 18: A head-on collision occurred when a man in a Prius crossed into the southbound lanes and ran into a Jeep.
April 27: At Hawthorne and Blackhorse, where Woods had his accident, a woman in a Ford Explorer was cited for “Other Improper Driving” in a one-car crash with a “Fixed Object.”
June 13: A sloppy merge at Hawthorne and Palos Verdes resulted in two Toyotas trading paint.
June 25: Back to Blackhorse and Hawthorne, where a truck driver made a sloppy right turn and ruined the day of an 18-year-old in a Honda Civic.
July 2: A woman rear-ended an SUV that was stopped at an intersection.
October 7: A one-car accident at Hawthorne and Palos Verdes when a woman driving north hit a fixed object and was cited for improper turning.
The precipitous drop-off in incidents after the end of February does suggest that the area might be more accident-prone during times when more people are traveling — obviously, after that, the coronavirus pandemic took hold and fewer people were going out, and accidents in Los Angeles in general dropped 27% last spring.
It’s still a dangerous road, and all the more so because people there don’t drive safely. Fortunately, Woods was able to live to learn that lesson.