Increased traffic in Santa Barbara County during the Thanksgiving weekend resulted in more accident-related deaths and injuries than in recent years.
Among the incidents this weekend, two major accidents resulted in one death and nine injuries.
At approximately 5:45 p.m. on Saturday, Gary McCauley, a 57-year-old Isla Vista resident, was killed by a vehicle on northbound Highway 101. California Highway Patrol Officer Kurt Schmidt said the longtime I.V. transient was attempting to cross the freeway with a friend just north of Garden Street. The vehicle struck McCauley at 65 miles per hour after a car in front of the driver swerved suddenly into another lane.
The friend was uninjured, and the driver, who suffered only minor cuts, was transported to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.
“It was at about 5:45 on Saturday night and the lanes were closed for two hours due to paramedics and CHP cars,” Schmidt said.
Close to 7:00 a.m. on Monday, a 13-car accident south of the Gaviota exit on southbound Highway 101 left nine people injured. The accident happened in a matter of minutes, according to Santa Barbara County Fire Dept. Public Information Officer Charlie Johnson.
“It was found that the cause of the accident was that the sun was hitting the first car’s driver in the face as he was making the turn on the freeway,” he said. “At this time in the morning, and at this particular curve, driver’s are driving with the sun directly in their eyes.”
Schmidt said of the nine people who had minor injuries, five were immediately transported to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.
“They were treated and released immediately, all of the injuries were mostly minor. This type of accident is not unusual for California highways. With more and more cars on the road, there are a lot of fender benders, I mean … a lot,” he said. “The sunlight definitely affected the initial slowing down of these vehicles. After one pickup truck rear-ended one vehicle, the pileup began.”
Johnson attributed the increase in accidents during holiday weekends to drivers attempting to hurry through traffic.
“There has been a significant increase in traffic overall this year and medical-type calls related to traffic accidents. Advisories need to be made to let people know that they need to slow down,” he said. “Don’t get yourself overbooked, people really don’t need to rush to do everything all the time.”