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Charges dropped in Palo Alto bus fatality

Original post made on Dec 13, 2012

A SamTrans bus driver facing a vehicular-manslaughter charge after her bus struck a pedestrian in Palo Alto in 2010 was exonerated Wednesday after the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office dropped the charges. ==B Related stories:==
• [Web Link Woman killed by bus in Palo Alto is identified]
• [Web Link Bus driver charged with vehicular manslaughter]

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, December 13, 2012, 9:37 AM

Comments (21)

Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 13, 2012 at 10:23 am

It's a shame that it has taken this long to dispose of this case. There was little public evidence of this incident's being more than a tragic accident. Tying up this lady's life for two years was unreasonable on the part of the SCC District Attorney's Office.


Posted by Janet L, a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 13, 2012 at 10:44 am

Why did the DA drop the charges? The driver clearly made a mistake that resulted in the death of an innocent woman. When officials keep letting off drivers who kill and injure people through negligence, what does it say about our society?

To me it's saying: cross the road at your own risk, be prepared to run if a driver doesn't yield your right of way, and if you're too old, too young or too disabled to get out of the way that's too bad. Ooops. Sorry.

Are these the kinds of cities and neighborhoods we want?


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 13, 2012 at 11:23 am

Tying up the lady's life for 2 years?????????? What about the loved ones of the victim, for pity's sake?

I hope the pathetic driver finds a new career.

Now, time to fix that lousy intersection.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 13, 2012 at 11:32 am

This is a sad story all round. Obviously the victim's family have had their lives changed for ever, but so has the driver.

What it really says is that we should never cross the road without paying attention to what is going on. We should never expect a car or bus to stop for us so make sure that all traffic is stopped before crossing. It is better to be in the right and alive, than being in the right but dead.


Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 13, 2012 at 11:44 am

> what does it say about our society?

It says that we are mature enough (as a society) to recognize that there are situations that occur in modern life where humans sometimes fail to "follow the rules", often causing damage to others at times—but not through any malice on the part of those making these mistakes. It means we understand the meaning of the word "accident".

The Palo Alto Police had little recourse other than to refer this matter to the District Attorney for resolution—since a person had been killed. But proving negligence to the point of "manslaughter" would have been very difficult—particularly since pedestrians have a responsibility to be aware of their surroundings, even though they may have the "right of way". The consequences of "walking blind" are very harsh, as possibly was the case in this situation.

By-and-large, bus drivers don't hit many pedestrians in Palo Alto. So, it would be difficult for the DA to point to a long history of irresponsible driving on the part of this driver, or bus drivers, in general (where pedestrian safety is concerned). This accident occurred because of the angle of the sun, the pedestrian being in the cross walk, and the driver's not being able to clearly see the complete area in front of her—but advancing the bus anyway. Three almost totally random events that intersected for a brief moment in time—resulting in the death of the pedestrian.

This death was not that of some drunk driver barreling into a crowd, it was the result of a momentary lapse of judgment—no more, no less.

Presumably the deceased's family has been compensated by the bus operator (meaning the taxpayers, and or the carrier's insurance company). This driver should also not be rehired—regardless of what her Union says, to the contrary. One fatal mistake should be the limit for bus drivers.

> What about the loved ones of the victim, for pity's sake?

Their lives have been tied up too. Unless you believe in an "eye for an eye"—and expected the DA to seek the death penalty for this bus driver, this case should have been more readily resolved as a tragic accident.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 13, 2012 at 12:12 pm

I am sure it was an accident, ie. that the driver did not see the women, but was she actively looking hard enough to me is the question? That is what a professional driver needs to do - because otherwise they are so absorbed in getting that bus moving fast to stay on schedule, or behaving automatically.

Surely not a criminal act, but not the act of a professional driver meticulously keeping track of where he/she is and what is happening around him/her. When you are a bus driver if you do not do your job people can be injured or die as a result.

I remember reading about this tragedy, and thinking, there is just no reason a bus driver should miss seeing a person around their bus. If there is then there is a workplace safety issue.

