California Personal Injury Law Case Notes
Isabella and El Camino: How Many More Accidents Before Caltrans Gets It?
Two years ago Chris Chandler was killed by a southbound motorist as he tried to cross El Camino at Isabella in Atherton. After investigating the design of the crosswalk, we filed suit against Caltrans on behalf of Chris' family. We've been arguing in court that the crosswalk is dangerous and that Caltrans should either fix it or remove it before someone else is killed or injured. We've now been litigating the case for a year and half. But Caltrans denies that there is any problem with its crosswalk, and refuses to do anything to make the intersection safe. We're waiting for the court to give us a trial date. Maybe Caltrans will listen to a jury.
This past Sunday, two years to the day that Chris was killed, two pedestrians were struck by a southbound SUV as they tried to cross El Camino at the same intersection in the same crosswalk. Both were seriously injured.
What will it take before Caltrans gets it? Caltrans has known for years that marked crosswalks like the one at Isabella and El Camino are more dangerous than crosswalks with no markings at all. It's Caltrans job to make its roadways relatively safe for pedestrians. Yet, it does nothing to fix the dangerous situation it created.
El Camino is busy. More than 20,000 vehicles per day pass through the intersection at Isabella. If Caltrans is going to paint a crosswalk there, it needs to install devices to warn and slow traffic, or install raised islands in the middle of the roadway where pedestrians can take refuge, or both. Simply painting lines in the road and hoping for the best is inviting disaster. Such a crosswalk provides a false sense of security for pedestrians, inviting them to cross in an area where it is unsafe to do so.
That's been proven in study after study. Here's just one study by the US Department of Transportation, published in 2005. It concludes that, for busy roads such as El Camino at Isabella:
Having a marked crosswalk alone (without other substantial improvements) was associated with a higher pedestrian crash rate (after controlling for other site factors) compared to an unmarked crosswalk. Raised medians provided significantly lower pedestrian crash rates on multilane roads, compared to roads with no raised median."