Unidentified male dies in morning crash on Highway 101

Three lanes closed following major collision north of University Avenue

A four-vehicle fatal crash at 7:25 a.m. today jammed southbound traffic on U.S. Highway 101 just north of University Avenue in Palo Alto.

Emergency vehicles took over three lanes of the freeway, causing a traffic backup that extended north into San Mateo, according to reports. A male was reported killed in the crash.

Two southbound lanes were reopened by 9:40 a.m., and the other lane was reopened shortly after 11 a.m., though traffic is still moving very slowly, according to the California Highway Patrol (CHP).

The CHP reported that four vehicles are believed to be involved, three of which were "severely damaged," according to witness reports. The damaged vehicles were a black SUV Dodge Ram that apparently rolled on its side; a silver grey Toyota sedan that was smashed from both front and back and possibly a small black sedan.

Emergency vehicles took over three of the four southbound lanes, causing a traffic backup that extended north into San Mateo, according to reports.

The CHP issued a Sig-Alert traffic warning at 7:50 a.m., flashing warnings to motorists to take alternate routes -- clogging those streets. The Sig-Alert warning was lifted around 11 a.m.

There were few details as to how many might have been injured in the crash, which occurred at a location known for sudden slowdowns during commute hours.

The silver-grey Toyota smashed head-on into a chain link fence on the westerly side of the freeway, according to one report.


Posted by R, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 18, 2009 at 9:54 am

Photo here: Web Link

Posted by Kelly, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 18, 2009 at 10:27 am

So sad.
there was a large accident at Showers and El camino real (in front of Whole Foods, this week too. the cars looked really mangled for el camino.

God Bless and Drive Safe everyone!

Posted by Evan, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 18, 2009 at 10:43 am

Just another reason I take Caltrain to work.

Posted by train rider, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2009 at 10:50 am

I'm with Evan. Traffic on Hwy 101 is terrible on sunny days. And it gets much worse in the rain.

Posted by stretch, a resident of another community
on Dec 18, 2009 at 11:41 am

One of the reasons I moved from the Bay Area and don't like to visit: people drive like the rules don't apply to them. Always at least 20 mph over the limit, right on people's tails, changing lanes w/o using signals, always in a hurry. Here's a hint: leave earlier, stay back from the car in front of you, save gas by not driving so fast!

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 18, 2009 at 12:41 pm

This sounds like "Roadshow" (SJ Merc News) but...I can't believe the number of people who don't give way when merging (when I have the right of way), especially at Embarcadero/Oregon entrance southbound onto 101. It really is extreme.

Posted by JA3+, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 18, 2009 at 12:41 pm

Did the accident result from a sudden switch-over from carpool lane to non-carpool lane?

In my opinion, the transition from the carpool lane -- where vehicles may routinely go over the speed limit -- to the non-carpool lanes -- where vehicles may be traveling quite slow (or, worse yet, may be rapidly braking) -- is at times quite, quite dangerous.

Posted by Bill, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2009 at 12:48 pm

All highway lane changes are dangerous. On-ramps can be very dangerous when people don't merge properly. That is especially true of multi-lane on-ramps, short on-ramps, and also combined on/off ramps (like Rengstorff).

A lot of highway accidents are caused by people jumping from lane to lane when they really don't have to.

Posted by andrew, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 18, 2009 at 1:19 pm

I don't know the specifics of this particular accident but as someone who has been to at least a 100 countries around the world and has driven in countries with a myriad of driving habits and traditions, I must sadly conclude that Bay Area drivers are generally among the most unruly and most dangerous I've ever seen. Their general driving behavior while on the freeway is beyond deplorable and the speed in which they drive down city streets and residential areas, at least in Palo Alto, is truly astonishing. I know some societies in which drivers would be pulled out of their cars and lynched if they dared speed through residential areas at the average speed drivers do in Palo Alto, but here it seems the norm.

