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Posts from the Car Crashes Category


DUI Driver Arrested for Killing Man on Potrero Avenue Near Highway 101

The approximate area on Potrero, approaching the Bayshore onramp, where the man was reportedly killed. Photo: Google Maps

Details updated 5:30 p.m.

A man was killed by an allegedly drunk pickup truck driver early Friday morning at 12:39 a.m. near a vehicle ramp connecting southbound Potrero Avenue to Bayshore Boulevard over Cesar Chavez Street, according to SFPD spokesperson Michael Andraychak.

The driver, 25-year-old Caitlin Rea of San Francisco, was arrested for driving under the influence and felony vehicular manslaughter in the death of the unidentified man, who is estimated to be in his thirties, according to police. The victim was reportedly in the road and not in a crosswalk.

Drivers travel fast at the junction of Cesar Chavez and Highway 101, known as “the Hairball,” and it remains notoriously dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists. It’s not clear from the report where exactly the victim was killed, but the nearest crosswalks on that stretch of Potrero, at Cesar Chavez and 25th Street, are roughly 1,056 feet apart, judging by Google Maps. A fence was installed there by the Department of Public Works in 2009 to discourage pedestrians from crossing, despite the Municipal Transportation Agency neglecting to add a crosswalk and traffic calming measures called for by residents and pedestrian safety advocates.

“This whole area is incredibly unfriendly and unsafe for walking right now, and local workers and residents have been asking for new crosswalks and other improvements,” said Elizabeth Stampe, executive director of Walk SF.

A revamp of Cesar Chavez west of the Hairball, currently under construction, is expected to be finished next summer. The SF Municipal Transportation Agency also striped bike lanes on eastern Cesar Chavez this spring. However, broader bike and pedestrian improvements on the Hairball and eastern Cesar Chavez being developed by the SF Planning Department aren’t expected to be completed for several years.

The latest pedestrian death “shows how necessary it is to fix the streets here and not delay,” said Stampe. “Delay can cost lives.”


Driver Plows Through Bike Corral at Duboce and Valencia, Injuring Man

A car driver plowed through a bike corral on Saturday in front of Zeitgeist, a bar on the corner of Duboce Avenue and Valencia Street. The driver reportedly stopped and cooperated with police after crashing through 10 of the 11 curbside bike racks, breaking a man’s leg, and wrecking at least a dozen parked bikes, according to the Uptown Almanac, which posted photos of the carnage.

According to reports, the driver wasn’t intoxicated, and the cause of the crash is unclear. However, Duboce acts as a speedway whisking drivers through the neighborhood off the nearby Central Freeway. According to Uptown Almanac commenter P.D. Bird: “The driver of the car said that she lost control and was even using the emergency brake to try to stop. Also, not sure if she wanted to pull over, or her car could not go any further from the damage…This does nothing but prove that we need ALOT [sic] less cars and much more traffic slowing (calming).”

SFPD couldn’t say whether the driver will be cited. The victim’s injuries were reportedly non-life-threatening, and he is expected to recover.

According to police data, there were 11 crashes at the intersection in 2011, with 16 people injured. Four of those were driver-bicyclist crashes, and two of them were driver-pedestrian crashes. In one of those cases last July, a driver hit two pedestrians. Another crash was between a driver and motorcyclist, and the rest involved only automobile drivers and passengers.

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Driver Injures Bike Rider at Fell and Lyon Streets, No Citation Issued

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Photos: Aaron Bialick

A man was hit by a driver while riding his bike across Fell Street at Lyon Thursday night at approximately 9:40 pm. The victim, 25, appeared to have just entered the crosswalk from a pathway on the Panhandle when the driver, a 30-year-old woman, hit him from the side.

Police said the victim was lucid and his condition was not serious, though he was transported to San Francisco General Hospital for minor injuries. Park Station Captain John Feeney said a citation would not be issued because the victim’s condition was not life-threatening and the driver stayed on the scene and called 911.

According to officers at the scene, the driver said she was driving in the left lane in search of a parking space when the bicyclist appeared in front of her car unexpectedly. The driver and bicyclist gave conflicting stories about who had the red light, and other witnesses were not available to testify. Feeney said the bicyclist would not be faulted and that it would be treated as an “accident.”

Fell, a one-way street that acts as a four-lane residential freeway alongside a major bike route on the Panhandle, is known for its dangerous conditions and high volumes of car traffic. Possible factors in the crash include poor visibility hindered by cars parked next to the crosswalk as well as the driver’s speed. An officer questioning her was overheard saying the size of the victim’s impact on the windshield indicated that she “must have been going pretty fast.”

