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Car rolls over on Charleston Road in Palo Alto

Original post made on Dec 3, 2012

A white Nissan sedan going west on Charleston Road in Palo Alto hit a tree and rolled over, skidding into the intersection of Middlefield Road at about 4:35 p.m. Monday, Dec. 3. At least one person was injured, according to preliminary dispatch reports.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, December 3, 2012, 4:51 PM

Comments (41)

Posted by local, a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 3, 2012 at 5:08 pm

Question: How do you roll a car at Charleston and Middlefield? The speed limit is 25. I have been hit at that intersection when I was stopped in traffic by someone going much faster than that through the intersection.

Well I hope they are okay and glad to know no one was hurt worse. But I'd like to know how fast the car was going, and if it was obeying the law, what would cause a car to roll at 25 mph.

Posted by David, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 3, 2012 at 5:18 pm

I saw the car, and heard the crash

Posted by Peter Mandell, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 3, 2012 at 5:56 pm

To the question above - yes, a car can flip at 25 miles an hour if one of its tires burst and the moment when it's turning. Do not know if this happened. There are other reasons such as axle bearings snapping that can cause this to happen. Do not know what happened in this case. I am sure we'll know soon enough.

(I saw the flipped car a few minutes after the accident when the driver was on a stretcher being carried to the ambulance.)

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 3, 2012 at 6:23 pm

Same way the woman flipped hers six weeks ago near Peers Park. Web Link

Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2012 at 6:40 pm

So how did this car, which should have been driving in one of the two lanes going west, actually hit a tree--which was not in the roadway?

It's not raining today, and the road surface is dry. So, what gives?

Posted by Kyle, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 3, 2012 at 7:08 pm

Didn't see it happen but heard it. I was walking the pathway to Charleston from park.
It was a very very loud crash! Was amazed to see car upside down. EMT arrived fast.
Very surprised to see driver alive. Pretty scary scene. Drive safe! Rushing to get somewhere not worth a life or injury.
Also, sad to see drivers honking 10 feet from EMT and injured person to get through.

Posted by parent, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 3, 2012 at 8:02 pm

If you think people are driving 25mph just because the speed limit is 25mph, you are sadly mistaken. Speed limits are very commonly abused on both Middlefield and Charleston. There is way too little speed limit enforcement in southern Palo Alto, even on known speeder routes. Of course, the roads are still slippery because of the recent rain, but California drivers don't care.

Posted by Lauren, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 3, 2012 at 8:26 pm

I saw the accident, and was shocking. There were people inside of the car, screaming for help. And the car was completely smashed...
This is a city full of children biking for god sake...some measures should be taken to prevent high speed in the streets.
I bike everyday, and I can assure..some people donīt care about cyclists security. They simply donīt respect.

Hope everyone is ok, and not hurt worse. The scene was very scary though.

Posted by caring for kids and tree, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 3, 2012 at 8:29 pm

Is everyone OK, and the tree? The accident may trim some years off the tree :-(

Posted by Wifeofbiker, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 3, 2012 at 8:32 pm

I wish people would be abide by the traffic laws, my husband bikes this route and if this were an hour later this car could have hit him.

Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 3, 2012 at 8:55 pm

To correct you folks, the speed limit is posted 25 MPH but that doesn't mean that that is the speed limit. The speed limit is the 85th percentile of the average speed on a given roadway. On Charleston that is 36 MPH which is the 85th percentile of the average speed. Anything above that the Cops can ticket you, below that speed they can't.

Speed limits come under State law, the 25 MPH signs around the City were placed there by the City of Palo Alto not the State.

Posted by SmallCorrectionToNeighbor, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 3, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Neighbor is (almost) correct. The police can issue you a ticket for traveling at any speed - if it is deemed unsafe for prevailing conditions. This includes the "prevailing speed" which is what Neighbor refers to. So whether this accident was caused by negligent driving that was too fast for prevailing conditions would probably be a major determining factor.
You can get more information here on "prevailing speed"

In any case I hope that the occupants of this car are okay and I am very glad that nobody else was hurt.

Posted by parent, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 3, 2012 at 9:19 pm

They could narrow the road and increase the level of road rage - maybe that would help

Posted by Palo Parent, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 3, 2012 at 9:27 pm

parent: I think you meant: "narrow the road some more"?

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 3, 2012 at 10:44 pm

When they get a traffic citation, their insurance rate goes up.

When they have an accident, MY insurance rate goes up.

Posted by parent, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 3, 2012 at 11:09 pm

Palo Parent - exactly.

Posted by Seatbelt, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 4, 2012 at 6:18 am

Its clear, now on an almost weekly schedule, that Palo Alto drivers need to be reigned in. Their selfish attitudes and actions on the roads are CONTINUOUSLY a hazard to others. Lets start with massive increases in speeding tickets (start writing them with wild abandon). If that does not work, traffic calming roads will.
Its up to you PA drivers, slow down and ditch the "Me first" attitude, or pay the price.

Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 4, 2012 at 7:25 am

Neighbor, you are wrong. The speed limit is what is posted on the signs. The 85th percentile rule is used when the city performs a traffic survey to determine what speed to post on the signs. Once that is done the speed limit is the posted number until the next traffic survey is done. Also, the 85th percentile rule doesn't apply in school zones or near senior centers, and the city can reduce the speed limit below the 85th percentile in the interests of pedestrian or bicycle safety if there are sufficient numbers. The pamphlet in your link was published in 1998 and the law has changed since then, but even it refers to a blanket speed limit of 25 mph in residential areas and school zones. In short, the legal speed limit on Charleston is 25 mph, and you are deluding yourself if you think otherwise.

Posted by Enjoying The Show, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 4, 2012 at 9:52 am

OMG!!! Palo Alto drivers really ARE the worst drivers around!!!!
This is HILARIOUS (because nobody was seriously hurt). These stories just keep happening!!
See you here in the next couple of days when we read about more road comedy brought to you by the self important people behind the wheel.
PA has great schools...too bad it seems kids have to risk their lives running the gauntlet of PA drivers just to get to them.
Smashed School Zone sign...classic.

Posted by Pathetic Excuse, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 4, 2012 at 10:17 am

If ANYONE is prone to road rage, no matter what the reason, they need to have their license revoked until they get psychological help/evaluation that proves them capable of sharing the road with the SANE and RATIONAL people. Did I read above that narrow roads is now a reason to flip out with rage? WTF!? I think some people are incapable of dealing with the stresses on the road and therefore should be prohibited from driving on them. Use your brake pedal and get your ego in check on the roads.

Posted by Bike Rider, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 4, 2012 at 11:10 am

I'm looking forward to finding out why this happened. I do appreciate the humor above. As a car driver and a bike rider in Palo Alto, I do not appreciate the wasted space along Arastradero from the 'traffic calming' measures. When you have to sit in traffic on that road in order to live your life, it does make one angry at the punitive attitude toward cars and their drivers. When yet another bike blows through a red light or a stop sign, it makes one angry at bike riders who do that as they increase the chance of a law abiding careful driver one day hitting a biker and paying the price for the biker's bad behavior. When you ride a bike and do follow the rules of the road, it is very frustrating to have cars back out into the bike lane without the driver taking a look, or barge out in front of the oncoming bike because it's just a bike, how much harm can it do, and anyway it can swerve. What ever happened with that car, whether the driver swerved because a bike darted out from nowhere - which seems likely - or the driver was going too fast for conditions - which seems likely - or what ever else, let's all try and be more careful and considerate as we navigate on the road. We'll all be safer and happier.

Posted by Charleston biker, a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 4, 2012 at 11:39 am

I have been bicycling and driving Charleston for many years. It is MUCH safer for bicyclists now. It will be better when the median area is landscaped as planned.

The city has already been awarded a grant to get this next phase of the project started. I, for one, appreciate the calmer, safer road environment and I'm looking forward to the lovely new trees.

I hope we will not continue emotionally speculating about the cause of the accident. We just don't know. It was not reported. Generally speaking, when equipment fails or people make mistakes, slower speeds minimize negative outcomes.

Nonetheless, more enforcment would be helpful across the board. PAPD is down a lot of staff.

Please share the road legally and considerately.

Posted by Chuck, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 4, 2012 at 11:57 am

There's no reason to assume that the car was travelling faster than the speed limit. There are many scenarios in which a car can turn over. Driver talking to passengers, is startled by the traffic light changing or by a pedestrian in a crosswalk, turns the wheels and brakes at the same time, tire hits the curb and launches the car which was already leaning the other way.

This happened at dusk, when bad visibility can lead to surprises and when homegoing commuters are distracted.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 4, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Small pet peeve: "PA drivers are ________". Fill in the blank with some sort of negative term.

As far as anyone knows, the driver's city of residence is not known.

Posted by Chuck, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 4, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Yes, and people should learn the difference between "reign" and "rein". Not to mention "rain".

Posted by j99, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 4, 2012 at 12:38 pm

The roads were narrowed to make it hard to get on the freeways and to cause delays on Charleston traffic. This shows that it has no influence on accidents. Probably caused by a bicycle or student jaywalking. Palo Alto residents are just so politically correct and jump at every chance to make life miserable for other Palo Alto residents. Everyone involved with "traffic calming" is just an idiot.
Instead of wasting money on narrowing Charleston/Arastadero the money should have been given to the Palo Alto Animal Shelter to do soemthing useful with.

Posted by KCH, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 4, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Speaking of safety. We need a lighted on demand crosswalk where Louis Road and Montrose meet E. Charleston Road. People use that crosswalk now at great risk because cars speed around the corner going west and barely agree to stop for anyone unlucky enough to be in a crosswalk. After dark it's a hundred times worse.

Posted by mutti, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 4, 2012 at 1:33 pm

I walked by shortly after the accident. It appeared that the car hit the curb/tree/sign-post just east of the intersection. It then flipped and landed upside down in the middle of everything. Car had the green light, but driver drifted too far right and hit objects that flipped the car. Driver was talking/texting?? Definitely was distracted, I think.

