Car crashes into garage in south Palo Alto | News | Palo Alto Online |


Car crashes into garage in south Palo Alto

Homeowner left garage roughly two minutes before vehicle rammed inside

Firefighters responded to an emergency at a home at Wilkie Way and West Charleston Road, where a car had run into the garage on Sept. 1, 2017. Photo by Keith Peters.

A Palo Alto woman who has attended to many car-accident victims in front of her home narrowly missed being struck by a car that crashed into her garage late Friday morning.

Homeowner Kausalya Ganapathi said she and her husband moved into the home in 2011. She has given water and offered help and encouragement to a number of people who have been involved in crashes near their house on the corner of Wilkie Way and West Charleston Road, but this latest accident was personal.

She had left her garage after doing laundry just two minutes before a silver Subaru Legacy rammed through her fence and into the building, stopping just inches from where she had been standing, she said. Still shaken an hour later, she made her way through the splintered pieces of her front yard fence, past the gaping hole that was once the side of her garage. She stared at the street, then her eyes wandered up the sidewalk and over the landscaping rock in her yard.

"There are no skid marks," she noted, still visibly shaken.

She was taking things out to the trash bins next to the garage door while talking on the phone with a relative. Then she noticed a man in his 30s lying in the middle of the intersection with his downed motorbike.

"I thought that someone on the ground had gotten hit," she said she told the relative. "And then I saw my fence flying and I heard a big kerboomp. I came around to the front and saw a car had crashed through my garage. A man was standing beside it," she said.

The driver, who was in his 60s, stepped out of the car and said he was all right, Ganapathi said.

After speaking with the driver, she learned the man on the motorbike was heading west on West Charleston Road and had made a left turn onto Wilkie Way. The signal has no left-turn arrow, so that makes drivers have to turn into oncoming traffic. The Subaru driver was heading east when he saw the motorcyclist on the road and made a sharp turn to avoid a collision, smashing into Ganapathi's fence and garage instead.

The Subaru driver said he had to drive onto her property or he would've killed the motorcyclist, according to Ganapathi.

Police officers and emergency crews were called to the scene in the 4200 block of Wilkie Way around 11 a.m. after a community services officer witnessed the crash, police said. The motorcyclist fell off his bike and complained of pain, but no one was transported to a hospital, police Sgt. Nic Martinez said. No injuries were reported and no arrests or citations were made, according to Martinez.

Ganapathi said she wants the city to install left-turn signals at the intersection in all four directions. The street is busy with bicyclists, including many schoolchildren, as well as bustling traffic.

"I'm the one calling the police and helping to give water and comfort people after the accidents," Ganapathi said. "I was two minutes from being struck in my garage today. It just missed me."


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3 people like this
Posted by Train Neighbor
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 1, 2017 at 2:05 pm

Glad no one was hurt!

There IS a traffic light at W. Charleston and Wilkie.

19 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 1, 2017 at 2:26 pm

When I learned to drive, I was taught to use the brake pedal to avoid a collision. Are kids these days taught to not brake and use the steering wheel instead? Seems to me that is a huge mistake since in an emergency situation, you don't have enough time to judge which direction is safe to steer towards and you could easily cause a worse collision. Using the brake pedal technique, I have never been in a collision. The brake pedal technique should be even safer in modern cars that have ABS brakes.

7 people like this
Posted by Chuck
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 1, 2017 at 4:18 pm

[Post removed.]

5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 1, 2017 at 4:29 pm

Will the motorcyclist be charged?

9 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 1, 2017 at 4:52 pm

"Only in Palo Alto.. smh smh . Use your brakes. The thing on the left.. Come on people.."

I surmise you don't drive very much, or you'd know that sometimes brakes are not enough.

1 person likes this
Posted by Chuck
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 1, 2017 at 5:28 pm

[Post removed.]

11 people like this
Posted by bicyclist
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 1, 2017 at 7:22 pm

@Train Neighbor, the light at Wilkie and West Charleston doesn't have a protected left hand turn. The motorcyclist seems to have tried to make this unprotected left but misjudged the distance between himself and the Subaru, which had to veer to avoid him. Depending on the distance, the traffic behind the Subaru, the speed at which both vehicles were moving, and a half-dozen other factors, braking may or may not have been sufficient in preventing this accident.