See more photos after the break.

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Whose Streets?

Market and Kearny and 3rd Streets, 1909. (Photo: San Francisco History Center, SF Public Library)

“Whose Streets? OUR Streets!” yell rowdy demonstrators when they surge off the sidewalk and into thoroughfares. True enough, the streets are our public commons, what’s left of it (along with libraries and our diminishing public schools), but most of the time these public avenues are dedicated to the movement of vehicles, mostly privately owned autos. Other uses are frowned upon, discouraged by laws and regulations and what has become our “customary expectations.” Ask any driver who is impeded by anything other than a “normal” traffic jam and they’ll be quick to denounce the inappropriate use or blockage of the street.

Bicyclists have been working to make space on the streets of San Francisco for bicycling, and to do that they’ve been trying to reshape public expectations about how streets are used. Predictably there’s been a pushback from motorists and their allies, who imagine that the norms of mid-20th century American life can be extended indefinitely into the future. But cyclists and their natural allies, pedestrians, can take heart from a lost history that has been illuminated by Peter D. Norton in his recent book Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City. He skillfully excavates the shift that was engineered in public opinion during the 1920s by the organized forces of what called itself “Motordom.” Their efforts turned pedestrians into scofflaws known as “jaywalkers,” shifted the burden of public safety from speeding motorists to their victims, and reorganized American urban design around providing more roads and more space for private cars.

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Doctor in Shuttle Van Killed in Big Rig Crash at Octavia and Oak

Photos: Aaron Bialick

52-year-old Dr. Kevin Mack was killed while riding a UCSF shuttle van at about 6:20 am this morning when it crashed with a big rig truck at the intersection of Octavia Boulevard and Oak Street, said San Francisco Police Lt. Troy Dangerfield.

Mack was apparently ejected from the van and killed instantly. His body was removed from under the truck at 10:00 am. The driver of the shuttle van and two of the 15 passengers were also injured.

Mack, an associate professor at the UCSF Department of Psychiatry, was headed to San Francisco General Hospital where he was based.

“He had a strong commitment to global health and to medical education in resource-poor settings,’’ said Dr. A. Sue Carlisle, associate dean of SF General Hospital, and CEO Susan A. Currin in a joint statement. “He was an exceptional role model and inspiration for all of the educational community at UCSF.’’ He is survived by his husband and two children.

Police are investigating the cause of the crash, but the truck was traveling northbound on Octavia and was found at the scene veering across the divider into the local traffic lane. The van was traveling east on Oak Street. It’s the second fatal crash involving a UCSF shuttle since a woman was killed in the Tenderloin last November.

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Dangerous Rincon Hill Intersection Finally Getting the City’s Attention

Drivers ignore the signs and routinely block the crosswalk and speed at the intersection of Harrison and Main streets. Photos by Bryan Goebel.

On December 10, 2004, Katy Liddell had just stepped off the N-Judah with a sack of cleaning supplies and was walking to her Portside apartment at Harrison and Main in Rincon Hill, when she noticed a cadre of emergency vehicles surrounding the intersection. As Liddell drew closer, she saw something that horrified her.

“I saw a tarp covering a body in the middle of the street,” Liddell recalled. “I found out that one of my neighbors had been hit and killed.”

The violent force of a big rig truck had thrown 63-year-old Beverly Kees out of the crosswalk, killing her. Kees, a popular SF State journalism professor who had recently retired, lived across the street from Liddell in the BayCrest Towers. The dog she had been walking was also hit and injured.

“Beverly saved his life. She saw the truck coming and she picked him up,” said Debi Gould, Kees’ friend and neighbor and owner of the dog who was with her when she died, a rat terrier mix named Harp. As Gould tells it, Kees, who lived two doors down, had been told by her doctor that she needed to walk more. She asked Gould if she could walk Harp one day, and the two formed a close bond.

“She started walking him to the point where he loved being with her, and instead of a couple of times a week, it ended up being every day that I went to work,” said Gould, a retired flight attendant who also walks a lot and feels like pedestrians in San Francisco “are considered an inconvenience.”

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Eyes on the Street: Elderly Driver Crashes into Inner Sunset Restaurant

Photo: Jacob Hendry

The driver of a four-door sedan jumped the curb and crashed into the front of Naan N’ Curry Restaurant on Irving Street at 8th Avenue around noon today. Surprisingly, no one enjoying lunch on the crowded sidewalk was hurt, but the building suffered some serious damage.

Witnesses said the driver, an elderly man who was about 75 years old, was attempting to leave his parking spot when he stepped on the gas instead of the brake. He smashed the car into a set of tables and chairs fronting the restaurant.