Posted by Concerned Commuter, a resident of another community
on Dec 18, 2009 at 1:29 pm

We need a way to catch the crazy drivers and stop them from hurting others. There are too many incidents lately where an innocent family dies as the result of a reckless driver. I have often called 911 while on the road to report crazy drivers, but usually by the time you get connected to CHP you lost sight of the crazy person. Maybe to start we should have taller dividers between the directions of traffic. This would at least prevent lookie lous from slowing down traffic on the side not directly impacted by an accident.

Drive safe - as the old saying goes, better late than never.

Posted by Angela, a commuter, a resident of another community
on Dec 18, 2009 at 3:24 pm

I know why people cant drive safely in California. Have you looked at the driver's test lately? They have the dumbest test and no driver safety training. They will give a license to ANYBODY! The only way these horrific accidents will ever decline is to properly teach people how to drive!!!!!

Posted by stupid, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 18, 2009 at 3:55 pm

Sunny mornings eastbound are very dangerous. Much more so than the rain. How much u wanna bet the sun was a factor in this collision?

Posted by Absolutely Pathetic, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 18, 2009 at 3:58 pm

Learn to drive before you hit the roads, thinking you're The Transporter.

Posted by Respectful, a resident of another community
on Dec 18, 2009 at 4:22 pm

Thanks everyone. Let us remember that someone died in this accident today, and there is no way to know (yet) whether this person was entirely innocent as someone in front did something horrible -- like texting while eating a bagel.

The notion that people's lives are endangered by bad behavior only contributes to the danger of the issues noted in previous posts.

Let us be mindful of a family that has had their holiday destroyed by...just another day's commute to work.

Posted by Alan, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 18, 2009 at 5:11 pm

Sunrise today was 7:18 AM, so the accident happened 30 minutes later.

You can go to this site to see the direction of the sun-rise on a map.

Web Link

It appears that the sun was about 10 degrees toward the left. So almost directly in a driver's eyes. If you had a dusty windshield at the time, you likely could not see very well.

Posted by Friend of Neil's, a resident of Professorville
on Dec 18, 2009 at 6:27 pm

This was my friend and colleague that died. Please show respect. This is very hard to handle. Life is very fragile. Give your loved ones a hug....

Posted by james michael, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 18, 2009 at 6:36 pm

friend of neils
my your friend rest in peace and may the family find strength knowing we are all going to the same place

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2009 at 6:48 pm

the traffic cameras in that area plus the failure analysis will determine who is at fault, we were driving north and the carnage was horrendous, glad it did not impact the north bound lanes, good design

Posted by Not many accidents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2009 at 8:37 pm

People shouldn't speculate on the cause of the accident. Considering all the cars on 101, there are very few accidents. So the drivers can't be that bad.

Drivers are great here! They always let us merge, they don't tailgate. To those who complain of drivers not allowing merging, do you use your blinker? Do you wave in gratitude to the person who lets you merge? Minneapolis/St. Paul has terrible drivers who speed way over the speed limit, tailgate, don't use their blinkers, and don't allow merging easily. It's downright scary driving on their highways! Definitely passive-aggressive behavior which is absent here.

As for the diamond lane, I read that they are going to restrict entering/exiting to certain areas on the freeways, as they do in Los Angeles.

Posted by perhaps, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2009 at 9:23 pm

perhaps a car had a mechanical failure and no one was at fault. YOu folks assume too much with too little evidence.

Posted by connie, a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 18, 2009 at 9:30 pm

people in californa drive like they are crazy and there are not rules to them. if you don't stop they will run over you with not respect. people need to slow down and realize they have 3 thousand tons of steel and it is very dangerous to play with such a vehicle. god bless the person family who died in the horrible accident.

Posted by Giraffe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 19, 2009 at 12:30 am

I must live in some alternate Bay Area. I drive 101 from Palo Alto to Santa Clara several times a week and I hardly ever see an accident. True, I do see too many tailgaters, and too many slow drivers. But, Stretch's claim of 'always 20 miles over the speed limit' is bunk. If you go 80 on 101 which is only 15 miles over the speed limit, hardly anyone will pass you. And when was the last time you saw someone going 45 down Channing? Maybe things have changed since Stretch moved to a different community. But I kind of doubt it.

