Friends, family recall 'amazing, loving' Seidman Crimes & Incidents, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Dec 3, 2008 at 9:49 am
The memorial service for Phyllis Seidman, who died Tuesday night after she was struck by an SUV in Palo Alto Tuesday afternoon, will be held in January to give family and friends time to travel from afar, according to her daughter Jennifer Seidman.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, December 5, 2008, 9:01 AM
Posted by JA3+, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 10:19 am
Given the location near the Bowling Green Park, perhaps the City could furnish and install (i) striped cross-walks in all four (4) directions, and (ii) an electronic speed sign -- identical to the one near the Castellija school further down Embarcadero -- in both directions along Embarcadero.
I'll be very interested to see if the PA Council or City Manager asks Public Works to review this intersection; a review could be completed quite quickly, I believe. Offhand, I think the review will buttress the claim above -- speeding is quite frequent on this section of Embarcadero.
Posted by Shannon Griscom, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 10:38 am
Phyllis was a friend. Her bravery with her illness and her life was symbolized by her mobility in her electric wheelchair, with her dog at her side. When I heard the news, I predicted that it was an SUV that might have been speeding and did not see her. Sigh. I'm also for a stop light there, but also for special training for those drivers of SUV's.
Posted by Stu Berman, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 10:56 am
I knew Phyllis Seidman only by sight for she was always buzzing around our neighborhood in her wheelchair with her dog. This was such a senseless death for many reasons. I use this intersection a number of times a day and happened on the accident scene only minutes after it occurred. It is a bad intersection for a number of reasons, some of which Palo Alto can correct and some of which are out of its control.
SUV's are a scourge on the landscape. I often see people driving SUVs who can't control them and I wouldn't be surprised if this was a factor in this accident. Palo Alto can do little about SUVs except to enforce the traffic laws.
Speeding on Embarcadero and a bad intersection at Embarcadero and Cowper are things that Palo Alto can correct. When Joe Kott headed Palo Alto's transportation department he beat his head against the wall for years as he attempted to install traffic roundabouts on Embarcadero. They would have smoothed and slowed traffic on Embarcadero, but some naysaying neighbors were worried that the roundabouts would spill traffic onto their streets. They employed the Palo Alto process to defeat this worthy proposal and now some of the blood is on their hands.
Still, some things can be done, even though they will have less effect. The electronic speed signs are very effective. As I am approaching the one in front of Castilleja School I see most of the cars passing me as 45MPH slow down to 30-35 MPH. This is still too fast for that road, but it is a help. But then they speed up again a few blocks down the road. Two or three more speed signs on each side of Embarcadero are needed.
The intersection itself needs improvement. A hedge on what we think of as the Northeast corner blocks the view for cars going South on Cowper. They can't see Stanford bound traffic on Embarcadero. And let's make it safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. A refuge island in the middle of the street, painted crosswalks, pedestrian signs and flashing crosswalk lights would all help.
Let us hope that Phyllis Seidman didn't give her life totally in vain.
Posted by Lori, a resident of East Palo Alto, on Dec 3, 2008 at 11:00 am
Incredibly sad. It is so important to take extra care looking for people and low vehicles when in those monstrous vehicles. Play the car games that count: see how many motorcyclists, pedestrians, bicyclists, etc. you can find from your car in one day. Train yourself to look for others because not "seeing" someone is as much in the brain as it is in your speed and your direction of sight.
Posted by JustMe, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 11:08 am
I am very saddened by this. I did not know her, but from what I read she was a wonderful person whos loss will be deeply felt by the community. The needlessness of the accident frustrates me.
I encourage everyone to drive at 25 mph in residential areas, and that includes Embarcadaro. THIS IS WHY!!!! When cruising down Embarcadaro I like to lock my cruise control in at just over 25MPH (it is off a little so locking on 25 MPH actually has me going slower.) I don't try to get in the way of others, but I don't pull over for speeders either. I try not to curse too much when people blast around me, but I wish there were more cops at times. Remember that your kids are also at risk, and I would hope you would take that seriously.
Posted by Greg K, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 11:11 am
This is a very sad story. Embarcadero Road is supposed to be a 25mph residential road, but motorists often treat it like an expressway between El Camino and Hwy 101. The article says Phyllis was crossing Cowper, parallel to Embarcadero. Was the SUV turning from Embarcadero to Cowper?
People really need to learn to watch for pedestrians when turning. The city can help by removing parking spaces and trees near crosswalks to make the pedestrians more visible. I don't know if traffic circles are a good idea since that just creates another distraction.
I bet the SUV driver will not be charged in this killing since courts usually consider "I didn't see her" to be a valid excuse for killing a pedestrian or bicyclist.
Posted by Charlie, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 11:16 am
Very, very sad. I agree that everyone needs to slow down! On that street, and on Stanford Avenue near my home, I often see cars and SUV's speeding through the 25 mph speed limit. Both of these roads have multiple schools, and it is so dangerous. And while I don't mean to point fingers in this case, so often I witness women on cell phones in these SUV's, just not paying attention. One almost hit me yesterday on El Camino as she dialed her cell phone and then put it to her ear.
Pay attention when you are driving! Your life, and others, depend on it!
Posted by paly parent, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 11:22 am
All the intersections along Embarcadero at that time of day - 3:15 - are used by a multitude of school kids on bikes and on foot. A woman in a wheelchair is much more visible then a child walking home. My feeling is the driver didn't see her because she wasn't looking.
I will miss seeing Phyllis around town with her beautiful companion, she and her dog always made me smile.
Posted by JustMe, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 11:33 am
Be the change!
How fast do YOU drive on Embarcadaro? Do YOU keep it to 25MPH? It does not do any good to complain here about the speeding, and it is hypocritical to speed while complaining. Don't worry about the people on Embarcadaro who don't like you driving 25mph, THEY are the problem, you are not. Drive 25mph in residential areas, 24/7. If you are a road boulder at that speed, good on you.
Posted by Jamie S., a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 11:49 am
I have known Phyllis Seidman for many years. It started back when I went to Jordan Middle School, and I walked her dog Cinta. He was just a puppy those days. Through the years I have always kept in contact with her, and looked forward to every meeting I had with her.
The news of the tragic event is just horrible, and I just have to say, preventable. I will miss her so much. Our community has just lost a wonderful person.
My prayers are with you Phyllis and thank you for everything I learned from you.
If anyone close to her is reading these posts. Please feel free to email me if you need help with anything.
Posted by Ann, a resident of another community, on Dec 3, 2008 at 11:53 am
This tragic event emphasizes the need for all of us to come to our senses. There are so many more pedestrian (and otherwise) fatalities on urban roads since the advent of SUV's, cell phones, and the fast pace at which people run their lives.
Much to my relief, Foothill College installed automatic lights that are embedded in the pavement that parallel the edges of the crosswalks. They are activated when you start to cross the walk, and make it unmistakable that someone is in the crosswalk. More implementation of this life-saving technology would save many lives.
Posted by JustMe, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 12:50 pm
No one wins from this, including the driver of the SUV and her family. I feel sorrow for all involved, and for the community at large.
But I also feel the need to find some positive that can come from this sad event, and I think that positive needs to involve traffic on Embarcadaro. Whether it is the city reviewing traffic laws, procedures, enforcement, or control methods, or it is us reconsidering the way we drive and consider that our driving influences other drivers, something positive needs to happen.
I'll bet the driver of that SUV is a wreck herself today. She certainly never wished this.
Posted by 25mph?, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 12:53 pm
I think it's unreasonable to expect that people will drive 25mph on Embarcadero between M'field and ElCam. I grew up in Palo Alto and never, ever, have I heard of another death on Embarcadero (other than drunk driving-related back in the mid-80s). The reality is that Emb. *is* somewhere between Oregon Expressway and Middlefield in terms of how drivers need to use the road to get where they're going, and despite this tragedy it's not reasonable IMO to expect people to drive 25mph on Embarcadero; I'd say 30-32mph is a more reasonable expectation.
Posted by c me around, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 1:06 pm
"Just me"~ You set your cruise control on Embarcadero??? I never have been down Embarcadero Road in all the 50 years of driving where I did not have to stop at one corner or another....sounds like what you do is unsafe.......
Posted by Henry Spring, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 1:20 pm
I've been inches from being hit by cars running red lights almost every day downtown on University Avenue. My friend was hit and killed crossing Lytton Avenue.
