After a jury verdict in their favor, the Chandler family seeks to make El Camino crosswalks safe for others.
Chris Chandler, age 62, was hit by a car and killed crossing El Camino in Atherton. The driver said he never saw Chris. The police blamed Chris for riding his bike into traffic without looking.
We proved that Chris was killed because the crosswalk was essentially invisible to oncoming motorists and that Caltrans should never have installed it. On Monday, a jury awarded Chris’ family $9.5 million, holding the California Department of Transportation 90% at fault for Chris’ death, and finding Chris blameless.
Marked crosswalks in uncontrolled intersections give pedestrians a false sense of security -- pedestrians believe that vehicles will yield to them in the crosswalk when, in fact, the drivers of the vehicles may be unable to see the pedestrians due to surrounding traffic . . . Caltrans was aware of studies discouraging the marking of crosswalks in busy uncontrolled intersections and was aware of accidents elsewhere along El Camino. . .
According to Caltrans’ witnesses, there are 28 other crosswalks on El Camino in San Mateo county that are just like the one where Chandler was killed. Caltrans knows that they are all dangerous but, as a matter of policy, won’t fix any particular crosswalk until it learns of at least three people who are killed or injured at the intersection in question. Although there had been numerous accidents where Chandler was killed, the statistics never made it into Caltrans database.
Local authorities all along El Camino have pleaded with Caltrans to fix the crosswalks, but Caltrans refuses to act. We’re hoping that Caltrans will hear the jury’s message and fix the crosswalks now before someone else is killed.
Last month Governor Brown signed into law Assembly Bill No. 1371. The new law requires motorists to leave a three foot buffer when passing a cyclist traveling in the same direction. The motorist may not cross a double yellow line; if there isn't enough room, the motorist cannot pass. Brown had vetoed previous versions of the bill.
A driver of a motor vehicle shall not overtake or pass a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a highway at a distance of less than three feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator.
The fine for violation of the law is a measly $35. If a collision results, the fine goes up, but only to $220. Other states have similar laws. The trouble is that they are seldom enforced, unless a cyclist presses the issue.
California's "financial responsibility" law requires that all motorists carry a minimum level of liability insurance in case they cause an accident. That includes an accident that hurts a cyclist. The problem is that the minimum coverage ($15,000) is enough to cover minor injuries only. If any hospital stay is involved, the minimum coverage is unlikely to be enough. The majority of accidents involving a bicycle and a car send the cyclist to the hospital. Cyclists are thus placed at particular financial risk by "underinsured" motorists.
If the cyclist owns a car, he can protect himself by purchasing "Uninsured/Underinsured" coverage. The benefits of this coverage applies whether the driver who caused the accident is uninsured, or insured but carries an inadequate amount to cover the injuries. The coverage will apply even though the cyclist was on his bicycle and not in his car. Thus, in the appropriate case, the cyclist's UM/UIM coverage will step in and compensate the injured cyclist, up to the amount of the cyclist's coverage limits.
For the cyclist to take advantage of the UM/UIM coverage, the cyclist may not accept a settlement from the driver without first obtaining his insurer's permission. If the cyclist does accept a settlement, the UM/UIM may refuse to pay the cyclist's claim.
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