Posted by Driver, a resident of another community
on Dec 19, 2009 at 7:35 am

I've been driving up and down 101 in the Bay Area for decades and there is no question the stretch has always been heavy with traffic. Speeders do make my blood boil when they weave through slower traffic like they are on a race track. But there are also drivers who have no business sitting in fast lanes, going way too slow for the general flow of traffic, that make my blood boil as well. A lot of lane changes can be avoided if those slow pokes were to stay in the slow lanes where they belong! And we all know lane changes precede most highway accidents.

Posted by John W., a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 19, 2009 at 8:28 am

Let's all remember no details have been released on how this accident occured yet almost all of you have made hurtful and demeaning comments about all parties involved in this accident based purely on arrogance and judgment, THAT is the problem with our society, and our societys "possible" poor driving skills pales in comparison to that shared chracter flaw. Have some respect people!

Posted by Casper48, a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 19, 2009 at 11:42 am

My condolences to friend to Neil's. This man was someone's husband, father, grandfather, next door neighbor, best friend, co-worker. Let's show some KINDNESS here people. Not everything has to be dissected.

Posted by Another friend of Neil's, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 19, 2009 at 12:33 pm

The holidays can be stressful. Drive safe everyone. I feel thankful to have known and worked with the man who died in this crash, and very sorry for his family. He was a great person. Our loss.

Posted by Fs, a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 19, 2009 at 5:28 pm

If you think that the bay area is bad, you have to try the Palm Springs area. It appears from the rear that nobody is in the drivers seat. On passing, you find a little ancient person all alone on the road (they think). The cars sold in Riverside County do not have turn signals or so it would appear.

Posted by Julian, a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 19, 2009 at 6:32 pm

Actually, the CHP stated repeatedly that high speed was a "significant factor."

Posted by Ano, a resident of another community
on Dec 20, 2009 at 12:08 am

I drive this stretch daily and one thing that would cut down a lot of risk is to: pass on the left. Too many times I have tried to move into the right lane, my blinkers on, my exit approaching only to have a steady stream of speeding cars pass me on the right. It makes no sense. They should all be cruising in the left lanes, not in the right lane where cars have to enter and exit the highway.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Mr. Kelly.

Posted by Anon the 1st., a resident of Midtown
on Dec 20, 2009 at 2:36 am

I am really sorry for this loss, it seems like everyday someone dies on a Bay Area freeway for reasons that could be avoided. I commute from about 200 to 300 miles a week and it is amazing how many people drive like crap here. I have driven through several States and Countries and have dealt with their "rush hours" and they do not even compare to the Bay Area. Even congested places such as Mexico City, Montreal, and Portland don't have as may accidents as we do here. I don't know if it is because everyone here drives worse or because California's driving tests are so easy to pass. I have not had to take the driving test since I was 17 YO and obviously several traffic laws have changed since 1994. People in CA should get retested bi-annually to make sure we area all up on the current laws and guidelines. AND, people need to slow down on the highways!

We need to stop needless deaths such as this one and the family that was killed over Thanksgiving weekend.

My condolences go out to everyone that has lost a loved one. It is even more difficult when it happens during a time that is supposed to be for celebration.

Posted by Driver, a resident of another community
on Dec 20, 2009 at 7:08 am

Ano, why do you think cars pass on the right? Too many slow pokes are sitting in left lanes where they don't belong, that's why! Under normal conditions, I cruise at 65 and sit in the second or third lane from the left, depending on congestion levels in the respective lanes. I can't believe there are people going slower than me sitting in the first two lanes, forcing those moving faster than me to pass on the right. When you repeat this over and over, you end up with constant lane changes and accidents waiting to happen. If everybody just sit in the lanes commensurate with their speed, then we'll not only reduce accidents but increase efficiency.