Glad nobody was hurt.

21 people like this
Posted by Drivrt
a resident of Mayfield
on Sep 1, 2017 at 8:25 pm

If the car drove off the road and through a house wall on a 25mph street, the driver obviously did not brake at all.

Posted by Forever Blocked
a resident of Gunn High School

on Sep 1, 2017 at 10:41 pm

Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.

20 people like this
Posted by Eric
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 1, 2017 at 10:55 pm

The speed limit on Charleston is 25 mph. At 25 mph, a car is moving 36 feet per second. It takes only 30 feet to stop once you apply the brakes. Now a driver in his 60s may not have the best reaction times, but it still seems likely that excessive speed was involved for the car to swerve and travel through someone's yard and through a wall before coming to a stop.

10 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 2, 2017 at 12:29 am

Seems like a driver needs to be an ex-driver ... very bad skills and decision making. Glad the resident was not hurt. I know it happens, but I don't get it ... How do you run into a house ??

Oh, and Eric ... "Now a driver in his 60s may not have the best reaction times," I hope that was sarcastic. I don't know how old you are, but 60 is not the end life for most of us. Maybe go talk, bike ride, drive or get to know some older people ... they are not so decrepit as you seem to think ... especially at 60. 60 is the new 30 ;-) .... and a sizable percentage of over 50's have a lot of f'n sense, morals and integrity, not to mention the diplomacy to not insult people at random - excluding our current President of course. Oh, and older people do not have to speak at machine gun speed either, even in driving it is not how fact usually, but how well. Peace.

3 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 2, 2017 at 12:48 am

Also sounds like this intersection needs a look over since the resident mentions caring for previous accident victims.

25 mph speed limit is not for going through an intersection after braking or while turning.

At this point Charleston seems to be going SW / NE ... not really west. Virtual west. There are 4 car lanes and 2 bike lanes here, seems like a lot of room. Maybe between Ruthelma and Wilkie Way they need to squeeze down to one lane sooner and more gradually. Motorcyclists and bicyclists need to pay a lot better attention and be more risk averse.

-- Ganapathi said she wants the city to install left-turn signals at the intersection in all four directions.

Good idea.

I hope technology comes to the rescue again and we get automatic braking and collusion avoidance. Maybe the driver could not stop in time but a computer probably could have, Palo Alto's attempts at safety are 180 degrees counter to drivers wanting to go faster and faster and complain more and more, be distracted more and more and entertained more and more ... and it already does not add up. It takes too much concentration for most people to drive competently so they cheat, speed, run stopsigns, etc. There are residential areas and seems people do not think about that at all.

I am not sure I would ever feel safe again in my house if a car crashed into it? Glad no one was seriously hurt.

3 people like this
Posted by Michele
a resident of Addison School
on Sep 2, 2017 at 6:49 am

The photos were amazing. Taken by Keith Peters. Also so glad nobody was hurt.

8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2017 at 8:00 am

For a car to actually break through and end up in the garage, I would imagine that the driver still had a foot on the gas pedal. Otherwise, I could see the car hitting the side of the garage and doing damage, but probably not going through.

I wonder what the insurance battle will be like for this!

14 people like this
Posted by I live on this street
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 2, 2017 at 10:35 am

People do NOT drive 25mph on Charleston! It's more like 40-50mph. Add some speed bumps, solid medians and reduce lanes. Incorporate cameras and speed traps. People still driving while texting for Gds sake; I see it daily.

2 people like this
Posted by ndn
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 2, 2017 at 11:28 am

And just as I was thinking that second guessing, after the fact with no hindsight comments were getting so sparse that congratulations were in order, there comes a report that prompts all kinds of know-it-alls out of the woodwork.
When you are in an accident there is no time to think what the best course of action to take. You can't stop and suspend the action so that you can think the best course. The driver did what he thought was best and in the confusion ( that even 17 year olds would have felt ) he did what came to him as best. That's how accidents happen. He saw a motorcycle in front of him and turned the steering wheel to avoid it. He ended up in a garage. I too was a victim ( my house was, the car missed the gas line by about an inch and my family and a friend was inside) of this kind of thing. The motorcyclist misjudge, the car driver did what he could to avoid crashing into the motorcyclist. An accident, that's all there was.