“I think we need to give stricter license tests to elderly people,” said one resident who was observing the crash site. “It’s scary.”

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“Black Box” Standard for New Cars Could Be Big Gain for Street Safety

The auto safety bill working its way through Congress includes a provision with major implications for traffic enforcement and safer streets: a rule to equip new cars with "black boxes" capable of recording up to 60 seconds worth of pre-crash data.

rasha_shamoon.jpgThe NYPD investigation into the 2008 crash that killed cyclist Rasha Shamoon relied heavily on interviews with the driver and his passengers.
What might black boxes -- scaled-down versions of flight recorders used in commercial airliners since the 1950s -- bring to street safety? Data and accountability.

Data that can reveal driver choices such as speed and braking in the crucial seconds preceding a crash; and driver accountability that police and prosecutors historically have been loath to enforce, in part because crash reconstruction has lacked sufficiently firm evidence.

U.S. automakers began installing "event recorders" in new cars in the 1990s to defend against lawsuits over air bag deployment, and most cars built since 2004 have some sort of data recording device. But the current NHTSA standard for black boxes is optional, and recommends that they record only five seconds of data preceding crashes. Which makes it noteworthy that the Alliance of Auto Manufacturers told Congress last month that it won't oppose making the standard mandatory and extending the recording period to a full minute. That interval should be sufficient to give crash investigators information to assign culpability, and, where the facts warrant, for prosecutors to indict and juries to convict.

Here’s how the New York Times reported an early use of black box data to convict a reckless driver in Rochester, in 2004:

After Danny G. Hopkins’s Cadillac CTS rear-ended Lindsay Kyle’s Dodge Neon at a traffic light in Rochester a year ago, witnesses said Mr. Hopkins had been zooming down the road, and crash investigators who examined the condition and location of the wreckage estimated that Mr. Hopkins was traveling 65 to 70 miles an hour at the point of impact. But in a trial that ended on Oct. 7, a witness emerged with more to say: that four seconds before the crash, it had been traveling 106 m.p.h. The witness in the case was an event data recorder, an automotive equivalent of the black boxes used to reconstruct plane crashes. A jury convicted Mr. Hopkins of second-degree manslaughter, a crime whose elements include recklessness and which carries a penalty of up to 15 years in jail.

The Monroe County assistant district attorney told the Times, “Clearly the black box technology played a large part in the jury’s finding of guilty.” Six years later, why aren't DA's routinely mining black boxes for data?

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Streetfilms: Tom Vanderbilt Talks “Traffic”

Whether you're a transportation geek or just curious about the psychology and behavior of drivers, Tom Vanderbilt's "Traffic: Why We Drive The Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)" is one of the most fascinating books you can pick up.

Tom sat down recently for an hour conversation with OpenPlans founder Mark Gorton about his vast research into the world of car and driver. The chat - which we think we've edited down to an entertaining ten minutes -  covered topics as diverse as an Invisible Gorilla to intense DriveCam footage of automobile crashes to H.W. Heinrich's Industrial Accident Pyramid. From texting-while-driving to noise-canceling technology, Tom gives us the skinny on everything traffic.

Tom also writes the very popular blog How We Drive.


Breaking News: Pedestrian Killed at 4th and King This Morning

This morning just after 5 am a pedestrian was killed when a tractor-trailer hit another truck, sending that vehicle careening into the victim. Details are still scant, but major media outlets report the fatal incident has backed up traffic on Northbound I-280 and delayed Muni lines that pass through the intersection. ABC7 Traffic Anchor Frances Dinglasan has tweeted a few details, though:

  • "Confirmed FATAL accident on King St. at 4th. N280 offramp to king st closed until 9AM. King onramp to sb280 open." - 7:20 am
  • "In SF: a pedestrian got pinned under a pickup truck when it spun out of control after being hit by a garbage truck at King st. & 4th st." - 7:12 am
  • "SF: NB 280 King St off ramp CLOSED until 9AM for major inj acc. NB King Closed from 280 to ATT park. But, SB King open to SB280" - 7:11 am

KCBS radio anchor Stan Bunger has tweeted that Muni N-Judah service has been restored through 3rd and King. 

Thanks to Streetsblog reader Mike Sonn for the early tip. If anyone has more details, please post in the comments. We'll provide updates if we get them.

UPDATE 9:15 am: Several outlets are now reporting that the pedestrian who was struck and killed was standing on or near the Muni platform at 4th and King. The driver of the pick-up truck that was hit by the tractor-trailer and spun into the victim is being detained for further questioning.