Another wrong-way crash on SR-52 raises road safety questions

2 fatal crashes on roadway since Dec. 2012

SANTEE, Calif. - New concerns are being raised about road safety after two deadly, wrong-way crashes on state Route 52 in the past few months.

On Sunday evening, just east of Santo Road on SR-52, a Dodge Caravan going over a small hill at about 65 mph was struck head-on by a Ford Focus going about the same speed, authorities said.

The Focus' driver, Matthew Leonardo, was killed instantly. Authorities said he smelled of alcohol. Alisa Cunningham and her three children in the minivan were taken to local hospitals.

In December, also on SR-52, the driver of a Volkswagen Beetle was killed when a wrong-way truck crashed into it. Alcohol is also suspected in that crash, but some believe the roadway itself could be a factor.

A 10News crew traveled along the same stretch of SR-52 and the two nearest interchanges.  At both interchanges, a simple wrong turn could take drivers west into eastbound traffic.

A simple right turn at Mission Gorge Road and SR-52 is marked by "DO NOT ENTER" signs. At Mast Boulevard, there's a similar turn; the warning signs are smaller, but visible.

"In your opinion, can a non-impaired driver be confused and end up going the wrong way?" asked 10News reporter Michael Chen.

"There's no difference in that area than any other area on our freeways," said California Highway Patrol spokesman Brian Pennings.

Pennings said complaints and wrong-way accident rates at the interchanges don't jump out. When 10News checked out other interchanges, similar road designs were found, where a wrong turn could turn tragic.

Pennings said the main culprit isn't the road design.

"More often than not, when you have a wrong-way driver, you have someone who's impaired," said Pennings.

It remains unclear where Leonardo may have entered SR-52 going the wrong way.

The CHP is asking for witnesses to come forward to help them piece together the sequence of events

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