News

Child, 7, hit by car while crossing California Avenue

Driver did not see pedestrians when making a left turn, observers say

A 7-year-old boy sustained minor injuries after being struck by a Prius while walking with his mother across California Avenue at Birch Street around 10 a.m. Friday, police said.

The unidentified Palo Alto residents were taken to Stanford University Hospital by paramedics.

The mother and son were in the crosswalk, heading north on Birch, when the boy was hit. The driver of the Prius had been heading southbound on Birch and was making a left onto California Avenue, Palo Alto police Agent Kara Salazar said.

"He made the turn and just didn't even see them until he was basically right up against them," Salazar said.

The car hit the boy, but the driver was able to stop before hitting the mother, she said.

The mother and her son took shelter in Keeble & Shuchat Photography before being transported to the hospital, store employees said.

The driver, also a Palo Alto resident, was found at fault in the accident, but Salazar would not say whether or not he was cited.

— Palo Alto Weekly staff

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by traffic calming
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 29, 2011 at 10:56 am

This is why we need traffic calming. Slower car speeds, less confusing intersections, and more visibility greatly reduce pedestrian carnage.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 29, 2011 at 11:08 am

Ah, that's what all the sirens were for. I am so glad that the injuries were minor. I helped a cyclist hit in that location once, poor guy.


Like this comment
Posted by Better Safe Streets than Fast Traffic
a resident of another community
on Jul 29, 2011 at 11:16 am

Thumbs up for traffic calming!


Like this comment
Posted by robit noops
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 29, 2011 at 11:46 am

Does anyone know what happened on California Ave last night? Apparently the power was out for all California Ave and someone was in an ambulance at Antonio's Nuthouse?


Like this comment
Posted by traffic calming
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 29, 2011 at 11:49 am

Was this a hit-and-run or did the driver stop at the scene? I do not see the car in the photos.


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Posted by Nick
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 29, 2011 at 5:23 pm

THIS is the problem with praises. They're too quiet sl they sneak up and hurt people.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 29, 2011 at 5:30 pm

It definitely sounds as if there are two sides to this story. The Prius driver may not have been paying enough attention and neither may the pedestrians.

But it has to be said, Priuses are too quiet and this just may be a factor in this accident.


Like this comment
Posted by not skeered of change
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 29, 2011 at 5:36 pm

Nick's (I guess unintentional) misspelling is pretty funny. I like it when praises sneak up on me.
Seriously, that intersection is designed such that it always encourages bad, selfish driving and conflicts with pedestrians. I think it will be sooo much better with fewer lanes as it is unwieldy wide now, and drivers get all confused with 4-lane stops. I can't understand why the haters are fighting it. CA Ave handles so little traffic as it is not a through street(not at all like Univ Ave) and has two lightly traveled parallel streets for cars to use (where the parking is!). I would think the businesses should be ecstatic, as the parking stays about the same but it will be so much more inviting for sidewalk eaters, peds, people watchers, and bikers. Trust me business will be even better.


Like this comment
Posted by traffic calming
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 29, 2011 at 5:51 pm

The intersection does not encourage bad driving, but bad drivers can make seriously poor decisions at these types of intersections (4 lanes with a stop sign and no stop light). I do agree that reducing the street to 2 lanes will make it much safer. Either that or put up a stop light.

The problem is that reckless drivers go speeding down these back streets to get to Page Mill or Alma and they don't pay attention to pedestrians in the crosswalks.


Like this comment
Posted by Midtown Guy
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 29, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Prius drivers seem to me to be driving too aggressively. It's not
so much that they come up to you silently; it's that the drivers seem
"carried away" often by their vehicle's quick acceleration, mindless of the effortless jump it produces(or seduced by its power). I see them being driven over the local speed limit (it's still 25 MPH) often, especially noticing them when I'm bicycling, and I feel very vulnerable. There are probably more Priuses in Palo Alto than in any other community of similar size. It almost gives them a genre status, and and special visibility and they should be aware that as a class they are being categorized, all this with hybrids being a new (and unequal in risk tolerance) experience for most of us.


Like this comment
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 30, 2011 at 6:40 am

Not spending a lot of time on California Ave., I decided to take some "footage" of California, using some of the comments found herein as a basis for things to video.

