image-gray whale cove cliffs
Rescue crews have been called to the cliffs north of Montara again and again over the years after unwitting drivers pilot their vehicles off the roadway. This incident in April 2019 resulted in no injuries. Kyle Ludowitz / Review


It’s a scenic drive along Highway 1 from Devil’s Slide to Montara, with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. It is also a dangerous commute with little margin of error as the road hugs a rugged cliff side.

After video was released last week that appears to show a car driving over one of the turnouts on the route, some are raising new concerns about the safety of the roadway. 

“There's a balancing act between preserving views, many of which were already lost when the tunnels were put in, and keeping cars safely on the road,” Moss Beach resident David Vespremi said.

While portions of Highway 1 near Gray Whale Cove are reinforced with guardrail on the ocean side, Caltrans is continuing to evaluate the need for safety devices throughout the area, according to Caltrans spokesman Vince Jacala. 

“Installing guardrail is not always the most appropriate option to prevent injury,” he said. 

San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Rosemerry Blankswade said motorists are allowed to stop and park in the turnouts on Highway 1 for safety purposes or to check on their vehicle for any maintenance issues.  

“The coastline is ever-changing and so we do try and put signage up when necessary and we do as much as we can with educating people to bring awareness of the dangers,” Blankswade said. 

She noted that, in the last few years, there have been incidents of people driving over the cliff side. Some are believed to be accidents while others attempted suicide. 

“There are places along the coastline where people have inadvertently or purposely gone off the ledges and that is something we’re working with California Highway Patrol and Caltrans to reevaluate those to stop them from reoccurring,” Blankswade said. 

Sheriff’s Office Capt. Saul Lopez, who commands the Coastside division, said deputies conduct “no parking” enforcement in the area of Devil’s Slide, but primary enforcement responsibility belongs to California Highway Patrol. 

“We work jointly with them in our enforcement efforts, but, as you can imagine, staffing and geographical responsibility is always a challenge,” he said. 

CHP assigns units to patrol that portion of Highway 1, but Officer Bert Diaz said patrol officers have a wide area of responsibility — from Devil’s Slide to Larkspur.

El Granada resident Katie Lacy said she thinks guardrails in that area would make the route safer. 

“If we, the people on the coast, had a clear-cut plan put together … we could work with Caltrans on preserving our coast and our beautiful views safely,” she said. 

Lopez agrees, stating, “… It’s always safer to have barriers.” He also noted that would be Caltrans’ responsibility. 

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