Collision or Accident?

Earlier this week in Novato, CA, a 9 year old girl was killed and her Dad is in critical condition (after having his leg amputated). The cause? A drunk motorcyclist named Edward Schaefer hit them while they were crossing the street in a crosswalk. Apparently, another vehicle had appropriately stopped to yield to the child and her Dad in the crosswalk. Schaefer did not. Media outlets have reported (and who knows how accurate it is) than Schaefer pulled around the stopped vehicle and then hit the child and her Dad.

Why am I bringing this up? Probably not for the reason you’d suspect. Yes, I think Schaefer is a piece of shit and I’d want his head on a platter if it was my family. However, my point in shining a light on this is the media’s use of the phrase “DUI accident”.

Here are the definitions of both collision and accident from

1. the act of colliding; a coming violently into contact; crash: the collision of two airplanes.

acâ‹…ciâ‹…dent [ak-si-duhnt]
1. an undesirable or unfortunate happening that occurs unintentionally and usually results in harm, injury, damage, or loss; casualty; mishap: automobile accidents.

Here’s my issue. The use of the word ‘accident’ is inappropriate based on Schaefer’s being under the influence. When you’ve made the decision to drive while intoxicated, there is nothing unintentional about the happening. Undesirable? Check. Unfortunate? Damn straight. Unintentional? Hell no.

The other problem with the use of the word ‘accident’ is the use the defense can make of it during a trial, be it civil or criminal. If you can convince one nimrod on a jury the incident was indeed an accident, the odds of the responsible party being found culpable are severely diminished. More so in a criminal trial, of course, since you need a unanimous decision. If you get a defense attorney with half a brain (insert your own lawyer joke here), it wouldn’t be too difficult to make the leap to “Hey, we’ve all made mistakes. It was just an accident. He didn’t do it purposefully. He had no intention of hurting anyone.”

I feel confident saying everyone knows how dangerous drinking and driving is. If you’re bright enough (and it doesn’t take much) to drive a car, you’re bright enough to figure out the possible consequences. It’d be like getting cancer after having smoked for 50 years and claiming you didn’t know smoking could harm you. You know, you just accidentally got fucking cancer. Come on…you expect me to buy that?

Of course the media is not responsible for the defense of Schaefer. And, allegedly, they are unbiased (sssuuuurrrreeee, they are…wink, wink). I get that they don’t know the ins and outs of the criminal justice system, but some things just bug me and this is one of them. Using ‘accident’ puts you in a certain frame of mind that, more often than not, isn’t the accurate one.

‘Collision’ or even ‘crash’ is much more appropriate and accurate. You can’t deny a collision happened…and with tragic results. To even entertain the idea that the incident was an accident is offensive to the memory of the little girl and her now one-legged Daddy who will never get to hold her again.

Saturday’s Question

I would like to take this opportunity to introduce an ingenious friend I have come to affectionately refer to as BlogStalker (not his real name, but he requested I christen him with one). I consulted the Board and discovered no conflicts. The matter was moved upon and passed by majority. **None of that will make sense but to about a small group of folks, by the way, so don’t feel totally lost.**

At any rate, his question:

Ok, I have to play along. This one has bugged me for a long time.

Who has the right-of-way when there are no left turn arrows and the light is green, The vehicle making a left or the vehicle making a right from the opposite direction turning into the same lane?? Hope this makes sense…BlogStalker.

Well spoken, if not drawn, my friend. I took it upon myself to include a small diagram to assist with the visual because, quite frankly, yours was shit. 🙂 I think this is what BlogStalker is referring to…

I apologize for the lousy picture. Blogger wouldn’t allow me to upload a .pdf file or directly from my drawing program. If you click on the picture, it should make it bigger so it’s easier to read.

The blue car is attempting a left turn. The red car is attempting a right turn. Both vehicles want to enter the same lane. Who has the right-of-way? First, it isn’t often that both vehicles enter the intersection simultaneously. Typically, one or the other will be there first and a seamless turn by both can be achieved. However, for the sake of argument, let’s assume there was a collision and the PCF (Primary Collision Factor) has to be determined and all other CVC sections have been excluded (speed, etc) and I have to determine fault with some regard to a right-of-way violation.