The following is a short video of the Birch/California intersection, based on the incomplete article in yesterday's Weekly:

Traffic At Birch/California Ave. Intersection:
Web Link

Seems that car was on the other side of the intersection from the vantage point I shot, so there is the possibility that the sun was a factor in the driver's inability to see the pedestrians.

It seems clear that the car was not moving very fast, so this is the sort of accident, it would seem, that will happen from time-to-time, regardless of how many lanes a street might have.


Like this comment
Posted by Another Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 30, 2011 at 8:46 am

@Resident ("It definitely sounds as if there are two sides to this story. The Prius driver may not have been paying enough attention and neither may the pedestrians.")

The pedestrians were in a crosswalk and the Prius had a stop sign. The Prius driver was 100% at fault. That's it. There aren't two sides to this story.


Like this comment
Posted by traffic calming
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 30, 2011 at 8:49 am

This the type of crash that happens when the driver is driving too fast and/or not paying enough attention. Paying attention is even more important on complicated intersections (multiple lanes, etc.). The driver hit 1 person and almost hit a 2nd person. Only a seriously incompetent driver cannot see 2 people in a crosswalk.

If you can't see across all the lanes of the street when you start your turn, then common sense says you need to drive especially slowly and pay close attention until you are sure you can see the whole street.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 30, 2011 at 10:08 am

We need idiot driver calming ... it is rampant, blatant and obvious.

Virtually any time I drive anywhere it is so apparent that the marginal number of drivers are hopped up on aggression and adrenaline that they affect the way others drive and feel while they are driving.

There are also substantial numbers of peolpe still on cell phones or texting, or just daydreaming when they drive - and not thinking.

Police and courts, do your job - stop and ticket these people, and then get them off the road. If we could have fair and even enforcement of the traffic laws we would generate the numbers of people we need to take mass transit by getting rid of bad drivers - then everyone is happy.

Also - it would be nice if police could give out citations for being a good driver too ... when they see someone do something nice - write it up and send it via mail to the registered owner of the car and then attach some kind of importance to that number if and when they ever do get a ticket or stopped at the officer's or judge's discretion.


Like this comment
Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jul 30, 2011 at 10:12 am

This is a four way stop situation and the cross walk is completely visable to a person making that left turn. Traffic calming makes no difference if drivers are not paying attention - most likely on a cell phone. No excuses - this was just reckless driving!


Like this comment
Posted by traffic calming
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 30, 2011 at 10:23 am

It is easy to say that the driver was negligent or incompetent, which he or she probably was. But that doesn't do the victims any good. Is there an any easy way to reduce incompetent driving around town? If not, the next best thing is to reduce the number of ways that incompetent drivers can kill innocent pedestrians. That is why traffic calming is important, especially on streets that have a strong history of cars hitting pedestrians.


Like this comment
Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jul 30, 2011 at 10:40 am

How exactly would have traffic calming helpd in this situation? The driver started from a stop and essentially drove in the direction on the pedestrians from the moment he started moving forward.

Traffic calming is fine in some situations but it should not be done simply as a activity to consume government grants. Use the money for worthwhile projects and if some is left over return it to Washington - they need it more than PA does.


Like this comment
Posted by traffic calming
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 30, 2011 at 10:59 am

One of the prime principles of traffic calming (at least as practiced in Palo Alto) is to reduce the length of crosswalks. Shorter crosswalks mean that pedestrians are at risk for a shorter amount of time. Also, pedestrians are more visible to car drivers since the drivers only need to study a shorter length of crosswalk before proceeding through the intersection.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 30, 2011 at 11:23 am

I'm just going by intuition .... always a dangerous thing to do, but there have been two of these situations fresh in my memory, this one, and the one where a bus ran over and dragged a women to her death downtown.

Why can't we find a way to close university, create a square or strip on University where people can walk without fear, maybe narrow the streets for bicycles or something, and then put more parking garages on the periphery of that human friendly area.

Having so many cars driving around people is going to lead to more such incidents, and having people always walking in from of cars is not fun when you are driving either.

We could do the same thing on California street too.

