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.
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."
Add this blog to your feeds or put your e-mail in the box below and hit GO to subscribe by e-mail.