The official answer can be found in CVC 21801. There are two subsections. CVC 21801(a) states in part, “The driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the left upon a highway, or to turn left into public or private property, or an alley, shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles approaching from the opposite direction which are close enough to constitute a hazard at any time during the turning movement, and shall continue to yield the right-of-way to the approaching vehicles until the left turn can be made with reasonable safety.”

CVC 21801(b) states in part, “A driver having yielded as prescribed in (a) and having given a signal may turn left, and the drivers of vehicles approaching the intersection from the opposite direction shall yield the right-of-way to the turning vehicle.”

Clear enough for you? Me neither. In plain English, it means the blue car (left turn) has to yield to the red car (right turn); however, if the blue car had already yielded and it was reasonably safe to proceed, the red car must yield. This is assuming the red car was much further back. We can’t expect the blue car to sit there all damn day, right?

The bottom line in this dilemma (again, assuming a collision occurred) is I’m going to be looking for some unbiased (read independent) witness that can give me a good idea of where each car was prior to the collision.

To more directly answer your question, Stalker, if you get there at the same time and you’re making the left, you need to yield to the vehicle making the right turn. Now run off and tell all your friends MC hooked you up with an answer. Oh, and I believe you’re buying. It’s in the by-laws.

10 Years

I was reminded by a friend and fellow LEO today that we graduated from the Academy ten years ago today.

I’m sure those of you with as many, more, or just a bit less know, it flies by. To those of you considering a LE career or those of you in the infancy of same, do yourselves a favor. Take a deep breath, slow down, and enjoy it. Leave the job at the job. And lighten up…this job is fun. Learn to laugh at yourself because I guarantee you others will be laughing at you (and then there are the suspects).

If you haven’t decided what kind of cop you’re going to be, try hard to be the one that is not defined by what you do. This is a job. A great job, to be sure, but just a job. Be defined by your family, your friends, and the kind of man or woman you are.

In my experience, the cop that is a cop 24/7 is the kind of cop that is going to burn out quick and end up resenting most things. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a cop every second, but it’s (happy, Linguistics Stud?) what I do, not who I am. If someone needs my help and I’m not “on the job”, of course I’m going to help. That’s not to say that my life is dominated by my chosen career path, because I assure you it is not.

It’s been a great ride thus far and I’m looking forward to tomorrow just as much (more likely more) than I was my first day on. Happy Anniversary, Chachi. Happy Anniversary, Joel (even though you suck and I rock).

10 down, 13 to go…

Your concern is our amusement

Yesterday, the following call was dispatched:

PR says there is a 5 yr old child being driven on a motorcycle by an adult…last seen heading downtown on 123 Ave. The child has a helmet, PR concerned about the child if the adult crashed.

Let’s take a minute to digest that one…

How many problems do you see with this detail? I humbly submit my list.

1. PR is anonymous (that is a whole separate post).
2. PR apparently doesn’t give a shit about the adult if the adult crashed.
3. PR said nothing about any kind of irresponsible/dangerous riding.
4. There is no CVC regarding age restrictions for m/c passengers.
5. It is a possibility the PR was driving whilst using a cell phone (possibly further putting the child in danger…although this is complete conjecture).
6. This is in no way a police matter. There is no crime. There is no violation. You might as well call in and say you are concerned the sun is shining and further damaging your skin with it’s heinous UV rays.

It’d be one thing if the child was precariously holding on or the rider was being unsafe in some matter or the kid wasn’t wearing a helmet, but none of those things appear to have occurred. Per the detail, the PR’s only concern was potential injury to the child if the adult crashed.

So, please, folks. I’m not trying to dissuade you from calling the police. Just think first.

Hey! Lazy Ass! How’s about you look around first?

Here’s a suggestion. Before you report your car stolen, why don’t you take three extra minutes and maybe stroll around the lot. You could always meander down a side street. How about across the way? Think maybe your car wasn’t stolen? In the middle of the fucking day? With like 127 people around?

Seriously, folks. I understand the heart-now-in-throat feeling where you realize your car isn’t where you left it. Panic sets in immediately, your blood pressure rises, your faith in humanity plummets. All very normal. Do us all a favor, though. Take a deep breath. Calm down. If your car is truly gone, well, it’s the shits, but that’s why God created insurance. However, maybe, just maybe, your car isn’t actually gone and you are just a forgetful prat of overwhelming proportions.

