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Police: Driver at fault for hitting pedestrians

Original post made on Dec 5, 2012

The 89-year-old driver of a vehicle that struck and seriously injured two women in an El Camino Real crosswalk Sept. 30 was speeding and at fault for the collision, an Atherton Police Department investigation has concluded.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, December 5, 2012, 7:14 PM

Comments (18)

Posted by not an accident
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 5, 2012 at 9:37 pm

If there were "sight impediments", then he should have slowed down well ahead of time. If there were no "sight impediments", then he would have had a clear view of the victims as he plowed into them.

Slow down and pay attention people! Very lucky that these two women survived. Does anyone know if they have fully recovered by now?

Posted by Pedestrian
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 5, 2012 at 10:34 pm

Please slow down, specially when pedestrians are about to cross.

Posted by Karen
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 6, 2012 at 5:31 am

At 89 years of age, it may be time for Willie to stop driving.

Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 6, 2012 at 6:28 am

I don't know of any other country in which 89 year olds are allowed to drive although I suppose there are some. I am an excellent driver in perfect health and am naturally gifted with excellent reflexes and at 55 I am keenly aware that my reflexes and the speed at which I perceive and react to sudden changes in traffic circumstances are clearly slower compared to what they were only a few years ago.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2012 at 8:01 am

I wish there was more information here. The fact that this elderly driver was a fault is not surprising. He may not have had a sight impediment but he definitely had a response impediment and obviously should not be driving. What is surprising is that there is no mention of whether he has had his license taken away.

I am pleased to hear that both the victims are recovering.

Lastly, what about some flashing lights imbedded in the roadway at crosswalks along ECR that have to be activated by the pedestians wishing to cross. This would man that sight impediments would not be an issue if other traffic was blocking them from being seen. This seems to be the perfect places for these flashing imbed lights.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2012 at 8:22 am

If accidents routinely happen at the same location, it's a design problem. You can blame people all day and night but the deaths will continue until the design of the intersection is changed.

...a designer would look at the perspective of drivers in various circumstances, and the perspective of pedestrians in various circumstances and then combine them in scenarios to see where the conflicts in use occur. Then change the design - trying to anticipate any unanticipated consequences - to create a functional intersection for all.

The tendency to blame, blame, blame.. is amazingly easy to do, but it doesn't work.

Posted by Blame
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 6, 2012 at 10:57 am


I have to admit that I have no problem assigning blame to someone that is going 30% faster than the speed limit and fails to obey they law that requires drivers to stop when pedestrians are in a cross walk.

You appear to be "blaming" the design of the intersection. I would blame the driver and hope the two pedestrians fully and quickly recover.

Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 6, 2012 at 11:20 am

Blame -
I would tend to agree with you except that this is the second accident in two years at this pedestrian crossing. I have to think that the crossing itself might be improved to make it clearer that pedestrians are present.
If you check the intersection in Street View you can see that vegetation and signage are a problem on the west side of ECR at this intersection. The article doesn't mention which lane they were in when they were hit but if they were just entering the intersection from the west side, I could understand how they might have blended in with the ivy, shrubs, telephone pole and signage that crowd this side of the highway.
I think Resident's suggestion of embedding flashing lights in the crosswalk is worth considering. It's used elsewhere along this stretch of El Camino and it's very effective at alerting drivers to the presence of pedestrians.

Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 6, 2012 at 11:33 am

One other observation:
The lack of sidewalks along this stretch of ECR puts pedestrians at a serious disadvantage. Sidewalks and their curbs provide a natural protection to pedestrians while, at the same time, keeping vegetation away from the roadway where it can't obscure them to oncoming traffic.
Why does Atherton allow this pedestrian hazard to persist while most (all?)communities north & south of here have long since installed sidewalks for their residents?

Posted by Gethin
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 6, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Why isn't running over two pedestrians while you are speeding a crime? Will the DMV be notified? Will he have to attend traffic school?

Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 6, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Not to excuse the driver in this accident but most folks drive about five miles over the 35MPH posted limit on ECR. I know, I drive it every day or so and I'm just keeping up with traffic at 40MPH.
As long as CALTRANS lets Atherton treat this state highway as a country lane pedestrians and bikers are going to continue to be at risk here.

Posted by Elwood Blues
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 6, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Elwood Blues is a registered user.

What was the outcome of Mayor Widmer's strongly worded letter to Caltrans?

Web Link

Palo Alto Online could do the community a service by following up on this story.

Highly dangerous conditions have been allowed to persist on this stretch of El Camino for far too long.

Posted by downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 6, 2012 at 3:20 pm

The driver was speeding & the pedestrians were crossing at a dangerous place - no stop sign, signal, or lighted crosswalk. ECR is a state highway, 6 lanes wide. Cyclists southbound on ECR through Atherton are at great risk too, as any so-called bike lane there is narrow & overgrown with shrubbery & debris. Atherton, or CalTrans should clean up the easement and extend the paved area.

I hope both women have fully recovered and that pedestrians will use controlled intersections to cross El Camino. I hope Willie has really good insurance & will have to retake a road test to continue to drive.

Posted by Dan
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 6, 2012 at 4:30 pm

The PAPD will not be filing criminal charges, but the driver could still be subject to a civil suit. He's clearly at fault.

Posted by Agism
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 6, 2012 at 4:33 pm

Why do some jump to the conclusion that age is an important factor? There are 90 year olds who run marathons, work full time, ride bicycles, travel extensively, are sharp as a tack in their thinking, and there are 30 year olds who are dumb as dirt - and have very slow reflexes and reaction time. It's not about age - it's about capability and skill!!!

Posted by Mountain View Resident
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 6, 2012 at 5:29 pm

On Showers Drive in Mountain View, they have the lighted crosswalk near Walmart and it is very helpful because drivers are alerted that someone is stepping into the street to cross in the crosswalk. I highly recommend these for Atherton, because it would probably save some accidents and injuries, too.

Posted by LCD
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 6, 2012 at 6:24 pm

When you design for the lowest common denominator you end up with just that. When you accomodate incompetent drivers instead of punishing them you end up with roads full of incompetent drivers, as we have today. Adding signs, flashing lights, horns, etc. to get the attention of drivers just means that when there are no flashing lights they will not look for pedestrians. This is not the solution, although it may be all that engineers can do. We need better education, testing and enforcement instead of relying on the engineers.

Posted by ndnorth
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 6, 2012 at 7:44 pm

ECR is a dangerous crossing everywhere (6 lanes or 4 lanes). Jay walking while crossing is a very problematic thing because nobody can devine what the next move of the pedestrian is going to be. I've seen pedestrians almost jumping into the path of a car not realizing that it's not possible for the driver to see the pedestrian and immediately stop. I'm afraid that suburbanites are really not equipped to be pedestrians. Try that in one of the major cities and see what happens....

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