So ... now how to route traffic in the area around such a configuration would be the problem?


Like this comment
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 30, 2011 at 1:01 pm

“This is why we need traffic calming. Slower car speeds, less confusing intersections, and more visibility greatly reduce pedestrian carnage.”

1. The Prius was obviously not speeding.
2. There is NOTHING confusing about the California/Birch intersection.
3. There is nothing that impedes visibility at that intersection.

This seems to be a case of a driver not paying attention and a pedestrian possibly not hearing the car.

“Seriously, that intersection is designed such that it always encourages bad, selfish driving and conflicts with pedestrians. I think it will be sooo much better with fewer lanes as it is unwieldy wide now, and drivers get all confused with 4-lane stops.”

Seriously, please explain (1) why that intersection is designed to encourage bad driving and (2) what is confusing about 4-lane stops?

“Having so many cars driving around people is going to lead to more such incidents, and having people always walking in from of cars is not fun when you are driving either.”

So, do you recommend that we ban all cars or ban all people?


Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 30, 2011 at 1:11 pm

So many comments implied the driver was going too fast. There was no information about speed in the article.

The driver must have been going very slowly to hit the boy and react quickly enough to stop and avoid hitting the mother. Especially since the mother was probably very close to her son - perhaps holding his hand.


Like this comment
Posted by Blame Game
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 30, 2011 at 4:09 pm

It amazes me how many people join these blogs to lay blame, as though that is going to make a difference. The more we talk about blame, the more we teach the younger generations that fault is more important than living...

Whether walking, biking, or driving, EVERYONE should proceed with caution. You never know if someone is impaired (either by choice or otherwise) - people do have heart attacks while driving (for example). From a legal standpoint, the driver was at fault, simply by the fact that the pedestrians were in the crosswalk, however that is no consolation to those that sustaine physical or emotional injury as a result of the accident.

All parents should be teaching their children to walk/ride/drive defensively. Don't cross the street unless you can see that the driver has seen you. I was in the middle lane on El Camino and stopped for a pedestrian in a crosswalk, only to see multiple cars in the left and right lanes continue as though there was nothing to stop for. Had this pedestrian proceeded simply because I stopped (which I feared), they would likely have been hit. Yes, they would have been "in the right", but they would likely not have lived to see another day.

I know a child that was killed while riding her bike, and it pains me that she would likely be alive today if she hadn't biked daily with parents that are so focused on the rights of bikers that they neglected one very important lesson. Cars are massive machines that even in the best circumstances can cause serious harm.

I bike and drive and am amazed by the growing number of bikers that drive like cars don't exist, and by the number of walkers who don't even look at the traffic when crossing the street. EVERYONE - PLEASE WALK/RIDE/DRIVE DEFENSIVELY - THE "AT FAULT" PERSON IS NOT THE ONLY ONE THAT CAN REDUCE ACCIDENTS. The authorities need to determine fault for legal and insurance purposes, but in reality both parties can usually be found to have done something that prevented them from avoiding the accident. Wouldn't it be better if WE ALL TAKE STEPS TO ELIMINATE ACCIDENTS!!


Like this comment
Posted by traffic calming
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 30, 2011 at 5:26 pm

So Mr. Blame Game, are you blaming the victims for getting hit by the car? What do you think they could possibly do differently? When the car is moving much faster than you, jumping out of the way is generally not an option. A mother and child are probably going to be walking barely 1 mph.


Like this comment
Posted by Richard
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 31, 2011 at 7:59 am

I can think of three ways that reducing the number of lanes improves pedestrian safety in situations like this, but I don't know if any of these were factors in the current incident. 1) Since drivers primarily pay attention to looking for cars at intersections, more lanes with cars means that a driver's attention is divided more ways and it is more likely that a pedestrian will go undetected. 2) With more lanes of cars there is more chance that a car will block a driver's view of a pedestrian in a crosswalk leading imprudent drivers who cross closely behind other traffic to have "surprises". More lanes means longer crossing time and more time for conditions to change during the crossing. A pedestrian can use due caution and enter a crosswalk safely but find himself/herself in danger before being able to get to the other side.