Oh, and another tip. After you’ve overreacted and hysterically rang 911 claiming to have been the victim of every crime imaginable, only to subsequently find your car (right where your dumbass left it, by the way), I’d very much appreciate it (and I feel confident speaking for all my brothers/sisters in blue) if you’d ring back to say, oh I don’t know, that YOU FOUND YOUR CAR! Know why? ‘Cause after you’re long gone and I am able to clear whatever other detail I was just on, I’m going to arrive at what you reported as your location….only to find you’re not there. Because you drove away in your ‘stolen’ car. Thanks for letting me know you found it and saving me the trouble. Ass.

Saturday’s Question

Today, a special visit from my friend, Happy Medic:

I was wondering if there is an ordinance or law about yielding to emergency vehicles with red light and siren activated. So many folks pull left, stop or begin to weave when I approach them with the lights and sirens on. Am I right in screaming at them that they’re disobeying the law?

This will not change whether or not I scream at people, just curious.


HM, what follows is direct from DMV‘s website:

Emergency Vehicles

You must yield the right of way to any police car, fire engine,ambulance, or other emergency vehicle using a siren and red lights. Drive as close to the right edge of the road as possible and stop until the emergency vehicle(s) has passed. However, never stop in an intersection. If you are in an intersection when you see an emergency vehicle, continue through the intersection and then drive to the right as soon as you can and stop. Emergency vehicles often use the wrong side of the street to continue on their way. They sometimes use a loud speaker to talk to drivers blocking their path.

You must obey any traffic direction, order, or signal by a traffic or police officer or a fire fighter even if it conflicts with existing signs, signals, or laws.

It is against the law to follow within 300 feet of any emergency vehicle which is answering an emergency call.

If you drive for sight-seeing purposes to the scene of a fire, accident, or other disaster you may be arrested. Casual observers interfere with the essential services of police, fire fighter, ambulance crews, or other rescue or emergency personnel.

If you want the CVC section, read on…

Authorized Emergency Vehicles

21806. Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle which is sounding a siren and which has at least one lighted lamp exhibiting red light that is visible, under normal atmospheric conditions, from a distance of 1,000 feet to the front of the vehicle, the surrounding traffic shall, except as otherwise directed by a traffic officer, do the following:

(a) (1) Except as required under paragraph (2), the driver of every other vehicle shall yield the right-of-way and shall immediately drive to the right-hand edge or curb of the highway, clear of any intersection, and thereupon shall stop and remain stopped until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed.

(2) A person driving a vehicle in an exclusive or preferential use lane shall exit that lane immediately upon determining that the exit can be accomplished with reasonable safety.

(b) The operator of every street car shall immediately stop the street car, clear of any intersection, and remain stopped until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed.

(c) All pedestrians upon the highway shall proceed to the nearest curb or place of safety and remain there until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed.

Amended Sec. 68, Ch. 1154, Stats. 1996. Effective September 30, 1996.

Long story short, yell away, my good man. As I’m sure you can attest, there are so many people who either just keep on a-drivin‘ or stop in the middle of the street or, and I’ll never understand this, pull to the left and stop. All the aforementioned fools pay dearly for their mistake…not an inexpensive fine.

And a personal postscript…thanks to Amanda for the reminder. Allergies are kicking my ass today and I’ve been walking around in a Claritin/Pollen induced haze. Still Saturday, though, so I’m good…

Also, I’ve got a few weeks of questions ready to roll, but I’m always looking for more. I save them all in my email folder and keep them on file, so feel free to submit them whenever you’d like!

Pet Peeve

This is such a silly little thing and, believe me, I get the most likely reason behind it, but for the love of that is holy, WILL ONE OF YOU MORONS GO?!?!? Allow me to explain…

Ever been to a four way stop? I’ll assume you have. Let’s review the rule, shall we? If two people get there at the same time, the person on the right has the right-of-way and rotates appropriately. Otherwise, it’s first come, first serve.

What’s my bitch? When I’m 15′ from the limit line and you’re already at the limit line, you can go. You don’t have to sit and wait for me to approach, stop, look at you, see you look at me, wave me on, me wave you on (since you have the right-of-way anyway), shake your head emphatically, wave me on again, me yell “just fucking go”, you to yell “what?”, me to pull my gun, you to look shocked, me to shoot all your tires flat, you to be upset, and me to get fired.