Most cars these days speed up when they see a yellow caution light, and then enter the crosswalk after the red light comes on. They also follow the car in front of them that goes through a red light. These drivers are criminals, breaking the law, and they do hassle pedestrians all the time downtown.
Why can't we have cameras downtown, recording the violations, and sending out warrants for fines?
I know the police give out fines in downtown parking lots for not having a front license plate, which is an easy way to raise money, but what about the money the city could make by enforcing the law on running red lights and stop signs downtown?
How many more people will be killed before this law is enforced?
Posted by drive 25, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 1:29 pm
I always drive 25mph on Embarcadero (and also Middlefield Road). Seeing pedestrians is much easier at 25mph than at 35mph. I also slow down before turning and come to a full stop before turning right at a stop sign or stop light. These are neighborhood residential roads and pedestrians should have the priority.
Posted by nancy, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 1:33 pm
I, too, have seen Phyllis in her wheelchair in the neighborhoods over the years (I never knew her name until now -- unfortunately) but she was always smiling with her wonderful dog. This is an accident that did NOT have to happen.
I see drivers of SUVs driving on our local streets as if they have to make a statement with their behemoths -- i.e., "I'll get to the next intersection before you do.." "I'll get through the yellow light while it turns red before I enter the intersection.." "Cell phone law be damned, I'll use my cell phone while I drive and screw you.." I was driving down Embarcadero Road yesterday from El Camino and encountered a very common sight: an SUV driver (woman on the phone) weaving in and out of the two lanes. mindless of other traffic. I know that during the day there are countless errands that need to be taken care of, children picked up from various sites, etc. but that does not excuse being careful while driving.
I'm sure that the woman who killed Phyllis ("probably did not see her" is just a cop-out for killed a person)is upset today, but she took a human life. I hope that the police impose a very stiff punishment on her. We need to send a message to the community that this type of behavior is not acceptable and will not be tolerated without some sort of punishment.
My husband and I often take Melville from our home when we go towards El Camino/Town and Country etc in order to avoid Embarcadero. But that street is also another accident waiting to happen. If you take that route you will see that many SUVs and large construction trucks are parked on the side streets and that it is nearly impossible to determine if there is oncoming cross traffic before proceeding through each intersection on that route.
I just cannot believe that this kind person had to die a horrific death because someone was an idiot driver not paying attention. Please don't let this get swept under the rug. There are other people in wheelchairs navigating the roads of Palo Alto. I see them from time -- all during daylight hours when they stand the best chance of being seen by drivers. Please, all of you drivers, pay attention to what you are supposed to be doing when you are driving your vehicles. This death should not have occurred and should not be classified as an "accident" until and unless all contributing factors to a manslaughter have been dismissed. PLEASE DRIVE SAFELY. REMEMBER THAT DRIVING IS NOT A RIGHT, IT IS A PRIVILEGE. PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU ARE DOING WHEN YOU ARE IN YOUR VEHICLES, PLEASE.
Posted by JustMe, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 2:03 pm
Yes, I set my cruise control on Embarcadaro. Funny thing is that I cannot "resume" when it is set at 25, I have to speed up to that and set it again. It is not unsafe, often times lights turn green before I reach them and I just drive through. It is not a problem except for the worthless danger behind me that wants to go twice that speed.
Okay, not that many get killed on these streets, only a few, huh? How many get hit but not killed? Hospitalized? Want to test the limits between hospitalizing someone and killing them?
I know this: There is no urgency, no late appointment, no excuse at all that I can think of that is worth risking hurting or killing a kid. Period. And if you think there is, I have no words of contempt deep enough for you.
Posted by Palo Alto Drivers, a resident of East Palo Alto, on Dec 3, 2008 at 2:08 pm
I was rear ended on Churchill recently and the guy never even stopped. I see people seriously speeding on Oregon, Embarcadero, Middlefield and other major thoroughfares in PA. I get dirty looks and people serve angrily around me on Embarcadero because I won't speed there. It's narrow in the area where Ms. Seidman was killed, no excuse for speeding.
Another super dangerous point - the freeway overpass at Embarcadero. People exiting 101 and coming up do NOT have the right away, but they think they do. It's awful.
My pet peeve - people parking the wrong way on residential streets, as if they're *too* important to take the extra seconds to walk across the street, or turn around and park legally. Why are these cars not ticketed? PA could buy more tasers with the income from ticketing these cars. It's dangerous, lazy behavior.
Posted by JustMe, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 2:18 pm
I don't have as much of a problem with people parked the wrong way as I do with people who park on the sidewalk. I have seen cars on residential streets parked entirely on the sidewalk, completely blocking it. This forces kids on bicycles and scooters, parents with strollers, seniors with wheelchairs and walkers, dogwalkers, and everyone out into the street with the cars. The sidewalks were put there to give kids and adult a place to go where there are no cars. People who park on the sidewalks place others in danger.
I am going to start calling the non-emergency number and asking PAPD to come ticket sidewalk parkers. I want my little girl to be able to ride her bicycle there.
Posted by Bond Skeptic, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 2:24 pm
I am a neighbor of Phyllis's. This is incredibly sad.
One minor correction: her dog's name was Sinta and he was a Samoyed, not a Siberian Husky.
I'm sure the driver who killed her must feel perfectly awful. Let that be a lesson to the rest of us: life does not have a "rewind" button. You'd better drive like you care or you may end up feeling as awful as the perp in this case. All it takes is a second's worth of inattention at the wrong time for things to go horribly and irreversibly wrong.
To the few, the brave, who try to observe the 25mph limit on Middlefield and Embarcadero: bless you! I thought I was the only one. It's pretty hard to do as you see the people scramble to get around you. Being right is not always easy, but still worth it.
I'm sure the cops are busy. They've got robbers to catch. But it would be good to do some speed enforcement on Embarcadero every once in a while. In the entire 10 years during which I walked my kids to Walter Hays every school day, I saw police enforcement at the corner of Middlefield and Embarcadero maybe three times. But every cycle of that light, you see people blowing through the red light with little kids just waiting to step off the curb. If it weren't for the crossing guards, I'm sure we'd have had some tragedies there, too. I guarantee you that they could generate a lot of revenue every day at that corner ticketing the red light runners.
Posted by Allen Podell, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 2:27 pm
Phyllis was an inspiration for us all. This was a tragic loss for our city. She was never a burden. Giving her a lift in the rain was a gift to myself.
The police should consider the entire length of Embarcadero Rd a school zone, and enforce the speed limit. Use cameras, motorcycle cops, police dogs, whatever. The speed limit should be 30 MPH as Embarcadero is a major artery. That said, the fine for exceeding the limit should be $300. That will work.
In many places in our city, high shrubbery and fences obscure the crossing view for drivers turning right. Property owners must be made to keep open that view line.
Posted by saddened and concerned parent, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 2:39 pm
I was driving past Cowper and Embarcadero just minutes after the accident occured. While I agree with all the comments regarding the need to slow down on Embarcadero, this is a really dangerous intersection that needs immediate attention. I have no doubt the driver of the car made her right turn without complete visibility and just couldn't stop in time. (I don't see many drivers on Embarcadero come to a complete stop before making a right hand turn onto a northbound street). I worry every day about my children riding around Palo Alto on their bikes. They have such faith that the grown ups will see them. This is a tragedy that did not need to happen. My thoughts are with Phyllis and the driver.
Posted by Brian, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 2:56 pm
The issue of speeding on embarcadero, while it may be a worthy subject, is not necessarily directly relevant here, according to the article. Note:
"there is a stop sign at Cowper and Embarcadero.'The motorist would have had to stop before she got to Embarcadero," [police officer] Ryan said."
Evidently Phyllis was crossing Cowper, where the stop sign and crossing are, rather than Embarcadero. Suggests the motorist was either crossing through Embarcadero, or more likely turning onto Embarcadero. Also noteworthy that the accident occurred around the time school gets out.
I've been hit by a car twice, while biking. Both times in Palo Alto, by people turning on or off El Camino, as I was crossing the intersecting street at a walking pace. Of the various busy cities I've lived and biked in, I've only been hit in Palo Alto, twice, a block apart.
