Telephone pole may have saved cyclist's life

Man, 81, falls asleep behind wheel in Atherton crash

A wooden telephone pole probably prevented major injuries to a bicyclist traveling north on El Camino Real near Watkins Avenue in Atherton Tuesday afternoon when an 81-year-old Atherton resident fell asleep at the wheel of an Infiniti sedan and veered off the road, police said.

The cyclist, a 25-year-old Redwood City man, suffered minor abrasions after falling off his bike, which was struck and knocked down by a bus stop sign, which had been sent flying when the car hit it, said Lt. Joe Wade of the Atherton Police Department. The cyclist was able to walk away from the scene, Wade said.

The car might have continued on into the cyclist but for a telephone pole that did not give way and that stopped the forward progress of the car, Wade said.

Neither the driver nor the car's one passenger were injured, Wade said.

The driver will not be charged and the matter now goes to the insurance companies involved for payment of damages, Wade said.

"Obviously if this had been a fatality, we send those up to the District Attorney," he added. "Ultimately, it would have been a crime if something worse had happened."

With an accident involving an 81-year-old driver, does it trigger an inquiry by the state Department of Motor Vehicles? "Not necessarily," Wade said, adding that he did not know if the DMV had a blanket policy for such cases.

A call to the DMV's public affairs office has not yet been returned.

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Like this comment
Posted by charge him anyway
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 1, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Can't they charge the driver with at least a moving violation? Doesn't have to be intentional to be illegal and dangerous. Are they not filing charges because of the cost of prosecution?

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Dec 1, 2010 at 4:03 pm

This is what the DMV says:

"Potentially Unsafe Driver
Unsafe Driver

If you know someone who may no longer be able to drive safely, you may request that the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) review his or her driving qualifications. This form is provided for your convenience. If you prefer, you may write a letter to your local Driver Safety office to identify the driver you want to report and give your reason(s) for making the report."

Seems pretty clear to me what the Atherton PD needs to do.

How would they have treated this incident if the driver was from East Palo ALto instead of Atherton?

Like this comment
Posted by charge him anyway
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 1, 2010 at 4:37 pm

I wonder if the Atherton cops avoided charges because that would automatically trigger a DMV review of their driving ability.

Like this comment
Posted by f
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 1, 2010 at 7:39 pm

get these frickin auto zombies off the road!!

Like this comment
Posted by charge him anyway
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 2, 2010 at 10:30 am

Or maybe the cops didn't file charges so to avoid putting some VIPs name into the public record?

Like this comment
Posted by George K.
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 2, 2010 at 11:00 am

This is a part of El Camino that I hesitate to travel by cycle. Cars tend to speed here as things open up a little between the local congestion of Menlo Park and Redwood City. The problem is that there are not any convenient alternate routes.

Middlefield is just as bad and on the other side of El Camino there aren't any parallels to El Camino until you get to Aladmeda de las Pulgas. There are broken parallels but you need to know where you're going or it's confusing.

Like this comment
Posted by charge him anyway
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2010 at 11:08 am

Cars are always running the stop signs on the side street routes through Atherton. El Camino is probably the safest route for bicyclists unless you go miles out of your way.

Like this comment
Posted by George K.
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 2, 2010 at 11:17 am

Charge: that's a good point. The locals, as I've also observed, do a lot of California stops.

Like this comment
Posted by larry
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 2, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Interesting news coverage, a driver loses control of his car, destroys property, injures a bicyclist, and the article contains no mention of the drivers name, only the injured parties. Can it be because of his Atherton address?
I have to agree with Peter, an E.Palo Alto resident's name mnopst certainly would have been mentioned, also the amount of their bail as well as the list of charges.

Like this comment
Posted by Larry
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 2, 2010 at 1:29 pm

PS I do believe that there is a statute covering a driver who "Fails to Keep Control of a Vehicle"

Like this comment
Posted by Meds
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 2, 2010 at 8:58 pm

If the driver fell asleep due to taking a medication that has drowsiness as a side effect, he could have a DUI. Not just illegal drugs and alcohol can result in a DUI. So can prescription medications that make you drowsy.

Like this comment
Posted by Huh?
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 3, 2010 at 12:09 am

Seems that would be reckless endangerment. There really should be a law mandating seniors to take driver's tests each year after age 75.

Like this comment
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 6, 2010 at 10:28 am

Last summer an 84 year old woman plowed into my husband's SUV, totalled both vehicles. They were both fine, but if not for my husband being in the "wrong" place at the right time, the old woman would've entered Murphy Ave. in Sunnyvale during an outdoor market day - the street was closed.

I think senior citizens should be tested every year after age 80 for their license renewal.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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