Aromas residents say speeding vehicles are making their town dangerous and they want to see changes.
“It used to be a quiet, peaceful walk in nature, and now it’s a stressful, ever vigilant attempt at exercising,” Nancy Olson said. She added, “Every day, and for around twenty years, two to four of us walk at 3:45 in the afternoon on nearly the entire stretch of Carpenteria Rd. “We park our cars at Rea Ct. and continue from there to San Juan Rd. The scariest to us are the people who pass right next to pedestrians.”
Olson related an incident that came frightening close to causing a death or serious injury. A car was parked on the side of the road, and while the group began to walk around the car putting them closer to the road, a vehicle passed them at the same time. To make the situation worse, another car came speeding toward the vehicle from the opposite direction. That caused the passing vehicle to swerve closer to the group to avoid hitting the oncoming vehicle. “The car that swerved missed hitting us by about one foot. If one of us had been temporarily distracted or had moved slightly, it would have been a different story.”
Aromas citizens had both harrowing and frustrating tales to tell this BenitoLink reporter.
Mindy Keeler has lived in Aromas for 40 years and takes a daily walk beginning around 8:30 am. from the fire station to San Juan Rd. “I have motioned for speeders to slow down,” she demonstrated by raising her arms over her head and dropping them down. She said that gesture on one occasion caused an angry driver to get out of the car and into her face, telling her off and calling her names. Keeler said the sheriff advised her not to confront drivers. You never know how a driver will react, he told her.
“I swear, when I’m out walking cars are aiming at me," Diane Saxton said.
“I live on Carpenteria Rd. near Carr Ave. and have seen my share of speeders, crashes and injured animals, including my cat,” Beth Roybal said, adding, “I walk every day and see the worse driving has to offer, including passing in no passing zones.”.
“(Wild)Turkeys tried to cross Carpenteria Rd., but people didn’t stop,” said Chris Jones. In her experience, “distracted driving, like looking at cell phones has caused drivers to suddenly see us, then jerk away.”
Lori Grimes jogs on Carpenteria Rd. three to four times a week, rain or shine and also had a story about the wild turkeys that make their home in Aromas. “One morning while I was out for a run, a group of turkeys crossed Carpenteria right on the corner of Rea. A car going towards San Juan Rd. stopped to let them cross but another car going towards town (an older model silver Ford Explorer) slowed down just a little and then plowed right through them hitting one and leaving it in the middle of the road.
“I moved it off the road and noticed it was only using one leg. I checked the injured leg and it didn't seem broken but I'm not a vet. I hoped it was just in shock. I went back the next day to see if it was still there, and the vultures had eaten it." Grimes said people should respect the wild turkeys that live in and around Aromas.
Jamie Boys, who lives on Carpenteria Rd., said she witnessed a recent accident. “There is a private lane across our street, and a jeep was parked close to the lane on Carpenteria Rd., blocking the view. An elderly gentleman driving down the lane pulled out and was hit by a big Toyota truck going too fast. The crash caused the car to flip over trapping him inside. The road was shut down until the fire department arrived and pulled him out," Boys said. "It was determined after a CHP officer surveyed the accident scene that the elderly gentleman was at fault for driving out of the lane without a good view, even though the truck driver had been driving faster than allowed.” Another speeding driver killed Boys' cat.
The small group also mentioned that children walk home from school on Blohm Ave., Carpenteria Rd., and other side roads. None of the streets have sidewalks, leaving children vulnerable to careless drivers.
“I picture someone getting hit and flying up in the air,” Nancy Olson fears. Everyone agreed peak times of travel through Aromas, which are at 7:30 am. and 6:30 pm were viewed as most dangerous. Folks interviewed agreed traffic has increased over the last few years due to people taking shortcuts, such as Carr Ave, through Aromas because of the new Highway 101 interchange to San Juan Rd.
Aromas workers can be found at the feed store, restaurant, grocery store, gas station/convenience store, three real estate offices, library, local water company and a nursery/greenhouse. A hair cutting salon recently opened and there's a church in the heart of town with a nursery school and a public grade school. The website www.california.hometownlocator.com states that the 2017 total population is 2,722, with 427 in-town daytime workers (TDP) and about 1,400 staying at home. About 1,000 leave Aromas and work elsewhere. The ratio of daytime population, or people who stay in Aromas is 67%.
Chris and John Jones live off of Blohm Ave., which is the road many people take into town from the Aromas exit going east on San Juan Rd. They said the speed information signage, or lack thereof, is confusing. “There are no signs that mark the transition to 55 mph on Carpenteria Rd.”
Several citizens agreed saying the placement of signs designating the legal speed limit is unclear and some are missing where they are needed.
Chris Keeler pointed out that yellow-green plastic figures in front of citizens' homes and close to the road have reduced speeding somewhat. In a grassroots effort, people have posted homemade signs that remind folks to slow down.
Mention speeding to nearly anyone in Aromas and someone will have a story to tell. One citizen said she had contacted government officials, with a myriad of ideas to curb speeding. Others made similar efforts but they all agreed the speeding problems remain.
Chris Keeler was unsure as to where the negligence lies regarding drivers flying down the road. “There seems to be no jurisdiction over the town to get anything done,” added Boys.
Several in the group mentioned the population increase from around 800 residents in 1992 to almost 2,800 living in Aromas today.
Mark Adams, who lives on Carpenteria Rd. summed up the issue. “I totally understand how easy it is to forget about the speed as you’re rolling down the hill or even heading uphill. It’s also easy to forget that although you’re only driving in one car maybe one time a day, for the people who live on these downtown streets, it may be 100 cars a day that are speeding. It can be nerve-wracking.“
Keeler and others mentioned the phenomena of Aromas being a town situated within the three counties of San Benito, Monterey, and Santa Cruz leaving citizens stumped about who to ask for help, and what agency will accept responsibility.
San Benito County Board District 2 Supervisor, Anthony Botelho, answered a call on how to solve the safety issues of the Aromas citizenry. Botelho said, “I adopted the orphan, (a name given to Aromas by a citizen because of the proximity of three counties with a question as to what agencies have jurisdiction over the town) and recognize the speeding problem. The town of Aromas is full of special people.”
Botelho said he will drive through the town soon, however, a new public works resource person has recently been hired. He explained the person will be ready in about two weeks to get on board with the problems facing the county, and the Aromas traffic situation. “I will make it a point to drive him around.”
Botelho made it clear in his conversation that traffic issues are everywhere, on all our country roads. He said he is aware that drivers have found the country road shortcuts to get away from the long wait entering Highway 101.
“I live out in the country and see for myself, how cars drive fast and even saw my dog get killed in front of my property," Botelho said. “Because the drivers want to get home, they drive almost as fast on the country roads as they do on the freeway.”