The issue of speeding on Embarcadero is indirectly relevant, however, in that I think motorists get a bit frenetic getting on and off big, busy streets like this where the traffic moves fast. The motorist is so busy looking for a hole in the traffic and then darting out that they miss the person crossing the street. For instance in my case (the second time) the driver was looking to their left at oncoming cars as I was crossing from their right. They hit the accelerator as I was in front of the car. I would bet the same thing happened to Phyllis. Fortunately in my case it was a small sedan not an SUV with all that momentum behind it and tall front end, big tires, etc. Today's SUV's are built with horsepower and gearing to make then accelerate and handle like small cars; this makes them much more consumer-desirable. It also makes them more dangerous. Reminds me of the horribly tragic Malzbender case, on Miranda street. Driver going to school in her SUV.
I am not strictly anti-SUV. I own one! It is an old, slow diesel that actually gets used for the kind of 4x4 backcountry trips today's SUV's couldn't do if they wanted to. Today's SUV's are more sport and less utility. It's car culture and it's consumerism. We are pretty much all part of it in one way or another.
Posted by Driver, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 3:17 pm
I agree, we have plenty of people who drive too fast, talk on cell phones (the initial lull has happened and drivers are back to their old habits) distracted by crying babies or arguing kids, or trying to find their way round the radio stations,etc. But, we also have bicycles not stopping at stop signs, riding the wrong way, or without lights (some are equally invisible in fog like this morning). But, we also have some pedestrians who enter a crosswalk without looking to see if they are giving drivers time to stop for them, jaywalkers, those who jog and won't stop, some wearing ipods and can't hear, etc. etc.
Traffic safety is for all road users, and everyone has to be more careful out there on the roads and the sidewalks.
We have not been given enough information as yet to know who was at fault in this accident. Accident it was because no one goes out with the intention of hitting anyone else.
By the way, the driver in the Malzbender case was not driving a SUV.
Posted by anonymous, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 3:46 pm
So sorry to hear of this sad loss.
I have been driving small cars for years and have been terrified at SUV behavior. Now we get the perspective of someone confined to a wheelchair. This is unacceptable. I strongly urge the city and police to seek improvements on Embarcadero/that intersection and enforcement of traffic laws, this should improve driver behavior in general in the area.
I believe many of the Embarcadero speeders/swervers are going to/from Stanford U and 101. This is my educated opinion.
Posted by Don Kazak, Palo Alto Weekly columnist, on Dec 3, 2008 at 3:57 pm Don Kazak is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Police have released more information. The SUV that struck Seidman was northbound on Cowper and had crossed Embarcadero when it struck Seidman on the north side of the intersection. Seidman was crossing Cowper.
Posted by drive 25, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 4:31 pm
The SUV driver was probably trying to dart through a break in the traffic and neglected to watch for pedestrians in the crosswalk. The driver is clearly at fault, since she had the stop sign.
Killings like this are not "accidents" if the driver is negligent (i.e., not driving safely for the conditions). You don't need to intend to kill someone to still be guilty of vehicular homicide. Intentionally killing someone is premeditated murder.
Posted by V., a resident of Mountain View, on Dec 3, 2008 at 4:48 pm
People drive way too fast in this area with all the people walking and bicyclists and in general there is a lot of going on with all the traffic. Stop driving so fast. My heart goes out to that poor lady.
Posted by PA Mom, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 5:03 pm
This is a sad story, and should serve as a reminder to everyone to slow down. I always drive 25mph on Embarcadero and I don't care how annoying it is to those behind me. This accident did not happen because the vehicle was an SUV, it's because the person driving wasn't paying attention, period. She could have been driving a moped and still would have run over Phyllis. The lady driving the vehicle at 3:15pm was probably in a rush to get her child to one of the umpteen extracuricular activities that he is involved with. From school, to soccer practice, to piano lessons and the list goes on and on. People are so self absorbed that they don't stop to consider that they are not the only ones on the road. Too often with tragic results such as what happened here.
Posted by Nishi, a resident of another community, on Dec 3, 2008 at 5:08 pm
Phyllis gave me a home during 2003-2004. She was easily one of the most kind and generous people I have ever known. I am very saddened by this unfortunate event - what a loss! Phyllis was so positive and excited about life, always looking forward to traveling the world and meeting new people. My deepest sympathies go out to her family and everyone who has known her over the years. She was a wonderful person and someone I feel so fortunate to have known.
Posted by Common Sense, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 5:13 pm
She was an inspiration and this is so very sad.
And yes, the driver probably darted through traffic to avoid the ridiculously long backups. They also make reckless u-turns to avoid the backups. My calls to the utility dept to check the timing of the lights have gotten little or no response. Maybe this tragedy will get our fine utility department to check on this?
I agree with the comments that 25 mph is too low, especially at night and in non-rush hour /non-school hours when Embarcedero is practically empty. Adjusting the lights' timing accordingly seems like a no-brainer. Don't we have sensors?
Finally, the parents around the school need to be more observant and polite. If you see someone backing out of a driveway or signaling to turn into a driveway, yield -- don't pull up to block them. If you see a driveway, don't park right in front of it.
Posted by nancy kiely, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 5:18 pm
It's hard to believe! Phyllis was a very identifiable and brave person around town, especially when her white Samoyed, Cintah, was with her.
Many of Phyllis' trips were undoubtedly to the Palo Art Center, where she and I volunteered as Art Dialogue docents. A former art gallery owner herself, she was knowledgeable and current in the art world and she contributed a lot to our organization.
It was amazing to see up close how she adapted to her MS, and how quick she was to smile her beautiful smile. This is a tragic end to a life well lived against all odds.
Posted by Carole, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 6:40 pm
This is a tragedy.
Embarcadero needs timed lights. Not only is this a cont'd problem for anyone turning left (1 block down is green wile 1 block up is red so traffic is always going one way), but it would be much safer if all of the lights were the same at the same time.
Posted by Jim, a resident of another community, on Dec 3, 2008 at 6:49 pm
I was driving down Bascom Ave. in San Jose one time, doing 40 in what I think is a 35 zone. I came upon an intersection with the green light. There was one car in the left turn lane waiting for the green arrow. Just as I was about to enter the intersection, someone in a motorized wheelchair came out from in front of the car in the turn lane and got right in front of me. I slammed the brakes and went into a skid, but couldn't stop fast enough. I let off the brakes in order to maneuver around them and was able to swerve just enough to go between the car on my left and the wheelchair. The person in the wheelchair stopped in the lane and tried to throw it in reverse when they saw me. We were both extremely relieved (I assume) that I was able to avoid hitting them. People in wheelchairs are hard to see and it's hard for them to see you. I feel very sorry for both people in this accident, the person who got hit and the person who hit them. I'm not blaming the accident on either one.
Posted by Driver, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 9:07 pm
I repeat that this was an accident.
All accidents have a cause, whether it be weather conditions, vehicle malfunction, driver distraction, driver making poor judgment, it was still not done with deliberate intent on being negligent. I feel sure that as drivers all of us have had lapse of concentration at some stage in our driving experience but fortunately it has not endangered lives or even caused anything more than "a lucky escape". This should be a reminder to all of us to make smart decisions when deciding routes and even as pedestrians (or those in electric wheelchairs or similar) to look each time we cross the street and expected the unexpected regardless of what type of road user we are.
Posted by A different driver, a member of the Walter Hays School community, on Dec 3, 2008 at 9:41 pm
I think "Driver" was saying what I've been thinking all day: "There but for the grace of God go I." It could have easily been one of my kids crossing Cowper at 3:15. It could easily have been me crossing Embarcadero that time of day. As is so often the case in accidents, a moment's lapse has a lifetime's impact on countless people. The blink of an eye. It could have been any of us, in either place.
Posted by Solon, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 9:50 pm
NO CAR DRIVING ONE YEAR FOR THE DRIVER (voluntarily I hope)
She was very friendly, and polite, to strangers, as I was. I feel very bad about this.
The driver should voluntarily not drive a car ne year. This should be a new cultural norm.
A DRIVER'S DUTY is stop safely is she was sleeping in the road, or if a child is crossing, or a dog, etc. ANYTHING you hit with the front end of your car (unless it jumped out from the side) is YOUR responsibility to STOP.
Diving is a PRIVILIGE, This driver, is not convicted and imprisoned for Vehicular Manslaughter (depending on the facts) he/she should voluntarily STOP DRIVING FOR ONE FULL YEAR.
I hereby take this pledge that I would do the same, should God forbid I ever hurt someone with my car.
Can we make this a new PALO ALTO TRADITION? This would be a great atonement.