Wouldn’t it just be simpler if you, having met your obligation to stop, just went on your merry way? I thought so too.

I don’t know what it is, but some people seem to have some kind of weird aversion to taking their right-of-way when there’s a cop at the same intersection. There have been times when I’ve literally just sat there until someone, anyone, went. It’s trivial, but it bugs the shit out of me.

Driver Safety Tips for the holiday weekend.

I got an email today from a reader, Jennifer, at JA Jones Consulting. She forwarded a press release from Radarsign regarding Driver Safety on Memorial Day weekend. According to the press release, Memorial Day weekend is the third most dangerous holiday for vehicular traffic. I wanted to include the release here with the hopes that we can all take away some positive suggestions for our safety this weekend.

Alpharetta, GA – May 2009 — Nearly forty million drivers are expected to fill highways and byways this coming holiday weekend according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Memorial Day weekend is the third most perilous holiday for vehicular traffic. Thanksgiving holds the number one spot, with Independence Day at number two. Labor Day and New Year’s Eve round out the top five.

Radarsign, the leading manufacturer and retailer of driver feedback signs, today released TEN TIPS TO ROAD SAFETY as vacationers hit the streets.

1. Don’t drive drowsy. According to the National Sleep Foundation’s Report on Drowsy Driving, 100,000 reported crashes, 71,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths every year are attributed to drivers falling asleep at the wheel. Add to that heavy holiday traffic and you have a recipe for disaster. If you are feeling drowsy, get off the road.

2. Wear your seat belt. The DOT reports fifty percent of all vehicular deaths could have been prevented with seat belts.

3. Signal your intentions. Every move you make on the road impacts the decisions and actions of others. By signaling your intention to turn or change lanes, you ensure others are alert to your movements.

4. Do not tailgate. Leave a distance equal to one car’s length for every ten miles per hour. For example, if you are traveling fifty miles an hour, you should fall back a distance equal to five car lengths from the vehicle in front of you.

5. Move away from tailgaters. Many drivers attempt to “teach” a lesson to tailgaters by tapping their brakes telling the other driver to back off. Tailgaters typically exercise poor judgement and endanger themselves and others – especially when challenged. The best thing to do is move out of the way and let the tailgater safely pass you.

6. Avoid standing water. If you must drive through water, do so slowly and avoid sudden use of your brakes, turning too sharply or excessive acceleration. If you do hydroplane (an instance where the tread cannot channel the rainwater from under your tires), do not hit the brakes. Reduce your speed by taking your foot off the accelerator and turning the wheel in the direction you want to travel.

7. Know pedestrian rights. Always be aware of pedestrians at intersections and remember pedestrians have the right of way.

8. Turn on your headlights when visibility is low. The sobering statistic is that while only 25% of the miles we drive are at night, about 50% of the fatalities occur in the darkness–25,000 people each year.

9. Obey the speed limit. A difference of only five miles an hour can be the difference between life and death.

10. Stay alert! Talking on a cell phone, texting, reading maps – even listening to voice-directed GPS systems – can distract you from the road and lead to accidents.

“Every eighteen seconds a U.S. driver is involved in an auto accident and every 11 minutes someone dies in a car crash.” said Charlie Robeson, co-Founder of Radarsign. “Road safety is a serious issue; that’s why Radarsigns are affordable enough to be purchased by anyone and flexible enough to be put anywhere speeding is a problem. In the meantime, we hope everyone follows these driver safety tips and has a happy and safe holiday weekend.”

The only obvious addendum I would add is the obvious…don’t drive drunk. I’d like to think it goes without saying, but unfortunately, it’s still a daily occurrence. Let’s set a better example!

Thanks, Jennifer, for the reminder! Have a fantastic weekend, everyone, but remember to stay safe. Your families depend on you getting home in one piece.

East Bay Dispatcher

Some of you have noticed that East Bay Dispatcher’s blog is no more. All I know is he has chosen to remove it to prevent any potential professional issues. I won’t speculate further. It was a good read while it was here and I know I’ll miss it. I always love hearing stories from the other side of the radio.

I’m gonna guess he’ll relieve his stresses in another fashion. Until then, EBD, fight the good fight. You’ll be missed.