The city should really put directional lights on that corner.

5 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 2, 2017 at 1:46 pm

Dear Neighbor,
Thank goodness you are ok!

8 people like this
Posted by Greg
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 2, 2017 at 7:16 pm

[Portion removed.]

If you cannot stop in an orderly manner for the unexpected you are driving too fast for conditions.

3 people like this
Posted by Sports Guy
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 2, 2017 at 7:40 pm

Sports Guy is a registered user.

Thanks Michele. My wife Debbie and I were driving by just a few minutes after the accident. She noticed the car in the garage and told me to head back. Fortunately, no one was hurt. There was a huge response team, which included vehicles from Mountain View. The situation was handled very well by the police and fire departments.

5 people like this
Posted by Rules of Road save lives
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 2, 2017 at 9:21 pm

Yes it's a 3 day weekend and whoever it was from Weekly staff was probably rushing to get the story up first. But this sentence in the story about the traffic signal at Charleston and Wilkie Way is just plain wrong:
"The signal has no left-turn arrow, so that makes drivers have to turn into oncoming traffic."
Bottom line: A collision occurred due to unsafe choices made by both the motorcyclist and by the driver of the Subaru Legacy -- it was no accident.

Stated fact is that that _motorcyclist_ heading west was making a left onto Wilkie. This means that he turned to cross the eastbound traffic lane and the law requires that he yielding to the oncoming traffic until it was safe for him to make the turn. His failure to yield is the basic cause of the collision. It was a CHOICE for the motorcyclist not to yield -- nothing "made" the motorcyclist do this.

Yes, from the lack of skid marks and the damage to the house, it seems clear that the driver heading east on Charleston was speeding, so that may be a secondary cause of the collision. But this is also a choice by the driver which increases risk of injury/death/property damage.

Crashes aren't accidents, and whoever wrote this story should not make nonsense statements excusing unsafe choices by those operating motorized transport with the potential to injure or kill other users of the road or people in their own garages.

6 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 3, 2017 at 1:51 am

-- This wasn't an accident. It was negligent driving by the driver. No excuse.
-- If you cannot stop in an orderly manner for the unexpected you are driving too fast for conditions.

I understand your sentiment and to a large extent I agree with it, but applying
that to reality is very difficult. Look at the many famous people and celebrities
that have done much worse damage and how they are treated. If we are to
have justice, where all are treated uniformly, then coming down on celebrities or
the rich which historically has been "token" in our justice system is privileged

So, the acknowledgement of a space between an unavoidable accident and
negligence, incompetence or just a mistake and error in judgement must be

What our business and government do not seem to get is how this shifts
the focus of how our legal system works to pro-activeness, best practices,
and continual process improvement ... which is in its infancy as far as how and
where it can be utilized.

The fact that the resident whose garage was crashed into had dealt with
many accidents in this location means that our city government dropped the
ball. That is where effort can most effectively be focused, but our current
system and management of city government however much they might like
to focus on the positive spin, is failing.

I am not positive about this, but I think in Palo Alto, as a microcosm of what
is wrong with our state and federal government in this regard is that money
is funnelled too high up - too many chiefs who design the system where
only chiefs can do anything - and there are so many that few of them have
sufficient resources to deal with their responsibilities. A vertical hierarchy
exists that continually gets taller and more elite and opaque and contributes
to all the things that plague our country systemically.

Knowing that we can never achieve it 100% we have to idiot-proof our
traffic system. There are systematic ways to do that are obviously not being
done, or when they are they are isolated photo-ops so to speak to pretend
that the government is working while most of us know the top levels of
most organizations are partying and figuring ouy ways to control more money
and resources at the expense of the system working and cost of this kind
of incident.

Could our city government improve my being more transparent and having
an organization open to the public, but that will not be disrupted by the
public that can react, find, prioritize, analyze, and improve problems and
pattern recognize problems in its own process?

As a whole society we have reached the limits of what we can manage and
increasingly it doesn't work, so systemic changes with everything on the
table must be considered if we want to be serious. Donald Trump is an
example of flailing out of desperation ... we are at a precarious state at
many levels.

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