One of her (our) neighbors is the experienced and well-known attorney, Richard Alexander. (Her family may benefit fron calling him.)
Will some one post memorial information when known?
Posted by Driver, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 9:56 pm
I am not blaming anyone, I do not know all the facts. I do know that the driver may be guilty of negligence. I have no idea if the woman in the wheelchair made a bad decision on the timing for her to cross Cowper.
What I am saying is that this was an accident, not an intentional collision. The events have caused distress in two families and neither will be the same again. The death of someone crossing a street, whether it be a pedestrian, a child, a jogger, or someone in a wheelchair, is a tragedy. But, we must cross streets wisely. It is better to be cautious and safe rather than in the right and deceased.
The driver probably should have chosen a safer route, but it may be that she did not know the area and was following a route given by a GPS, we don't know.
Posted by Sergeant Steve Herrera, a resident of another community, on Dec 3, 2008 at 10:56 pm
I am the traffic supervisor for the Palo Alto Police Department and in charge of this investigation. If you, or anyone you know, was a witness to this accident please contact me at (650) 329-2683 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please don't contact me just to air your opinion, as that is what this blog is for. I am only interested in factual informtion to come to a conclusion as to fault and what really happened.
Also, investigations of this type take time. There will be no opinion on fault until all the facts are in. Please bear with us while we investigate. Please also remember that while it is tragic that someone died in this accident, to keep in mind what the driver is feeling.
Posted by Katherine, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 10:57 pm
This is so sad and yes, a needless death. Many, many drivers speed through Palo Alto's residential neighborhoods. I have been honked at, tailgated and swerved around while at Cowper and Washington Sts. because I was not going fast enough for the crazed driver behind me.
The intersection of Middlefield and Embarcadero is another dangerous intersection. This corner is extremely busy with Walter Hays Elementary school and if it were not for the reliable and conscientious crossing guard there I am sure tragedies would have occurred. This corner used to have a cop on a motorcycle, hidden from drivers' view, who could catch those running red lights and turning right on red when children were present. Presently, I don't believe this is the case.
Another horrible intersection is on Churchill across from Palo Alto High School. Although it is well marked, it is difficult to see pedestrians or bikers in the crosswalk when traffic is backed up. Be alert when driving in this area especially during commute time.
Drivers, please SLOW DOWN.
City of Palo Alto, please clear intersections of overgrown vegetation that create blind spots.
Posted by Mary Carlstead, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2008 at 11:19 pm
I am trying to remember all the facts of this, but here goes. The State Legislature has control of speed on arterials in many cities like Palo Alto. It's something called the 'entrapment law'. Los Altos is having a problem with the Legislature on this right now. On these arterils, the legal speed limit is actually a percentage of what the average driver drives, and I heard someplace that Embarcadero gets in the 35 mph. range. I know someone else out there can remember the facts- like Herb Borok. Anyway, about ten years ago, the Legislature 'allowed' Palo Alto to use radar on Alma, Middlefield, Channing, and Embarcadero -but on Embarcadero ONLY from El Camino to Middlefield. (Maybe it was Newell past Walter Hays School.) I rarely see a patrol car unless there is a 'trap' with the radar tagging drivers going under and up the overpass by Paly. . From Middllefield or Newell on out to 101, no radar can be used, and it's open season for drivers. When Ted Lempert was our Assemblyman, he introduced a bill to get all of Embarcadero on the radar screen, but the bill was attached to another that, if passed, would have been detrimental to Southern California - which controls the Legislature by sheer voting strength. I've pleaded for years for our elected officials and the city to put pressure on the Legislature to allow Palo Alto to take care of its own speeding problems in the best safety interest of our own city. So far no luck. In Phyllis's memory, we should ban together and demand that all of Embacardero be 'radared' - and the PAPD crack down on these speeders. Most of the commute speeders do not live here.
I first met Phyllis through AYSO soccer years ago. She was a wonderful person. However, my heart goes out to the driver whose life will never be the same. As I read it, she was crossing Embarcadero which is a bad intersection. We do not know the facts, if she were speeding, who was at fault. So I ask everyone to back off.
Embarcadero is a nightmare. We all know it. I avoid it if I can. Speeding is horrendous.
The city must press for a solution and get the Legislature out of our traffic business and crack down on the speeding on that entire street. If it takes speed bumps, so be it. It sure helped Channing, Moreno, and Ross. And as for the overpass, I don't remember if there is a yield sign for drivers going north and looping into Palo Alto. But that is really a dangerous place - and between 7-9 a.m. it is the Indy 500. In the evening, watch out.
Posted by yup, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Dec 4, 2008 at 1:58 am
Yes, this is a very sad event. I was not there at the time of the incident, therefore I cannot pass judgment on the victim, or the person driving the vehicle that struck her. I do however think that drivers need more training before a license is issued to them and to have continous driving training. Police officers have updated training every so often to keep their skills sharp...why can't civilians have this? You don't get a ticket, you get an automatic renewal from the DMV. Yeah, that does not mean that you are necessarily a good driver, it means that you have not been caught.
No one, and I mean NO ONE drives 25 on Embarcadero. If you do, you are tailgated, or you get high beams flashes in your rear view. This is a residential zone people! This is why the speed limit is 25 mph even though it seems like an expressway. My point is that if people went through some sort of intensive driver training and taught to be aware of their sorroundings instead of talking on the phone, texting and other asine things I see everday on the road, things like this would not be as common.
Posted by Pauline Navarro, a resident of another community, on Dec 4, 2008 at 6:36 am
I worked with Phyllis at Lytton Gardens over 25 years ago. She was an Occupational Therapist there. She was totally committed to her patients, and had a very kind heart. Never heard a negative comment out of her regarding any of us. I could always count on her to issue the calming words to smooth rough waters, if the waters got rough for some reason.
When she started having her symptoms and diagnosis, I could not believe how she just kept plugging along, adapting along the way to her disability as needed in order to keep working. She was a real role model to her patients AND to the rest of us. She lived out her belief in the value of continuing to live your life of family, work and volunteerism with a positive and "just keep moving" attitude. I don't think it is just the fog of time that has me remembering in this way, but I don't remember her ever whining or crying or accepting, let alone asking for, any "extra" help from the rest of us, just kept adapting. She was even going through some severe family changes at the same time..yet "kept on truckin'".
I ran into her from time to time over the years around town..amazing how her attitude never let up. I have thought of her as an inspiration for myself when I have needed to buck up.
Phyllis, the world is a worse place without you, but we will never forget you.
Posted by Richard, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Dec 4, 2008 at 7:52 am
It is tragic to hear of another senseless death of a fine person because of a few moments of sloppy behavior.
Although the driver was not on Embarcadero but was crossing Embarcadero, speeds on Embarcadero are still a factor. If traffic on Embarcadero was slower the driver crossing it would not have to rush to get through an opening, and would have more time to look ahead for pedestrians crossing there.
Striped crosswalks and flashing lights will not do anything to solve this problem. If the driver didn't see someone in a wheelchair, why would she see a tiny flashing light in the middle of the day? Putting a traffic light at every intersection would help, but is unworkable. The solution is not to be found through engineering but through education and enforcement.
Posted by Driver, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 4, 2008 at 9:03 am
Roundabouts would prevent this type of accident as a driver approaching a major road from a minor road would only have to look for traffic approaching in one direction and pedestrians would only have to look for traffic in one direction off the roundabout instead of three as well as traffic approaching in the other direction to enter the roundabout. Roundabouts only stop traffic to allow a vehicle to enter from a side street when one is there and otherwise does not stop the traffic, unlight a stop light or a stop sign.
Posted by Jeff, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on Dec 4, 2008 at 9:08 am
I used to see Phyllis and her dog Syntah daily at the Garland unofficial dog park. What a shame. This maybe unrelated to the particular circumstances of the accident that killed her, but in-spite the very heavy morning fog we have had in the last couple of days, I saw many vehicles drive without lights. I was walking my dog the other morning, crossing a side street with no stop signs and and suddenly, a dark SUV without lights appeared out of the thick fog. The thick fog prevented me from seeing it was approaching and prevented the driver from seeing me, and it missed me and my dog by inches. Conversely, I was driving down Middlefield on Tuesday evening around 6, and counted several vehicles driving without any lights although it was already very dark. It seems like many California drivers aren't aware that when it's foggy and/or dark, you MUST turn on your headlights.
