Category Archives: Car Accidents

Awareness of Causes, Dangers, and Prevention of Distracted Driving

Since distraction is a factor in a large percentage of auto injury accidents, our office encourages viewing of the following AAA-produced educational video regarding the causes, effects, and prevention of cognitive distracted driving, in addition to the video posted on our car accident lawyer web page.

Cognitive distraction:

Update:  6/12/14:  Driver Distracted by GPS Crashes Head-On into Muni Bus on Laguna Honda Street in SF Injuring Four:

Highway 24 Crash Killing Driver of Disabled Vehicle Highlights Common Cause of Highway Deaths and Injuries

The female driver of a disabled Rav4 SUV was killed on 2/28/14 on westbound Highway 24 near the junction with 580 after being rear-ended by a Lexus at approximately 4:45 a.m. Witnesses reportedly told officers that the disabled vehicle’s lights were not operational immediately prior to the collision.

Collisions with disabled vehicles appears to be a common cause of serious and fatal injuries on San Francisco Bay Area highways, based on the many such cases I have handled on behalf of injured motorists and the families of deceased motorists. The CHP, in their traffic collision reports, usually faults the driver of the vehicle which rear-ended the disabled vehicle, finding that the vehicle to the rear was traveling too fast for conditions and/or too close to the vehicle in front of it. This is so even at night where the disabled vehicle had no lights on.

colllisions with disabled vehicles common cause of serious and fatal injuriesSuch accidents underscore the importance of traveling at reasonable speeds, several car lengths behind the closest vehicle ahead (the faster you are going, the more distance needed), and keeping your eyes peeled for dangers down the road. It is important to keep in mind that it takes time to perceive a threat, more time to react to the threat, and more time for your vehicle to come to a stop once you hit the brakes. All the while, your vehicle can travel quite a distance. It also underscores the importance of keeping your lights on, and seat belt fastened, if your vehicle becomes disabled in the roadway.

Woman Killed In Holly Park – San Francisco City Liability – Claims deadlines

Tragically, a young woman was killed on Thursday, September 5, 2013 after being run over by a San Francisco City Recreation and Parks truck as she lay in the grass at Holly Park with her baby daughter and dog. She has been identified as 35-year-old Christine Svanemyr, a beloved ordained Zen monk working as the director of development for New Ventures West, an integral life coaching company. She was widely known and respected as a vibrant, peaceful, giving, interesting, compassionate and loving being.

The driver fled the scene but was soon thereafter apprehended and jailed. His actions appear to have constituted not only gross negligence but also felony hit and run.

Based on the reported facts and my experience handling such claims for decades, liability of the City of San Francisco for wrongful death appears to be clear, as employers are liable for the conduct of their employees under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Bernal Heights neighbors have for a long time complained to the City about City employees driving off of the paved paths and it has been reported that at least one complaint has been made about the specific driver involved in this incident. Thus the City has been on notice of such conduct, deepening the City’s responsibility and liability. Claims can be brought by her husband on behalf of himself and also on behalf of his infant daughter (the claims of minors can be brought by their guardian ad litem, usually the surviving parent in cases like this). While for private defendants the statute of limitations for wrongful death resulting from automobile or pedestrian accidents is normally two years, claims against a governmental entity must be brought within 6 months.

NTSB Recommends States Lower DUI Standard from .08 to .05 Blood Alcohol Concentration

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended that states reduce the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) threshold for DUI from 0.08 to 0.05. Almost one-third of all traffic fatalities in the United States involve drunk driving, defined as BAC of at least 0.08. Thousands more fatalities and serious injury accidents involve alcohol impairment that does not reach the BAC 0.08 level. This would bring the states’ standards (0.08, mandated more than a decade ago) in line with the 0.05 standard which currently exists in most of the industrialized world.

NTSB recommends lowering BAC limitThe NTSB’s recommendations are aimed at further reducing traffic accidents, especially among young drivers, and are implicitly aimed at the social drinker as opposed to the hardcore drinker. According to the Board, drivers with a BAC of 0.05 are 38% more likely to be in an accident, and those with a BAC of 0.08 are 169% more likely to be in an accident. While most fatalities in the U.S. are caused by drivers under the age of 26, a higher percentage of the drivers in this age group involved in fatal accidents have alcohol in their system as compared to other age groups, suggesting that young drivers and their passengers have the most to benefit from a lowering of the BAC legal limit.

As a lawyer who represents accident victims of alcohol impairment, I see the devastation caused by alcohol related accidents and applaud the Board’s recommendations as a sensible and reasonable step to reduce the carnage that I unfortunately witness in my practice.

Deadly confluence of drunk driving and pedestrians

In San Francisco’s fourth pedestrian fatality of 2013, a drunk driver has been arrested for killing 17-year-old Lowell High School student Hanren Chang on Sloat Boulevard near Vale Ave late this past Saturday night, March 3, 2013. Ms. Chang was reportedly walking within a crosswalk, crossing the multi-lane Sloat Blvd when she was struck, at a location lacking any traffic controls.