Posted by San Mateo resident working in San Jose, a resident of another community
on Dec 20, 2009 at 11:41 am

A lot of comments here are excellent reminders about how to drive safely. With a compact car that is equipped with modest safety features, I feel very vulnerable on 101 being surrounded by humongous vehicles and performance cars. I drive in one of the two right lanes at about 65 MPH, and I keep a good distance ahead of me so I can easily slow down to let other cars zig zag through. I check my rear view mirror regularly to spot any crazy drivers approaching from behind, and I create exits for those crazy drivers who get stuck behind slow moving vehicles in the fast lanes. I left my ego at home, I let the cowboys have their ways. You pass from my right? You cut without using your blinkers? I take a deep breath and forgive you. I cannot afford to be involved in a crash, I drive 2000 miles a month to work two jobs to support myself and two young children. But even then, there are several times where I thought I was this close to being hit... If I do end up in an accident, it must be fate. I feel terrible about what happened to Mr. Kelly and his family. I will continue to do my part of driving safely if that is any comfort to anybody.

Posted by Ano, a resident of another community
on Dec 20, 2009 at 12:25 pm

Driver: I do understand about the slow left lane drivers pushing the traffic right. But why not toot and flash headlights at the slow cars? That is the universal signal to "move to a slower lane", however I rarely see drivers do that in the Bay Area. Instead they take a passive approach and pass them on the right.

Posted by SM, a resident of another community
on Dec 20, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Ano, drivers of slow cars in fast lanes either lack the common sense of "staying in slower lanes" or are too scared to switch lanes once there are cars around them. Flashing them usually doesn't work, because what put them in the fast lanes in the first place? Their inability to respond timely and adequately to changing road conditions. I have observed many incidents where fast cars tailgate and flash the slow cars in fast lanes, and the slow cars simply will not move. Apparently they have no idea what's happening behind them. I also know people who think that driving at or above the speed limit in the fast lanes means that they do not have to make way for faster cars. Eventually the fast cars will have to pass on the right. Personally I stay away from the fast lanes. They are for people who need to rush to their destination at all costs.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 20, 2009 at 2:24 pm

The other aspect of people remaining in the "fast" lanes is because of the diamond lanes. Many diamond lane drivers are not prepared to go faster than the limit but because they have 2 or more people in them they feel entitled to remain in the diamond lanes even if the regular lanes are traveling at the limit. They may move out to let a faster car pass, but then want to return because they feel that the traffic may be slower a couple of miles further down the freeway. In a situation like this, the diamond lanes are actually causing more problems because they are encouraging slower drivers to keep left.

Posted by Sally, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 21, 2009 at 11:25 am

Hybrid car drivers seem to be always distracted, or just really bad drivers.

They have made the 2nd left-most lane the slow lane, by having to move in to the diamond lane even for their 1 exit trip.

Hybrid cars should not be allowed to use the left most lane.

Posted by Dee, a resident of another community
on Dec 21, 2009 at 11:46 am

I bet there was some high speed tailgating involved. Every time I'm in the carpool lane on 101 it never fails that some power multitasker with a BlueTooth wireless headset will get on my bumper going 65 or better. They always seem to be driving some sort of BMW or Mercedes, too. Wonder what the connection there is....

Posted by Neil's friend, a resident of another community
on Dec 21, 2009 at 12:14 pm

Neil was a gift to all who knew him.

Posted by Driver, a resident of another community
on Dec 21, 2009 at 12:35 pm

Dee, if you are not going at 65, unless traffic is moving slower, then you have no business sitting in the carpool lane, which also happens to be the fast lane, and complain about cars wanting you out of the way. I set my cruise control at 65 whenever I can and it never ceases to amaze me how many people go slower but occupy the left two fast lanes.

Posted by cr, a resident of another community
on Dec 21, 2009 at 11:46 pm

What does the sign on the truck door mean about "Direct buyer of major catalysts"?

Can't make out the lettering on the body of the truck with the name of the company.