Posted by Heather Brady, a resident of another community, on Dec 4, 2008 at 9:59 am
It's hard to believe Phyllis is gone. I heard it on the radio yesterday. I couldn't believe what I heard.
I met Phyllis at a MS Support Group at PAMF. Phyllis was an inspiration to those of us with MS. She joined my MS Walk team "Heather's Helpers" many years ago. It was wonderful to walk next to her and listen to her talk. Phyllis also got me interested in volunteering with Theater Works in Mt. View at the Center of Performing Arts. I will miss her dearly.
As previous noted we all will miss this remarkable person. Those that attended the MS Support Group at PAMF will truly miss a friend, someone that always had such a positive attitude.
Posted by resident, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 4, 2008 at 11:24 am
This intersection has poor visibility and frequently has accidents. It is very dangerous to cross Embarcadero from Cowper, and to turn left on Cowper when driving on Embarcadero. Back in the 80's there was another fatality at this same intersection. There should be restrictions on turning left onto Cowper and crossing Cowper through Embarcadero. We already have a light on Waverley one block away.
Posted by fireman, a resident of another community, on Dec 4, 2008 at 12:27 pm
Mr Wallis, you and me think too much a like. How could this have been avoided? Anything to make better? Falls in line with the streets being out of repair and all the watsed money. Web site, Transport fire engines, Funding gone that could, make real improvements impossible.
Posted by Jennifer Seidman, a resident of the Leland Manor/Garland Drive neighborhood, on Dec 4, 2008 at 12:36 pm
Our mother was an amazing person. And we greatly appreciate all of those who cared for her. Please if anyone has any information that can help the police figure out exactly what happened that day it would mean the world to our family.
Posted by DogOwner, a resident of the Leland Manor/Garland Drive neighborhood, on Dec 4, 2008 at 2:06 pm
Jennifer and Karen-I got to know your mother a bit through meeting her daily at the dog park. She was a wonderful, intelligent and inspirational person. Although I'm not a family member, my heart is broken. I didn't see the accident, but I had watched your mother cross busy streets on her wheelchair numerous times, and she was would always use a great deal of caution and common sense. Not being a witness it would be irresponsible for me to blame the driver, but I have no doubt that it wasn't your mother's fault. My heartfelt condolences on your terrible lose. We are all poorer without her.
Posted by Ken, a resident of the Evergreen Park neighborhood, on Dec 4, 2008 at 4:04 pm
Although there are many competent and safe drivers out there, the quality of driving in Palo Alto has deteriorated to the point where strolling around Baghdad is safer than walking or driving our streets. Running red lights and stop signs, driving at dangerous speed on city streets and driving at dark without lights on has become the norm, not the exception. I had friends visit from parts of the world where drivers are considered to be particularly unruly and dangerous and they were shocked at how unruly, lawless and dangerous the traffic in Alto Alto was. As someone who has driven in countries with some of the most notoriously unruly drivers:Greece, Israel, India, Italy, Brazil, I must concur-w have become worst than them. I'm actually hoping that at some point all driving would cease in Palo Alto. We should move toward a world without cars and traffic, only ulrta-fast, efficient, non-nonpolluting inexpensive public transportation. We and our kids, disabled persons and seniors in particular are now in mortal danger whenever we step out of the house because of the awful quality of driving in Palo Alto and I hope to see an end to driving in Palo Alto soon.
Posted by Mom, a member of the Duveneck School community, on Dec 4, 2008 at 9:39 pm
What a tragic story.
But blaming SUVs for the death is ridiculous! Remember, it's not the guns, it's the people!
I drive on Louis Road and Greer Road to get to/from Duveneck Elementary four times per day and am appalled at how many people run the red lights on Embarcadero. At least three times per week I witness it and I am only at the intersection for a brief crossing. I don't mean driving through when it is yellow, people drive through when it is already red.
We ought to have the photo cameras catch those red light runners. Those cameras seriously work. They show where the car is at the time of the red light, the face of the driver, the license plate of the car. Fines for running red lights are steep. It's a serious safety issue to run a red light.
Posted by Hermann, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Dec 4, 2008 at 11:30 pm
Yes, It's tragic that she had to die to shake us up again. Absolutely positive: the women reported the accident.
What can be done to prevent it?
Traffic lights on Cowper/Embarcadero. Northbound/southbound Cowper has "only" stop signs.
Traffic cameras -- and a quick follow-up on offenders. High fines. If it doesn't hurt one takes it as "business" expense.
In the meantime all who are in doubt what really to do please read in the California Driver Handbook, issue 2005, (I just have it handy) page 2 - right column, page 15 -19. You don't have it? Check www.dmv.ca.gov.
In our childhood we learned that breaking rules gives us often advantages. How many of us humans never grew up?
Posted by Improvements needed urgently, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 5, 2008 at 1:05 am
As everyone has mentioned, after school is such a transitional time, I wonder if there was anyone in one place long enough to see what happened. Also, I'm sure that anyone who witnessed this would have stayed to help, or call the police.
This is a wake up call. Crossing Embarcadero, at both Cowper and Webster is SCARY for drivers, but the most vulnerable are the pedestrians on either side.
I have been on Webster before, and as I am looking to cross, kids on bikes zoom up. So, while you're focused on checking cars from BOTH directions, you're also looking out for pedestrians or bikes crossing on your stop sign from BOTH directions, and then you look for pedestrians by the stop sign on the other side, form BOTH directions. It's why I usually take Middlefield or Waverly, but I feel it could have been me in SUV driver's place.
Even if people are going at 25mph, there can be so much traffic that by the time you have a turn to go, you can be in a frenzy, as Brian form barron Park described. Can this be improved by doing something with the way the lights work at Embarcadero? I also really like Ann's idea,
"automatic lights that are embedded in the pavement that parallel the edges of the crosswalks. They are activated when you start to cross the walk, and make it unmistakable that someone is in the crosswalk. More implementation of this life-saving technology would save many lives."
Kids should be advised to be really careful, or avoid those crosswalks until something has improved.
This is very sad. To the family, I'm very sorry for your loss.
Posted by George in St Louis, a resident of another community, on Dec 5, 2008 at 3:58 am
Just moved out of Palo Alto a couple of months ago, but I know the intersection well, having biked through it going North on Cowper on many occasions. It's hard, the traffic comes at you so fast from both directions on Embarcadero, I can see how someone would be distracted from seeing a pedestrian on the other side.
Bryant going South crossing Embarcadero has a right-turn only sign for motorists. Deploying right-turn only signs at some of these obviously dangerous intersections which don't have traffic lights would be a simple and inexpensive safety measure, and it might have prevented this tragedy.
Posted by BanDeadlyDrivers, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Dec 5, 2008 at 8:03 am
You know how in Palo Alto , when dog bites a humane, even when it was actually the human's fault, the dog, if it isn't put down, is put into mandatory quarantine and gets strike against it(3 strikes and the dog is put down)? A driver who kills a non-driving person should lose his/her drivers license for a mandatory 1 year. Guess what such a law would so in Palo Alto: it would force drivers crossing a busy road like Embaracadero at an intersection without a light to take into consideration that when they dart across the road with traffic closing in from both sides that there might be a pedestrian crossing the street in front of them and that they must take that into consideration when deciding whether to take a chance on crossing Embarcadero. On a more philosophical level:cars are a curse and the human race has no chance of survival unless we make them obsolete very soon.
Posted by Driver, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 5, 2008 at 9:06 am
How about putting a right turn only sign on Cowper both sides of Embarcadero and any other street that does not have a light. This could be a right turn only between the hours of 7.30 am and 7.30 pm weekdays, something like the sign at Churchill/Alma. This would prevent cars from crossing Embaradero or turning left, which may make life more difficult for them, but it would keep bikes and pedestrians from being in the line of drivers just looking for traffic.
Posted by Heather Brady, a resident of another community, on Dec 5, 2008 at 9:26 am
Please keep us informed for the funeral. I, as I'm sure others, would like to attend. If the MS Support group in Palo Alto does something, please say something. I have MS and I know the difficulties it brings. Phyllis has traveled numerous times through the streets of Palo Alto. I know that she is very careful with traffic on her journeys. She's in a place where she is pain free, happy and working to help stop MS or finding a cure. My heart goes to Karen & Jennifer. God Bless You.
