One dead following multiple U.S. Highway 101 collisions

California Highway Patrol investigating whether drugs, alcohol played a role

A wrong-way driver has died, another person has been arrested on suspicion of felony DUI and several people were sent to the hospital following a series of collisions on U.S. Highway 101 in Palo Alto Sunday that started just after 2 a.m., according to the California Highway Patrol.

The first collision occurred at about 2:08 a.m. when the driver of a Chevrolet traveling south on northbound Highway 101 near Embarcadero Road seriously injured the driver of a Mercedes in a head-on collision, CHP Officer Dave Morey said. The wrong-way driver died at the scene after the Chevrolet caught fire and became fully engulfed with the person still inside. The CHP is investigating whether drugs or alcohol were factors in that collision.

At about 2:30 a.m., two separate collisions occurred on the southbound side of the freeway, Morey said, both of which are suspected to have occurred as the motorists were looking at the northbound collision scene. In one incident, a Honda rear-ended a BMW approximately 75 yards south of the initial crash after the driver of the car had slowed down to reportedly look at the collision. After striking the BMW, the Honda spun out of control until coming to a stop facing north in the roadway.

Not long after that, a woman who had freed herself from the Honda walked onto the southbound lanes and was struck by a Nissan, Morey said. She was taken to a hospital and underwent surgery. The driver of the vehicle that hit her, a 44-year-old man from Sunnyvale, has been arrested on suspicion of felony DUI, as drugs or alcohol are believed to be factors in that collision. Three other people connected to that collision were also transported to Stanford Hospital.

All southbound lanes were cleared just before 5 a.m. Sunday, and the northbound lanes were reopened at 6:40 a.m.

The Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner's Office will release the name of the driver who died once the individual has been identified and next of kin has been notified. The identity was not available for public release as of Sunday, June 23.

Editor's note: The Weekly's policy is to withhold the names of those arrested for most crimes until the District Attorney has determined there is sufficient evidence to file charges in the case. See our guidelines here.


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18 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 16, 2019 at 8:55 am

This is why we never drive after midnight on Saturday night. Too many maniacs on the road.

18 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 16, 2019 at 9:48 am

I hope that when they announce if drugs or alcohol are responsible, they will differentiate whether it was drugs or alcohol. It now seems that there is a train of thought that Pot is now acceptable and legal to use and will not affect driving ability.

14 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 16, 2019 at 10:50 am

Tragedy and I don’t care whether drugs or alcohol were used - there is no excuse for this and police should go after the criminal driver’s estate to recover costs of this unnecessary debacle. Increasingly, with lax laws there is a shrugging off of responsibility and it leads to huge tragedies and victimization.

32 people like this
Posted by Jase
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 16, 2019 at 10:52 am

And some of our politicians want to keep the bars open until 4am. No way! Nothing good happens after midnight.

7 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 16, 2019 at 1:05 pm

Presumably there'll be citations for the recklessly self-absorbed "rubber-necking" southbound drivers.

That behavior was outlawed with great fanfare a few years back, and this story shows why. But it seems to get little pro-active enforcement. They could and should watch for and trap rubber-neckers in the aftermath of something attention-getting on the other side of a freeway. A few embarassing publicized examples would be a great deterrent.

3 people like this
Posted by Back In The Day
a resident of another community
on Jun 16, 2019 at 1:17 pm

There used to be stoplights on the 101. Perhaps it is time to go back to that format.

5 people like this
Posted by be safe
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Jun 16, 2019 at 1:21 pm

Tragedy, and potential lawbreaking should be investigated and prosecuted.

re: "nothing good happens after midnight" - au contraire. A lot of great things happen (and yes, stupid and tragic, as well.)

Haven't memorable things happened for you? Search: the 2 AM Principle

Be safe.

12 people like this
Posted by Billy
a resident of Mayfield
on Jun 17, 2019 at 8:42 am

@resident You want to blame this on Pot.??? lol lol OMG. Alcohol is what to blame just stop it, You also think the internet is to blame. Stop lights on the freeway.?????? jesus. This 1950 thinking is still around. Theirs no place for this dinosour thinking. unbelievable

10 people like this
Posted by YSK
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 17, 2019 at 12:02 pm

I have met some younger people who believe that they drive better when they smoke pot. There are studies that discuss this belief. Some agree, some don't.

The bottom line is there are stupid people out there and that will never change. There will always be those who will believe they are sober enough to drive a car. For that, innocent people die. It's disgusting. With ride share companies there's never an excuse to get into a car while under the influence of ANY substance.

13 people like this
Posted by Ray
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 17, 2019 at 1:12 pm

Too many people believe that they can use a phone, read the paper, put on make-up or engage in some other activity while driving. Driving is a full-time activity. Most people DO know that but ignore it figuring the math of probability will not affect them because it hasn't . . . yet. The following is anecdotal but made a point to some teens.