Like this comment
Posted by Wendy
a resident of another community
on Jul 31, 2011 at 2:17 pm

Those car are too quiet. I have had a couple of them almost hit me in my kids. Owners need to be extra careful as pedestrians and those riding bikes can not hear them and therefore can not get out of the way in time.


Like this comment
Posted by Mike Alexander
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 31, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Either driving or walking, that's a challenging corner. It's often busy, and when it is there's lots to keep track of. Seven traffic lanes compete with pedestrians and bikes to get through the 4-way stop. In Wayne's short video, 25 cars, 16 peds, and 3 bikes pass through. Most of the cars make a turn, and most don't stop fully. At commute time, or lunch time, so many (busy, hurried, distracted) people converge here that it isn't easy to get through without being at least a little aggressive. A stop light would help. Lacking a light, fewer lanes would help. Stop sign enforcement (for cars AND bikes) would help. Extra signage meant to remind drivers about pedestrians would help. At least, the crosswalks need new paint.


Like this comment
Posted by traffic calming
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 31, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Car drivers need to assume that every intersection has a crosswalk, marked or not. I cannot think of any intersection with stop signs that does not have crosswalks.


Like this comment
Posted by Blame Game
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 1, 2011 at 9:35 am

"So Mr. Blame Game, are you blaming the victims for getting hit by the car? What do you think they could possibly do differently? When the car is moving much faster than you, jumping out of the way is generally not an option. A mother and child are probably going to be walking barely 1 mph."

Only suggesting that people not cross the street, especially with a child, until you make eye contact with the drivers at the intersection. You can tell if someone really sees you - lives are far too precious!! I am NOT blaming the pedestrians, only asking that all readers take extra precautions so we don't read about more of these accidents.

Traffic Calming - you again jump right to blame - read my post again - it is not about blame, it is about saving lives, preventing injuries and trauma!! Everyone, including walkers and bikers, should slow down!!!


Like this comment
Posted by Ronna Devincenzi
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 1, 2011 at 11:14 am

But there have been daily near misses in Cal Ave. pedestrian crosswalks, for years. Regulars in the Cal Ave district know that.
People have been hit, sustaining injuries. One man was hit while in his wheelchair.

This just never made the news before. It's only news now, with the potential of having infrastructure improvements & changes along the corridor, especially, the one change that would help address this on-going problem, namely reducing lanes from 4 to 2.

In 2004, Terry Shuchat formed a 3-member Streetscape Committee. After doing great due diligence, they came up with a proposed design for the whole street, bringing their ideas to the remaining CAADA board members, who after adding input to it, were in unanimous support of their design.

Included in their design was reducing the avenue from 4 lanes to 2 lanes, making conditions safer. Prior to voting on it, another CAADA Board member and I went to an "ideal business streets" seminar in Redwood City, where the speaker said no average business district anywhere in the developed world needed to be more than 1 lane in each direction, and having 2 lanes made it look like a "boulevard" that encourages people to go faster, & Cal Ave even has the "freeway lighting" to further that "boulevard" impression.

Considering all the other business districts in the surrounding areas are only 1 lane in each direction (University Ave., Castro Street, Santa Cruz Ave, - all three times as long as Cal Ave; and all the streets in Los Altos - about the same size as Cal Ave), I happily voted for the lane reduction that would make pedestrians walking IN CROSSWALKS safer.

The CAADA Board then brought the proposal to the City that did impact studies on the Streetscape, including the lane reduction, and the city agreed 2 lanes is good.

So bottom line, Palo Alto residents, visitors & business owners have two choices for Cal Ave, a 3 block long corridor:

1) Keep it as it is, with 4 lanes:
Knowing pedestrians are *not safe* because 4 lanes creates a boulevard mentality encouraging *motorists*: be they teenage or older, on bicycles or in cars, to blow through stop signs; and lanes are so wide, motorists could stop safely, yet have pedestrians step into the crosswalk afterwards, putting themselves at risk. This would continue a "Let the Pedestrian Beware" situtaion, in or outside of a Cal Ave crosswalk, because bikers also speed on the sidewalks here too....

Or
2) Reduce lanes from 4 to 2, creating a safer, more confined place for pedestrians to cross in a crosswalk, lessening the area where people could be hit, even allowing for eye contact among them all, creating a more "pedestrian friendly" environment, which was the original intent of the entire Streetscape design.