Posted by JustMe, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 5, 2008 at 10:18 am
Has anyone contacted the driver of the SUV to see if she needs help? Imagine if you suddenly had to stop driving, how hard that would be. She probably had kids that need to be dropped at school and picked up again, and may need some help with some errands. She and her family could probably use sume help and support. If Ms. Seidman was truly as wonderful a person as people are saying she was, she would peobably agree to the need to reach out to this person. Forget the guilt trips and blame game, there is a family in need here.
Posted by Carole, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 5, 2008 at 11:29 am
This is so sad. What's also sad & frightening is the large # of people who are prejudiced against SUVs. (& no, I don't have one).& who are so punitive-minded. While it seems likely that the driver was at fault, it has nothing to do with driving a SUV.They're no better or worse than drivers of other vehicles. I feel sorry for a defendant in court when any of these narrow-minded people (who likely consider themselves intelligent & liberal) are on a jury.
Posted by JustMe, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 5, 2008 at 12:33 pm
We are all capible of making stupid, thoughtless, and/or careless mistakes. If you have never done so, you have not lived long enough. Thankfully, most of these mistakes do not have the consequences of killing someone, but many of them had the potential and we just got lucky. We look back and go "Dang, that was a dumb thing to do, glad no one got hurt."
I would hope that if I ever am stupid/unlucky enough to make such a mistake, society would not punish my family, my children, for it. I would hope that there would be some outreach to help them when I got taken away.
The same goes for the family of that driver. That whole family probably needs counciling and support, or the damage just gets expanded. Compassion is needed here, not just for the family of the victim.
Posted by anonymous, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 5, 2008 at 1:10 pm
Not sure I agree with your defense of SUVs, Carole. There have been many sad accidents where SUV drivers backed up in driveways over their own tiny children without a clue! This is much less likely to happen in a smaller car with far better visibility.
I can absolutely testify to many years of feeling threatened by large SUVs practically riding on the bumper of my car (I have driven compact cars for years) and knowing that if they should plow into me, their overly massive weight would devastate me and my vehicle. Got an SUV for skiing or for your farm - cool. To roar around town on narrow streets like Palo Alto's - not cool. Very risky for all of us.
Posted by anonymous, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 5, 2008 at 1:15 pm
One more thing about this accident - You are responsible to look ahead for pedestrians when you are driving. You are required to stop in time for someone, even in a wheelchair, in a crosswalk (even if unmarked). It appears the victim in this case had every right to cross the street in her wheelchair. It is unlikely she "stepped right out in front (of the driver)" like you hear in some cases where vehicles hit pedestrians. She is in a slow-moving wheelchair! There should have been time for the SUV driver to see her and not roar across Embarcadero into her. I am very sorry at the loss of Ms. Seidman and support the right of wheelchair bound people to be out in public in their wheelchairs, even crossing streets.
Posted by Signe Mayfield, a member of the Walter Hays School community, on Dec 5, 2008 at 2:38 pm
Like everyone at the Palo Alto Art Center, I was very shocked and saddened to hear of Phyllis' death. An great art enthusiast, she was a docent in our Art Dialogues program. She will be greatly missed. My condolences to her family and friends.
Posted by Darrell, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Dec 5, 2008 at 5:04 pm
I'm really sad to hear what happened to Phyllis - but blaming SUV drivers is idiotic.
I was hit by a Prius which sent me to the Emergency room and 6 months of intensive physical therapy. I don't blame all hybrid drivers.
Blaming SUV's for this accident is wrong. It's just careless driving - which Everyone has been guilty of at one point in their lives. Everyone who drives Embarcadero or Middlefield road has been guilty at one point of driving over 25 MPH. I'm happy we live in a neighborhood where someone at least stopped and called the police, there are places near us where people would just drive away.
Again I'm really sorry to hear about Phyllis, why do we feel the need to point fingers?
Posted by Anon, a resident of another community, on Dec 5, 2008 at 5:24 pm
it's just like you Palo Alto people. Stick your nose up a little higher and perhaps you should outlaw everything that isn't a hybrid. It's a tradegy that someone had died - would you be as upset if she was hit by a hybrid?
Maybe this is a call to pay attention WHEN one is driving rather than pay attention to WHAT one is driving. This is a tragedy and you Palo Alto people are just using it to get on your soap box to preach how much better you are because you drive a compact car. You guys are shameless using this tradgey to promote your lifestyle choice.
Posted by Stuart Berman, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 5, 2008 at 5:46 pm
To Carole and Anonymous, both from Duveneck/St. Francis,
I'm SURE that I don't agree with Carole. SUV's are dangerous for many reasons:
They probably spew more pollution per mile than any other form of common personal transportation.
By virtue of their size they probably require far more of the earth's precious materials to build than any other form of common personal transportation.
2. Why SUV's are not Safe Transportation:
They endanger other people's lives because:
Visibility (interior to the exterior) is impaired compared to other cars.
Their high vertical front ends are more lethal to pedestrians and bicycles than the lower, often tapered front ends of other cars and vans.
In accidents with cars the car comes off worse in the encounter because of it's lower mass and the SUV's body on frame construction. (But overall, SUV's don't protect their occupants any better than cars. Their high centers of gravity make them less stable and more likely to swerve out of control or flip).
Drivers can't control them:
Do you ever notice how the SUV's glide over their lane markers into the adjoining lane where Embarcadero lanes narrow at Bryant? It's a tight fit, but most trucks seem to keep within their lanes.
SUV's are big, and bigger is harder to control. How often do you see a mostly empty parking spot that you can't take because the SUV in the next spot is intruding over the line?
Why am I so concerned? My family and I are the potential victims. We walk and bicycle whenever we can. If you are not concerned about your neighbors, you should be concerned for your kids who I suspect do bicycle.
I'm sorry that the discussion of poor Ms. Seidman's untimely death is spinning off into issues like this, but it seems that only during crisis times like this are people willing to address many important issues.
Posted by Improvements needed urgently, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 5, 2008 at 7:11 pm
I won't go there on the SUV thing, it could have been any car, and anyone. The Cowper and Webster Embarcadero crossings are BAD bad bad places for drivers and pedestrians.
Thank you to the RIght Turn only idea!!!!!!!!!!! during high traffic hours, and especially before and after school.
Until then, the hedges on those corners need to GO. I checked the Cowper crossing today, as if going North, and while there is full view of the crossing in front of you, on the other side of Embarcadero, the hedge to your right - on the SE corner, OBSTRUCTS your view of oncoming traffic from the East. So you have to say a PRAYER before you cross. In high traffic, you wait your turn, and just as you make that SPLIT decision to go forward, a pedestrian appears, it happens, it happens all the time. There should also be signs for pedestrian that these crossings are dangerous.
This is a terrible loss, and a sad situation, but we need to PREVENT any further accidents on those crossings. URGENT, RIght turn only signs, and buzz those hedges please!
Posted by Midtowner, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Dec 5, 2008 at 7:46 pm
There are some streets in Palo Alto that I am scared to cross or turn left onto, and I just won't do it if there is no light at that intersection. Middlefield, Oregon Expressway, Embarcadero and Alma are among them. I will only turn right onto them from an intersection with a stop sign. I will travel several blocks on side streets to find an intersection with a traffic light allowing a safe crossing of, or left turn onto, those quasi highways.
On the topic of SUVs. I think they are dangerous. I think people who drive them have this feeling of power and invincibility that makes them drive as if noone else exists out there. (Note that having an SUV is unnecessary for most people driving around Palo Alto)
Add to that a cell phone, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Posted by Mom, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 5, 2008 at 9:19 pm
Blaming SUVs is like blaming African-Americans for all crimes. Makes no sense at all.
Get rid of SUVs and you are asking to get rid of trucks. Won't happen. Plus, SUVs actually have better visibility than some cars out there with their elongated windows but short in height. Minivans have the same or less visibility than SUVs. And minivans can be backing up and children are not visible either.
And environmental factors? Tell the auto industry to produce more hybrids and people will purchase them. I have driven SUVs, minivans and cars and SUVs have better visibility than many cars.
SUVs hard to control? They are no more difficult to drive than cars or minivans. They actually handle better than minivans.
Safety of SUVs? Yes, they are safer. That's why I drive one. Build an electric SUV and I will drive it.