Posted by Life biker, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 4, 2012 at 2:35 pm

I never bikeride that section of Charleston anymore. The drivers, who mostly think
that each of their individual destinations have priority over everyone else's, drive too, too fast and pay too little attention to the road or the surroundings, including other vehicles or pedestrians. it is just suicidal.

BTW, the first ambulance was on the scene helping the driver out of his car by 4:30 pm, so the accident must have happened earlier than stated.

Posted by Wallace, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 4, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Did anyone else see the guy who drove on the Middlefield curb, through the Piazza's parking lot, and back on the road, just to get out of there as fast as he could?

Posted by Rusty, a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 4, 2012 at 2:47 pm

@Wallace, I saw that dude! #whatwashethinking

Contrast that dude with the cute Nanny that left the baby in the stroller to go help. I'm sure the parents would have been pissed she left the kid alone, but kudos to her for being a good Samaritan.

Posted by Bike Rider, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 4, 2012 at 3:17 pm

I just have to add that driving too fast for conditions has almost no relation to the posted speed limits. If you are texting, or if it is dark, or if there's a lot of traffic, or if you can't see what might be coming into your path, or if there are small children walking nearby, or if you're tired, etc., etc., etc., you need to adjust your speed to the appropriate level, even if this means you do not go forward at all until conditions improve. If your eyes are not on what's going on in front of your car, you should not be pressing the accelerator. This is not only safe, it is common sense. If your car hits someone or something, it means you were driving too fast for conditions, except in the rare instance where someone else makes an egregious error and gets in your way.

Posted by atthecorner, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 4, 2012 at 5:13 pm

In case it can do any good, I want to give a general reminder to locals to be patient and responsible when the police and EMTs are doing their jobs. This is directed at everyone: pedestrians and cyclists and drivers should all should behave properly when police are giving direction on a roadway.

The behavior at the scene while the EMTs were there, was shockingly impatient, with pedestrians pushing to cross the road mere feet from the scene of the accident and drivers honking. After the EMTs left and the police were directing traffic to clear the backup, it got even worse, with multiple cyclists outright ignoring Police traffic direction, forcing cars that had been given the right of way by an officer to stop unexpectedly.

Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 4, 2012 at 6:37 pm

Donald of South of Midtown states that the speed limit is 25 MPH because that is what is posted, he is wrong. The speed limit is mandated by State law and the 25 MPH signs were installed by the City many years ago.

I was at a City Council meeting several years ago when Council discussed removing all the 25 MPH signs because the streets have to comply with the 85th percentile State rule. However, it was decided that they should remain to avoid confusion.

Posted by another neighbor, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 4, 2012 at 7:11 pm

25mph is the maximum safe speed. Reckless drivers like "Neighbor of Adobe-Meadows" who ignore the speed limits are constantly crashing into other cars and running over pedestrians. Overriding any posted speed limits, you are required by law to drive at a speed that is safe for the road conditions. The police can and should enforce this safe speed limit, which may be lower than the posted speed limit, especially on residential streets with pedestrians or when the road is slippery or when visibility is limited. Throw the book at reckless drivers. That will make our streets safer.

Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 4, 2012 at 9:26 pm

I suspect that Neighbor's information is more than a few years old. There have been changes in the laws favoring safety over speed in the last decade or so. Here is an excerpt from California Vehicle Code Section 22352, last modified in 2001. It can be found at:

Web Link

V C Section 22352 Prima Facie Speed Limits

Prima Facie Speed Limits

22352. (a) The prima facie limits are as follows and shall be applicable unless changed as authorized in this code and, if so changed, only when signs have been erected giving notice thereof:

(1) Fifteen miles per hour:

(2) Twenty-five miles per hour:

(A) On any highway other than a state highway, in any business or residence district unless a different speed is determined by local authority under procedures set forth in this code.

(B) When approaching or passing a school building or the grounds thereof, contiguous to a highway and posted with a standard "SCHOOL" warning sign,...

(C) When passing a senior center or other facility primarily used by senior citizens, ...

(b) This section shall become operative on March 1, 2001.

So, in a designated school zone or in a residential district, the speed limit is 25 mph unless set otherwise and posted by signs.

Posted by dave, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 4, 2012 at 10:48 pm

I checked the Calif. Vehicle Code Handbook, 2008 (I didn't have ready access to the 2012 issue)page 380, paragraphs 22348 to 22366. There were references to prima facie laws governing speed limits, but no reference to an 85th percentile or what it means. More research in order.

Posted by 25's it, a resident of Greater Miranda
on Dec 5, 2012 at 12:07 am

@ Dsve.

CA's VC's online. Start here: Web Link

Posted by Newton, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 5, 2012 at 9:06 am

Typical selfish Palo Alto driver getting just what they deserve.
Great job Karma! Well done Physics!!! More please!

Posted by another neighbor, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 5, 2012 at 9:43 am

It is easy to thank Karma when a single car crash occurs. Unfortunately, reckless drivers often kill innocent people. Too often, even pedestrians who thought they were safe on the sidewalk are killed by reckless drivers who lose control of their cars.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 6, 2012 at 1:25 pm

@ Newton: How do you know the driver is from Palo Alto?

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