More important than punishment in my opinion, because the driver certainly did not seek to kill or hurt anyone, is figuring out what happened and doing whatever is necessary to change the bus, or train the drivers to make sure it never happens again.

I just think of me walking downtown, the last thing on my mind would be dying, and then getting hit, sucked under, and crushed by a bus.

I have a friend who has a relative who was killed in a bus accident in Boston. In the intersection many people die or are hurt there chronically. Just what is going on when these things happen? Buses ought to have black boxes with cameras on them that record what is going on around the bus and what is going on with the driver. Having a camera trained on them all day long would add to the conscientiousness of any driver - because anyone who runs over someone did something wrong - even if it was not criminal. Having a display in the bus might also allow drivers to see more what is happening around their buses.

Sadly it is to the everyone's detriment that the motivation for the bus driver is to just say as little as possible - in this case, she says she just did not see the pedestrian. It must be a nightmare, but why did not see the pedestrian ... the answer was not the pedestrian was hiding, it is probably that the driver was either too busy or distracted.


Posted by Good , a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 13, 2012 at 12:17 pm

This is a good decision. The driver was clearly upset and it was an accident. She is already serving time (metaphorically) because it will affect her the rest of her life.

And yes, bikers and pedestrians have to watch out for themselves despite crosswalks and traffic signals. It doesn't matter if they had the right of way if they are injured or dead.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 13, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Anon

Yes, I actually do think every time I cross the street that I might get hit by a car, a bike or a bus unless I look properly beforehand - even in a crosswalk. There is even an expression "I might get hit by a bus tomorrow" meaning that we don't know how long we have to live on this Earth.

Please look before you cross any street, any time, any place - just in case.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 13, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Resident, I'm glad you look and think when you are crossing the street ... I think most of us learn that at around age 5 ... so what is the implication of your having to say that? Are you trying to say that the pedestrian here is somehow at fault?

As I understand California law it is up to the driver to avoid the pedestrian under all circumstances to the best of their ability. Presumably a professional driver is trained and has all the requisite faculties and resources to be able to do that under all cases. It appears something went wrong here.


Posted by Scholar, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 13, 2012 at 1:44 pm

I agree with Anon. Also there might be a hidden prejudice by the D.A. in favor of a bus driver (fellow public service employee) compared to a pedestrian. Birds of a feather.


Posted by Ree, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 13, 2012 at 1:57 pm

This was a tragic accident. I feel for both the victim's family and the Bus driver. I had an incident while driving with my daughter, when I turned a corner and was blinded by the sun on my windshield. I immediately said to my daughter as I slowed down (there were cars right on my bumper)I'm blind here! She told me there was no one in the crosswalk. So I can understand how something tragic can happen in an instant, without "negligence" being a factor. Sad all the way around!


Posted by Ducatigirl, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 13, 2012 at 2:10 pm

From what I have read in two ther publications, the poor driver had the sun in her eyes and was blinded by it. The judge took a ride in the same bus at the same time of morning in the same location at the same time of year, to re-enact the accident, and found he too was blinded by the sun. Also, the victim cut a corner from where she had parked her car and ran to the crosswalk, stepping into it without looking. Witnesses testified to it. The bus had an on-board camera at the time of the accident which backed all of this up.

It was terrible and tragic for everyone involved. The poor driver paled and nearly fainted when told she had hit someone. She was so heartsick she quit driving buses. She was neither negligent or remorseless. It was a case of accidental death, not intentional.

Yes, the poor husband and family have had a dreadfully tragic loss that cannot be replaced, but the poor driver has to live with herself and her remorse for the rest of her life. No one got off scot-free in this. The blame is on fate.

What should be done now is to find out if there is something that can be done to ease the glare of the mid-morning sun in the windshield of these buses and improve vision for the drivers faced with this. This was not the first time this had happened at that particular intersection, and it could so easily happen again.