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of another community, on Dec 5, 2008 at 11:54 pm
I was driving on Embarcadero today and watched someone drive on the wrong side of the road in order not to have to wait to have to reach the left turn lane properly. They just did this to cut in front of other cars and drove the wrong way down Embarcadero. Please everyone let's be careful.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 6, 2008 at 1:19 am
SUVs aren't safer. They've been sold that way, but the stats don't support it. They're more likely to be involved in a fatal accident--they're heavy and aren't nearly as maneuverable as most cars.
In other words, you can't stop as readily, you can't swerve as easily. They're also top heavy and more likely to roll over.
And, yes, they are more likely to kill someone outside the car than a Prius.
Ironically, many SUV buyers are cautious women who feel uncertain about their driving skills and want something that seems really safe.
And what seems more safe than a tank?
Turns out safer means driving something you can get out of the way.
And, yeah, I think they are on their way out--sales plunged during the gas hike and how we're in a recession--even with lower gas prices, there's not a big market for something that inefficient.
As for Embarcadero, I'm sorry to hear NIMBYism did in traffic calming. It is a street with parks, three schools and a lot of houses on it. It's both an arterial road and a residential one, which is kind of a recipe for disaster. For some reason (more money?) traffic speed isn't the same kind of problem on University.
Posted by Driver, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 6, 2008 at 9:30 am
Unfortunately SUVs are about the only choice for a large family, especially when you have teenager boys who do sports. We used to have a wagon which would hold 8 includind 2 who could travel backwards in the tailgate and took all the storage space. When that need to be replaced we found that the only thing that would take people plus luggage (sports equipment and coolers) was a SUV.
Don't always blame the cars, blame the choices out there. No one makes wagons anymore and minivans have no space for stuff if you fill it with people.
Posted by Solon, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Dec 6, 2008 at 2:02 pm
No driver should ever cross Embarcadero across Cowper; to save your self, you have tobe very watchfull for the 40 to 55 mile cross trafffic, four lanes in both directions! No blame assignment, but it would be safer with a child to cross at Middlefield, Waverly, or Alma as most everyo9ne does.
1. The driver should voluntaril;y not drive for one year, setting a higher standard for herself/himself and for Palo Alto. Friends of her/him shoul;d recommend this, those that support this, take this pledge to yourself now.
2. All the streets between Louis and ALma shold be right turn only, if no stop liget.
3. Red light runner cameras should be installed immeiadtely on this soplights, or by the near neighbors, who have the right to photgraph the intersection from their own property.
4. If the woman was in the street,sitting, or riding her wheelchair, the driver was clearly required to stop, your job as a a driver is to not hit a car/ person/ dog stopped right in your path, your dutty is to pay attention, keep your car under your control, and have a safe stopping distance at all times.
5. Unless it is a meteor, there is hardly a such thing as an "accident" in a car that does not have two or three preventable reasons it should not have happened.
The issues become, moral responsibility, legal responsibility, and
what we as individuals, the city, and car companies can do to prevent future harm.
6. Please check CELL PHONE RECORD of a driver in any accident, automatically.
I feel both for the victim, her friends and family, and the driver.
Posted by mema, a resident of another community, on Dec 6, 2008 at 7:34 pm
Good Bye Leslie. You will be missed. Your courage, up-beat attitude and overall you was one of a kind. You had too much experience and intelligence to have crossed Cowper carelessy. My sympathy to your family.
I know that intersection well after having lived and walked it for years. The driver obviously tried to slip through a tight opening to cross, only looking in two directions, not three, there lies the problem. How irresponsible, tragic and inexcusable. I'm sure she is suffering and will do so for the rest of her life. I am not her judge and do believe it was not intentional, but exteremely careless.
Something MUST be done to slow traffic on Embarcadero, but that isn't what caused the accident and won't bring Leslie back. However, there should be RIGHT TURN ONLY signs at all intersections on Embarcadero. I realize that there are so many VIP'S in PA, that they wouldn't think it applied to them. But a very stiff fine would convince everyone. Also, any crossing of Embarcardero, must be done at a light, there are many, or if needed, add more. How about videoing intersection like this as well? That would solve the witness, or lack of witness problem. Imagine if it had been a Walter Hays student, who's even less visible? Who is protecting this driver's identity and who's protecting Leslie?
Sharon, do you think children and short people should wear bright flags on a fiberglass whip as well as cyclists and people in wheelchairs? How about more cautious drivers?
Posted by Mom, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 6, 2008 at 8:33 pm
How come everyone is blaming the driver? Is it possible that the electric wheelchair suddenly appeared as some of those wheelchairs move pretty fast? Everyone is just speculating.
OhlonePar, I usually agree with you but not on this one. It's not like you to have no data for your statements.
"In other words, you can't stop as readily, you can't swerve as easily. They're also top heavy and more likely to roll over."
Wouldn't it be the driver at fault if he is driving so close that he needs to swerve or a reckless driver if the vehicle has to roll over?
"They're more likely to be involved in a fatal accident--they're heavy and aren't nearly as maneuverable as most cars."
Maybe they are involved with fatal accidents because the other cars run into them and fall apart. Doesn't mean the SUV driver is at fault.
"And, yes, they are more likely to kill someone outside the car than a Prius." Support for this?
"Ironically, many SUV buyers are cautious women who feel uncertain about their driving skills and want something that seems really safe." I know plenty of cautious drivers who do not drive SUVs.
I drive an SUV and twice while stopped at traffic signals, drivers have rear-ended me. Their cars were totalled and our bumper didn't even move. Another time, a BMW jumped out from the side and hit my SUV and was totalled. My front end needed some repair but drove away fine.
Again, it's not SUVs that are at fault here. It's drivers. I frankly think there should be reflex tests for the elderly who drive.
Posted by Driver, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 6, 2008 at 9:08 pm
I am just wondering why we have so little information about the driver in this case. We know it is a woman driving a SUV(?). We know she stopped and called 911. That is all we know. I feel sure that at the moment it is right that her identity is protected, but we are normally told the age of a driver, whether there was anyone else in the car with her and whether she was a local resident or not. These few facts would be interesting and would perhaps stop some of the speculation going on here.
Posted by Kate, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 7, 2008 at 9:42 am
She had her own child with her. You think she would endanger HIS life. Back off everyone.
This is not CSI. This did not involve speeding on Embarcadero. This involved crossing legally across Embarcadero going northbound and was already almost across the street when the ACCIDENT occurred. The backseat police investigators, cruel mouth people posting vitrol on this sight make me sick at my stomach. Back off, EVERYBODY and let the PAPD handle this.
All the other traffic issues are legitimate, but not appropriate here, not now. Something hopefully will change on Embarcadero itself.
Posted by Driver, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 7, 2008 at 10:40 am
I respect the driver's identity to remain undisclosed and never said that it should be publicised.
I know that there is a lot of bad feeling towards this driver and a lot is being said against her. I feel that making a few details public would be helpful as some of the more hateful comments here could be diminished by know a few simple facts. For example, was this a Palo Alto resident who did this route often for instance a parent picking up a child at a nearby school, or was it someone from out of town depending on directions and had no idea where she was exiting? Was she carpooling kids who may have been distracting her, or a visiting basketball team, or anything that may give us some idea of what had been going on in the car? Alternatively, was this a grandparent driving an unfamiliar car?
In other words, this driver had reasons for making bad decisions. Knowing them may help us to not put ourselves in similar positions and perhaps give her a little more compassion than many are doing here at present.
I have great sympathy for the victim's family and friends. I would also like to see some more compassion for the driver and her family and friends.
Posted by anonymous, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 7, 2008 at 11:25 am
It seems unclear why the driver's identity is being protected (not disclosed). When high school student Meghan Coughlin (sic),a Paly student who lived near Gunn, hit and killed a child on her own street it certainly was disclosed. Or are they actually not planning to charge the driver in this sad incident??
Posted by Perry, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Dec 7, 2008 at 6:03 pm
Maybe people just want to know what the circumstances were, to know what can be done to try to prevent further horrible accidents. Until the police report is out, most of the circumstances are unknown to us. But one thing is for sure. The Cowper/Embarcadero intersection is very dangerous, (along with others along Embarcadero). First, a driver at the stop sign, must check to see if THAT crosswalk is clear to go, and then check to see if the intersection is clear, and then if the other side's crosswalk is clear. Then the driver checks the closest crosswalk again (being the first crosswalk the driver must cross before entering the intersection) to make sure no biker or pedestrian has appeared, and then must look ahead again (both directions, and ahead to the next crosswalk) to see if all is clear, and then in the intersection clearing any cars that may have suddenly entered one of the four lanes of traffic, and then the driver is already over the crosswalk of the other side.