I don't see it happening both ways. This really is an either/or.


Like this comment
Posted by traffic calming
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 1, 2011 at 11:54 am

Mr. Blame Game - making eye contact doesn't work in situations like this. First, on a 4-lane street, the car is so far away that you can't see the driver's eyes even in the best lighting conditions. Second, with the tinted windows that most cars have these days, you couldn't see his eyes even if he was much closer. Third, on a 4 lane street, the pedestrian is in the street for such a long period of time that there is a very good chance that car had not reached the intersection when the pedestrian started crossing. And as I said before, the car is moving so much faster than the pedestrian that evasive action is usually futile. You're better off trying to jump onto the hood, though a 7 year old can't jump that high. I repeat - there is essentially nothing that these pedestrians could have done to avoid getting hit. Stop blaming the victim!


Like this comment
Posted by jardins
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 1, 2011 at 3:23 pm

I've read that Toyota plans to make future Priuses emit a kind of buzzing sound when traveling below a certain speed, or when at a stop light, precisely to warn pedestrians.

But that obviously can't solve the problem pedestrians have with drivers who aren't carrying out their responsibility as operators of machines with lethal potential. I'm amazed that the PAPD person wouldn't say whether or not the driver in this incident had been cited--to me, it's a no-brainer that (s)he should--and would--have been cited. In fact, I wouldn't have thought of asking that question, even.

I do hope that the little boy will not grow up fearful of being a pedestrian, as a result of that driver's irresponsibility.


Like this comment
Posted by Toyota Driver
a resident of another community
on Aug 1, 2011 at 3:26 pm

You can't hear a Prius until it is right in front of you. It's like a ninja. Maybe they need to add some more artificial noise to the car. Just like adding the odor to natural gas.

Stephen


Like this comment
Posted by traffic calming
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 1, 2011 at 4:01 pm

In situations where the victim is hospitalized, the police may wait to see how serious the injuries are before deciding on charges. I do hope that the newspaper updates the article when that happens.


Like this comment
Posted by Ronna Devincenzi
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 1, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Since this is the side of the street where the sculpture Jungle Jane is located in the island, perhaps for people following this story, it's a good time to point out that art work is not a piece to be climbed.

I would have thought it would be a no-brainer. But when it was first installed, I saw a father in the middle of the island, watching his young son, about age 3, having fun trying to climb the piece, as if it were a park and not a 4 lane motorway.

On the one hand, it shocked me; on the other hand, I remembered just shaking my head, driving slowly & carefully, should there be a fall into the street, as it should have been obvious it was no place to stop and play.

Secondly, it was on the other side of the street, going from Antonio's Nut House corner to Village Stationers, where in early June, I had to sprint out of the way of 3 teenage boys on bicycles that blew through the Keeble and Shuchat stop sign, at about 20 mph, when I was in the pedestrian crosswalk about 3/4 the way across the street.

I viewed Wayne's video and greatly appreciate having seen it - as it's what I experienced. That video is a public service! Thank you, Wayne.


Like this comment
Posted by wow
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 1, 2011 at 6:29 pm

*traffic calming

we need poster-calming. Read Blame Game's post. He is not blaming anyone, just advocating common sense.

Your point is that there is nothing the pedestrians could have done differently in this case. Fair enough. Now take take a deep breath and realize no one is arguing differently. Blame Game is simply making a generic statement that a lot of people (drives, bikers, walkers, etc) are not in the moment and do stupid things while transporting themselves. He/she is NOT referring to pedestrians in this case, simply suggesting that you can live longer if you live in the now. It really is sage advice.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2011 at 8:14 am

Pedestrians should stop before they step into a crosswalk, especially if there are parked cars hiding the view of the crosswalk curb. Too many pedestrians assume that a driver should stop for them when there is no time to do so. A prius is so quiet that perhaps the pedestrians were not aware that there was a car so close and just stepped out in front.

Pedestrian crosswalks still need caution to cross by pedestrians. Pedestrians are sharing that part of the road and although they do have priority, they should still look and think before they cross.


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

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