This accident exemplifies the deadly combination of drunk driving and pedestrians. Nationwide, approximately 30% of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities involve alcohol impairment (blood alcohol content greater than .08), and pedestrian accidents account for approximately 15% of all traffic fatalities.

Some have raised the question of whether San Francisco is too lax regarding DUI enforcement and conviction, claiming that 40% of all traffic fatalities in this city involve alcohol consumption.

Sloat Blvd has seen prior pedestrian deaths and injuries in recent years, and some improvements have been made to slow the speed of traffic on that street.

Update:  On 6/21/14,  a drunk driver critically injured a 33-year-old Pacifica woman Pedestrian on San Pedro Road.

Sideshows Pose Danger To Bicyclists, Pedestrians and Motorists

Automotive sideshows are once again in the news as the northbound lanes of Interstate 880 near the Oakland Coliseum were taken over for a short period of time this past Saturday afternoon by drivers doing doughnuts and other sideshow stunts, as reported in an Inside Bay Area article. While no one was injured in that episode, sideshow stunts quite often seriously injure or kill innocent bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists.

As a lawyer who represents injured bicyclists, I recently represented a San Francisco bicyclist who was injured while bicycling on McAllister Street when a motorist put on a one-man automotive sideshow consisting of the performance of automotive stunts including “burnouts”. Burnouts are where the driver floors the accelerator while at the same time pressing on the brakes, the wheels spin at a high rate, causing a large amount of friction and smoke, with the car remaining relatively stationary until the driver “pops” the car into motion at which time the car speeds away, uncontrollably unless the driver is a professional driver. The driver in my client’s case lost control of the car, hitting my client head-on as he was bicycling home from his girlfriend’s house. The reckless conduct of the motorist constituted grounds for recovery of punitive damages, in addition to compensatory damages, and the case was amicably settled in a short period of time.

Reports of deaths and extreme injuries from sideshows abound. As one of many examples, three people in East Oakland were killed and three injured by an episode of sideshow reckless driving: The car veered toward oncoming traffic, slammed into a parked car, and overturned on the sidewalk, hitting a pedestrian. (As reported in an SF Gate article by Chronicle staff writer Carolyn Jones on 10/18/09.) Such stunts also frequently spawn violence immediately following the stunt. (See, e.g., as reported at SF Gate by Chronicle staff writer Jaxon Van Derbeken on 4/13/08.)

6/1/13 Update: A teenage girl is on life support after being shot at an Oakland sideshow event. (see

Such reckless driving may be punishable as a misdemeanor crime by imprisonment and fines. (See, e.g., Cal. Vehicle Code Section 23103.)

In 2007, the California Assembly, in recognition of the extreme danger to the public posed by sideshow conduct, voted 74-0 to revive California’s sideshow car seizure law that allows police officers to impound any car engaged in reckless driving, including those merely accused of spinning a tire. (See Cal. Vehicle Code 23109.2; 9/4/07 article at

Half Asleep At The Wheel

While the devastation caused by intoxicated and distracted driving cannot be overstated, there is an increasing awareness of the huge numbers of deaths and injuries being caused by driving while drowsy. Drowsiness has a globally negative impact on driving performance, slowing reaction time, decreasing situational awareness, and impairing judgment.

drowsiness of drivers causes thousands of car accidents annuallyAccording to the NHTSA, drowsiness is reported to cause 40,000 injuries and more than 1,500 deaths each year in the United States, and the true numbers of deaths and injuries are likely much higher as drowsy driving is underreported as a cause of accidents. Although drowsy driving is common among all groups of drivers, the persons most at risk are drivers between ages 16 to 29 (especially males), shift workers whose sleep is disrupted by working at night or working long or irregular hours, and people with untreated sleep apnea or narcolepsy. Solutions proposed by the NHTSA, while primarily in the area of public education, also include such measures as increasing use of rumble strips which can wake drivers and alert them that they are veering off course. Posted on the NHTSA’s site are the NHTSA’s research and recommendations on drowsy driving.

From a legal perspective, driving while drowsy, while usually more difficult to prove than intoxicated driving, may constitute negligence and be deemed the cause of an accident, rendering the drowsy driver liable.

NHTSA Advocates for Increasing Scope of Safety Related Data Recorded by Devices Already Installed in Motor Vehicles

On 12/7/12, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed a new standard that would capture important safety related data in the seconds before and during a motor vehicle crash. The data would be captured by devices that are already installed in almost all new cars and light trucks.

The proposal includes a mandate that auto manufacturers also provide a commercially available tool that would enable the copying of that data from the device. The data would be considered the property of the car owner.

Having such information readily available is not only useful for promoting safety in general, but the data is potentially useful to car accident victims to prove fault in a particular collision.

The full story can be found on the NHTSA web site.