It is entirely plausible that a driver following the law (stopping at stop signs, not speeding, not being on a cell phone, etc.) could still not see someone who entered the roadway sometime during the process of the driver crossing the intersection. This is especially true for someone smaller, or in a wheel chair. It hasn't be disclosed whether the wheelchair had a flag, or something to distinguish itself, just as we do not know if the driver has been cited for any wrongdoing.
But one thing that is known, is that these streets must be MADE safer, for everyone. There are good suggestions already posted here, and I have one to add. I have seen crosswalks with a big yellow sign and a string of yellow lights hanging *above* the crosswalk, that blink when someone is crossing the street. Such blinking lights are highly noticeable and hang over the street, where they cannot (like pedestrians) be masked by bushes, or by passing cars. I pray that something positive can come out of this tragedy. My heart goes out to all of the people who have been affected by this horrible event.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 8, 2008 at 2:11 am
The driver's almost certainly at fault. Pedestrians have the right of way. It's that simple. I'm sure the driver never ever wanted to hit anyone, but in terms of the law, yes, the fault would be with the driver--I don't see how an older woman in a wheelchair could have darted out and made getting hit unavoidable. So, even if the driver wasn't negligent, she was most likely at fault--probably double-checking traffic to get across Embarcadero and then not double-checking for pedestrians. A particularly bad idea that time of day you have school kids walking and biking home. A car or truck parked in the wrong place could also have created a blind spot. Just bad all around--but that's Embarcadero.
As for SUV facts, I was citing stuff from a New Yorker article by Malcolm Gladwell a couple of years back. His point was about how SUVs were perceived as safer than they were and why they actually weren't. The original article did, yes, have the statistics to back up what I said--it was also the source for a study on SUV drivers. Just Google SUV and fatal collisions and you'll pull up similar stuff about roll-overs and such.
There are many situations where a driver, who's not at fault, needs to swerve to avoid an accident. I was once driving when a trailer in front of me hit the curve and flipped and came toward me. Was I at fault for being in a suddenly deadly situation? No. A bad lane change on a freeway by another driver can mean you suddenly have to swerve. Defensive driving's a reality--I try to give idiots as much room as possible, but the unexpected does happen.
And the fact that other cars were badly damaged when your SUV was not supports my point--SUVs are involved in fatal accidents for the same reason your bumper wasn't dented. When an SUV rolls on or smashes into another car, that car and most likely its occupants are toast. I'll take your word for it that you're a good and careful driver. But if you make a mistake and have a collision, your SUV is a dangerous weapon against a regular-sized car.
Truckers drive dangerous vehicles, but they're trained how to drive them safely. There are no special requirements to drive an SUV, so there's no guarantee that they're being driven by good drivers. In fact, since they're sold as being "safe", there's reason to expect that many SUV drivers are no better than average.
SUVs have improved somewhat, but I think there are real issues with them. I hate seeing them around schools (and there are tons of them there, of course) just because there's such a blind spot in front as far as kids are concerned.
Posted by anonymous, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 8, 2008 at 9:22 am
Toyota Prius curb weight AT 2932
Toyota Highlander curb weight AT 4508
2009 Chevy Suburban curb weight AT 5607
I don't know what AT means, I assume these are weights in lbs.
In one sense, with fluctutating gas prices, concern for the environment, it is funny that some still choose to drive large vehicles every day. There are a lot of Priuses in Palo Alto, too. There are also pedestrians, bicyclists, people in wheelchairs and these have the right to traverse our public areas.
You do have a choice what vehicle you drive. It is difficult for me to see the justification for massive heavy vehicles on the rather narrow, crowded roads of Palo Alto. You do have that choice, but I feel I am at risk as I drive a regular-sized car. (I already wrote that I understand those who use SUVs for skiing or on a farm and I will add that if you have 5 or more in your family, it is understandable). Too often, I see a mom driving one kid in a large, heavy, hulking vehicle speeding down my narrow street. Driving a larger vehicle means more responsibility for looking out for others because they will be more damaging if you hit someone with all that weight. I know you FEEL protected yourselves, that has some merit.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 8, 2008 at 1:06 pm
Thanks for the numbers. From what people have said to me, the kids issue has a lot to do with choosing to buy SUVs. Once you're dealing with car seats, there's not a lot of room in a regular car. So, ironically, some of our safety laws make SUVs more popular--it appeals to people doing the sports carpool thing. Oh, yes, Driver's saying just that higher in the thread.
I drive a small car myself, after having driven a station wagon, I love driving a small car. Or more specifically, I love finding a parking space into which I can squeeze in my small car.
Posted by Mom, a member of the Duveneck School community, on Dec 8, 2008 at 6:56 pm
Those who wish to drive small cars for the sake of the environment can do so but my SUV is legal and my family is safe inside it. While I care about other people, I put my safety first.
We have a friend who was driving a car instead of his SUV and someone crashed into him. His leg was so messed up that he could not operate on patients for a year. He still has pain in his legs. He said if he had been in his SUV, his legs would have been higher up and he would not have been hurt.
In the seventies, station wagons were used for larger families and seat belts were not required so 4 kids could fit in a row in the back seat and more could sit in the back of the wagon, on the flatbed.
These days, try to squish 3 growing teenagers and their friends into a car along with their sports gear. An SUV is needed for this quantity.
Posted by sarlat, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Dec 9, 2008 at 9:45 am
A driver who "didn't see" a person in a wheelchair crossing the street on a sunny afternoon wasn't looking, because she was undoubtedly looking left and right at the traffic on Embarcadero, trying to fine a gap through which to dart across it. There's no other explanation, short of sudden blindness. Such a person doesn't deserve any sympathy, since crossing Embaracadero during rush hour was more important to her than making sure no pedestrian was crossing Cowper while she was trying to find a gap.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Dec 9, 2008 at 12:32 pm
It's thread drift--a discussion of why the accident happened. I think we're all a little concerned because Embarcadero's a narrow-laned busy street that's simultaneously an artery to the freeway and the address of numerous homes, a park and several schools. So, it ties into a local issue. Sometimes there are two threads, but somehow it didn't happen here.
My hypothesis is the same as yours. However, it wasn't rush hour and I do feel some sympathy for the driver. I don't doubt for one minute that she wishes she could do it over and cross at a light. She has to live with this the rest of her life--and it sounds like her child saw it, too. My own nightmare has always been hitting a child who darts out.
Posted by Ron Wolf, a resident of Menlo Park, on Dec 10, 2008 at 10:01 pm
How terribly sad, for Phyllis, for her family, and friends, for the driver, and for her family and friends. But, even worse, there is nothing unusual in this tragedy. The pedestrian death rate in California, especially in our cities, is outrageous. 21% of traffic related deaths in California cities are to pedestrians!! Add in bicycle rider deaths and the percentage rises to 25%. Not only is this a moral outrage, it points to all sorts of planning and budgeting and awareness issues.
One thing that The Weekly could do to help would be to change your wording when reporting on traffic accidents. To say that "the Highlander was traveling northbound on Cowper and had crossed Embarcadero when it struck Seidman" depersonalizes the incident and removes responsibility from the driver. The accident is not the SUV's fault, its the drivers fault.
BTW, I applaud the driver for staying on the site of the accident. Thank you for taking that responsibility.
Posted by Driver, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 10, 2008 at 11:38 pm
To answer your post here and on the other thread, I agree that it is abysmal to see data on pedestrian/vehicle collisions at intersections. The law as it stands makes it easy for a pedestrian to walk out without looking into an intersection and expect vehicles to stop. I doubt that this is the case of what happened in this particular collision, but I see pedestrians walking in front of traffic all the time expecting the traffic to stop. 99% of the time, the traffic does stop, but there are always going to be times when the driver has the sun in his eyes, or is busy looking at his gps, or is distracted in some other way, and just doesn't see the pedestrian. I am not talking just about 4 way stops, but 2 way stops when the other direction doesn't stop.
If you look at countries where the law tells pedestrians to stop and wait until there is no traffic before crossing, it would be interesting to see the number of vehicle/pedestrian collisions. My gut feeling is that it would be much lower. I know that from walking around European cities, pedestrians are much more aware when crossing streets and even though there is jaywalking, there are much fewer incidents of people walking into traffic expecting the traffic to stop. They don't expect the traffic to stop so they are much more alert.