My heart goes out to everyone involved in this.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 13, 2012 at 2:22 pm

Joe said:
> The Palo Alto Police had little recourse other than to refer this matter to the District Attorney for resolution—since a person had been killed. But proving negligence to the point of "manslaughter" would have been very difficult—particularly since pedestrians have a responsibility to be aware of their surroundings, even though they may have the "right of way". The consequences of "walking blind" are very harsh, as possibly was the case in this situation.


Joe ... you talk about "walking blind", well think about the absurdness of that. Actual blind people with seeing eye dogs and canes have to navigate this world, and they are always "walking blind". You seem to imply that there is a negligence on the part of pedestrians in this kind of thing, and I disagree or just this reason. Handicapped or older people are sometimes unable to be as aware of their

When someone, anyone, in any state, at any time, under any road or traffic conditions is walking across a public road it is the driver's responsibility to avoid hitting them - period.

Aside from pathological cases where someone might fall or jump out in front of a car a certified and experience trained professional driver should NEVER have a situation where they hit or run over someone. Even if it makes them late, or get a ticket, or stay in the intersection too long ... whatever.

It could almost be understandable if it had been a regular car or SUV driver, most people are not professional or even good drivers, but in downtown Palo Alto there needs to be a reason here for what and how this happened. I have a hard time seeing how this driver was at fault .... and it doesn't lessen my concern to think the driver might have been distracted.

The balance to this situation is - does it do any good or save the public from any harm to punish the driver? It is a complicated question that I don't know the answer to, I just bring it up for consideration.


Posted by Janet L, a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 13, 2012 at 3:18 pm

The article said "Krishnan was nearly halfway across the crosswalk -- about 18 feet from the southeast curb" This isn't the case that she stepped into a roadway without looking. Quit blaming the victim. And more importantly, quit thinking that it couldn't happen to you some day you are crossing the street.


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 13, 2012 at 4:28 pm

>> anyone who runs over someone did something wrong

I imagined substituting Caltrain driver for bus driver in these comments. Apples and oranges? Or are Caltrains being driven too fast for conditions? The consensus is to blame the design of the intersection, not either of the human parties.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 13, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Musical ... yes, the intersection is thought to have problems ... but it's not the only intersection of its kind, and there are not "accidents" there all the time. The bus driver presumably drove through there before, maybe often.

When an intersection is complicated of problematic to me, I slow down and make double sure I know what's going on.

I think it's clear that anyone that hits someone is missing something. It may not have been intentional but when someone is trained to drive a big vehicle they are doing something wrong if they are not super-careful 100% of the time.


Posted by jan, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 13, 2012 at 10:41 pm

Bus Drivers--Please USE a VISOR that stops GLARE yet you can see thru it!!!!!!
I'm sure that can be put into the buses.
It can make a difference.
Very sorry that the pedestrian is dead.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 14, 2012 at 12:49 pm

If we have bus drivers that say ... oh no, I'm blinded by the sun ... better just keep going ... we are going to have more pedestrians mowed down.

That is the wrong thing to do. If you have no or low visibility, slow down or stop until you can see - period - or go very very very slow.


Posted by ndnorth, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 14, 2012 at 8:44 pm

I remember this accident. The driver of any large vehicle is unable to see most of what is directly and close to him/her. That is because of a physics problem not negligence. Even if a driver is 100% attentive these kinds of accidents do happen. All depend on the exact circumstances. In this case the DA concluded that this was a tragic accident.

Please teach your family to walk in front of a large vehicle waving an arm upwards so as to make sure they are seen even on a marked crosswalk on the pedestrian light on.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 15, 2012 at 5:47 am

> That is because of a physics problem not negligence.

You'd have to prove that to me, I don't believe it, and even if you cannot see, you should not drive in the middle of a city street somewhere where you cannot see directly what is in front of you.


Posted by ndnorth, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 15, 2012 at 10:47 am

Anon wrote : the physics' problem you can reenact. Put an object that's smaller than the height of the hood of your car in front of the car very close to it. Then get in the car. You can't see the object.


The other physics problem is SUDDEN sun blindness. You are seeing fine but when you change direction SUDDENLY you are blinded by the sun and for a split second you can't see. How is this negligence?


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