I was teaching a class of high schoolers about probability and one young man pointed out that teens can drive fast because they have better reflexes than old duffers. (I was about 25 at the time.) As I was pointing out to him that probability still exists no matter what the age of a driver; I also suddenly tossed an eraser at him that struck him and I asked where his reflexes were to save him from being hit. As the class chuckled and made ad hoc comments, the boy had picked up the eraser and tossed it back at me unexpectedly. I caught it. I was a hero to some in the class for proving a point. Accidents come very fast and one's reflexes may. . . or may not, save them.

Some comments. The class was a great class of seniors, good kids, and we were on good terms in our student/teacher relationship. No one could have gotten hurt by an eraser that weighed in at about 3 ounces. It was in a day when parents didn't automatically assume a teacher was wrong and start a law suit for being cruel(although today I might have second thoughts), and the fact that I caught the eraser was sheer luck. (I didn't admit that to the class.)

Juggle bowling pins as a hobby but don't, please, do it while driving.

3 people like this
Posted by AntLord
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jun 17, 2019 at 11:47 pm

This thread shows the true face of the peninsula. Let me remind you that fascism and totalitarian states do not work.

I will also remind you that alcohol is pretty much the only legal drug in the United States. this means that when people want to change their brain chemistry they will go out and drink alcohol. Most people in the US own cars. that means that no matter what you do you will have a bunch of drunk idiots on the road at any given time. If they had used any other mind-altering substance you wouldn't get the stupidity on the roads beyond the competitive rude drivers that are the norm in your area.

Please avoid fascism in tyranny and law as it only creates more problems, and historically makes the problems that you are trying to solve a lot worse based on simple math and historical statistics.

You already have more laws than any other society in history of the world and it has done nothing but increase crime and perpetuate criminal behavior.
Your philosophy is always to throw the baby out with the bathwater and make everything restrictive and prohibitive this causes economic problems as well as transportation problems.

16 people like this
Posted by Lauren
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 18, 2019 at 6:37 am

Did anyone else read the comment Stop Lights on the freeway.??????? LOL LOL LOL. I cant stop laughing.

8 people like this
Posted by WAYMO For All
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 18, 2019 at 7:33 am

These kinds of accidents would not occur if drivers were in WAYMO vehicles.

5 people like this
Posted by Look Both Ways
a resident of another community
on Jun 18, 2019 at 12:37 pm

Back in the day, there was a traffic signal at 1st Street (San Jose) and the 101.

101 was an expressway and the frontage road along Bayshore was the highway.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2019 at 1:17 pm

101 NB at Oregon/Embarcadero/University at 10.00 am today was a parking lot.

The road surface is terrible, scraped from all the creek work, bad striping removal and now we have those white barriers which in effect makes the lanes at each side narrower. I am not surprised that when there is no traffic problems occur. It is just a very dangerous stretch of road at present.

1 person likes this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 18, 2019 at 7:37 pm

It's quite amazing that not one comment has asked the obvious question: How was a driver able to go south in the northbound lanes of 101? Can you think of any place between Mountain View and Menlo Park where this can happen? The question is not what the driver was drinking, smoking or swallowing, but how in the world did was he able to get on the wrong side of the freeway?

2 people like this
Posted by Need a late Caltrain
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 18, 2019 at 8:44 pm

I have often wished there was one last Caltrain from the city at 2am....the fact that the last one is at midnight leaves a lot of people drunk driving. I wonder how Uber & Lyft have decreased dunk driving though?

Also, I can tell you right now it was not marijuana that caused that person to drive on the wrong side of freaking 101!!!! You have to be pretty messed up on alcohol (likely) or some other heavy drugs to not even know. No matter what, how scary and how terrible.

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 18, 2019 at 9:46 pm

@Jim, a simple wrong-way turn off Donohoe puts you southbound on northbound 101,
about a mile from the crash site.

Like this comment
Posted by Gary Lauder
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 20, 2019 at 12:36 am

Wrong-way driving on CA highways are a consequence of CalTrans's de facto policy of replacing cloverleaf interchanges with partial cloverleafs (such as the project that is nearing completion at Willow Rd. & 101). According to this study: Web Link
"Tamburri and Theobald (1966) analyzed 400 wrong-way incidents where entry was made to the freeway via an exit ramp and found that ... full cloverleaf interchanges had the lowest wrong-way entry rate, with 2 incidents per
100 ramp-years (6). Parsonson and Marks (1979) also determined that ... partial cloverleaf (“parclo”) loop ramp (11.0 per month), had the highest wrong-way entry rates. They concluded that the parclo loop ramp and parclo AB loop ramp shared the same problem, which is an entrance and exit ramp in close proximity."
That means that partial cloverleafs are 6,600 times as likely to result in a wrong-way entry onto a highway ramp than a cloverleaf (that’s 11.0/month x 12 months per year=132/year vs. cloverleafs’ 2 incidents per 100 ramp-years).
I pointed this and other drawbacks of the plan in writing to the Menlo Park City Council and to CalTrans in 2015, several years before the decision to start work on that: Web Link
Perhaps if the victims and their families sued CalTrans, the state might re-examine their practices since they don't seem to be reexamining this ever. I would like to see the documents from discovery that such a suit would cause to be produced.

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

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