Local News

Sep 16, 2010 10:03 PM by Ariel Wesler

Drunk driving led to five-car crash on Hwy 154

California Highway Patrol officers say a Santa Barbara woman was drunk driving when she caused last night's five car crash on Highway 154. It happened just before 8:30 p.m. between Stagecoach Road and East Camino Cielo Road, near the summit. The crash killed one woman and seriously injured three others.

These images show why drunk driving is so deadly and even deadlier on an infamous highway filled with challenging conditions.

"It's a terrible thing. We use that highway quite often. It's a very fast road. It's very windy," said Ed Pink," a driver visiting from Southern California.

The crash killed a 73-year-old woman in a Saab from Solvang and seriously injured three other people--including the drunk driver.

"People just need to keep their head about them when they're driving," Pink said.

But even when they do, other drivers say it's an unforgiving road with little room for error.

"There's no out. You can't recover from someone else's mistake," said Tony Vengel of Solvang.

Officers say 54-year old Priscilla Susman of Santa Barbara was heading eastbound on 154 near the summit when a witness noticed she was driving erratically. Susman suddenly hit another car in her lane,sending both cars into downhill oncoming traffic.

A Saab and Toyota slammed into Susman's car, sending her down a ditch and into a tree.

Straightaways only add to the dangers of the 154 as many drivers don't realize how fast they're going.

"Speeding, inconsistent speeds, swerving," said Angela Vengel, also visiting from Southern California.

The CHP is already stepping up patrols on the highway, but for now, some drivers say they'll think twice and possibly avoid it altogether.

"I've seen a head-on collision on that road and that lives with you for the rest of your life, knowing that someone's dead," Angela Vengel said.

Susman was treated at Cottage Hospital, then arrested and charged with vehicular manslaughter while drunk.

Officers have not yet released the name of Solvang woman killed in the crash. Unfortunately, she was the only driver not wearing a seatbelt.

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