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.

© 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!