Posted by narnia, a resident of another community
on Dec 22, 2009 at 3:48 am

Legally, there is no fast lane and there is no lane allowed an over speed limit, higher limit. There are newly minted drivers (and not just teenagers) who have no experience on the road, many older drivers, drivers who just arrived to the bay area and don't know the traffic, drivers who are used to other conventions, etc. Impatient drivers who flash lights are courting an accident. If you need to go faster, you move. Provided that I'm at the speed limit, I'm not going to move. People who are impatient succeed only in confusing other drivers (older or not)and show their lack of civility.
You move, not me

Posted by Concerned, a resident of another community
on Dec 22, 2009 at 11:32 am

Any news on whether anyone was charged?

Posted by Peter, a resident of another community
on Dec 22, 2009 at 11:58 am

I believe that you can be ticketed in California for flashing your lights to get another car to move over. It's considered harassment and a contribution to road rage.

Posted by Another concerned person, a resident of another community
on Dec 27, 2009 at 10:27 pm

Did everyone forget this terrible accident? Who got charged?

Posted by Bill, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 28, 2009 at 8:21 am

If someone got charged with a crime, then it is not an "accident". Negligence, distracted driving, road rage, DUI, etc. are not accidents.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2009 at 9:13 am

All accidents have a cause, they don't just happen. The cause of the accident may be many things, not necessarily something someone should be charged with. However, the cause, whether it is the sun, unsafe lane changing, mechanical problems, talking on a cell phone, or other distraction of driver, does not make someone a crimininal. But, the cause of the accident should be reported.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 28, 2009 at 2:10 pm

There may not be any crime committed, but there is almost always someone at fault. In this case, I suspect it was the pickup truck. He was obviously going faster than the Toyota. If you look at the other photos, the Toyota did not hit anyone in front of him. Speed was the culprit here, and someone should be charged with speeding, or following too close, or both.

Posted by Bill, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 28, 2009 at 2:52 pm

If you are speeding or driving distracted or impaired and cause someone's death, you should get charged with vehicular homicide. Any moving violation that leads to injury or death is a serious crime.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jan 13, 2010 at 10:34 pm

to all of you who think that you are on CSI, you don't know anything. Did you ever think that maybe someone infront of these people did something to cause the accident, like slam on their breaks or cut someone off, but they weren't hit and they caused a wreck behind them. And speed was not noted as a factor. And to the person who left a comment 2 above mine, your an idiot. A Dodge vs. a Toyota, no shit the dodge will have less damage. Someone died and others were injured. So how about this, unless you were in one of those cars or you are related to those people, keep your brilliant ideas of what caused the accident to yourself.

Posted by safe driver, a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 16, 2010 at 10:49 pm

There are two golden rules on safe driving:

1. As long as people do tailgating at freeway, deadly accidents are bound to happen no matter how fast or slow they drive.

2. Cruising control should never be activated when the freeway has heavy traffic (i.e., when you can be easily blocked by slower cars)

Unsafe drivers are those who believe "I got the right speed" and do one of the following:
1. Drive really slow on the fast lanes.
2. Tailgate the cars in front of him.
3. Pass other cars from the right side.

Posted by Life in the Fast Lane, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 17, 2010 at 9:23 am

"But why not toot and flash headlights at the slow cars?" It's not universal and is perceived as aggressive here. Frankly, the only drivers who do this are tailgating and weaving in and out of traffic--even when the entire fast lane is not going fast enough for them.

I can spot these drivers a mile away--I usually slow down slightly and they blow past trying to pass on the right. Since the traffic in front of me is moving no faster than I am, they end up stuck in a slower lane.

It used to be that it was against the law to pass on the right and that the CHP would pull you over for going too slow in the left....

Posted by Neil's friend, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 30, 2010 at 7:30 pm

Does anyone have any updates on this accident? Was
anyone charged? I miss my friend!

Posted by Another of Neil's friends, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 18, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Has there been anyone charged yet? Does anyone know if the police report is out yet?

Posted by Another of Neil's friends, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 23, 2010 at 4:40 pm

It appears that there were charges filed. It also appears that the theory of the person in the pickup truck speeding was indeed correct and is being charged.

Next time, I hope that a certain person isn't so rude to call the person, who came up with the theory, "stupid".

Web Link

Posted by Community, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 23, 2010 at 9:28 pm

I wonder what Neil would have said about this senseless

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