Update on Last Week’s DASH Crash and Pedestrian Fatality

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News and opinion continues to come in on last week’s horrific crash between a DASH bus and 58 year old pedestrian Gwendolyn Coleman.  The most important of which came yesterday when Steve Hymon reported at LA Now that the police have determined that Coleman had the right away and a green light when the DASH bus slammed into her.

Gwendolyn Coleman, 58, of Burbank was hit by a city of Los Angeles
DASH bus at 5th and Flower streets about 6:35 a.m. Coleman had the
green light to cross and the driver of the bus did not see her because
of a blind spot, said Richard French, a spokesman for the Los Angeles
Police Department.

The DASH bus was turning from 5th onto Flower when the accident
happened. First Transit, the company that operates the buses for the
city, said Thursday that the driver of the bus had been put on
suspension pending an investigation.

Putting aside my dislike of the word "accident," there is one other problem with this statement from the LAPD.  If Coleman was crossing the intersection legally, the "blind spot" is either such a severe flaw that the intersection should be closed immediately or is a result of a driver that wasn’t paying close attention.  Either way, we’re a long way away from a resolution to this issue.

In other news, last week LAist reported that an impromptu memorial to Coleman was erected at the crash site and today City Watch wonders how with pedestrians getting struck down the City Council can possibly be considering raising speed limits.

Photo: Tom Andrews/LAist

  • It is still an “accident”. The bus driver did not mean to hit the pedestrian. If there truly is a blind spot for a bus turing on that intersection, then absolutely the bus driver is still at fault and should have been going slower around that corner. But steps should be taken to eliminate the blindspot.

    I will point out that there are indeed intersections around L.A. where it is difficult to see pedestrians when you are turning until it is close to being too late. One example in my neighborhood is the intersection of Sepulveda Blvd and Camarillo St., on the northern end of the Sherman Oaks Galleria. I often drive northbound on Sepulveda, and then turn right onto Camarillo. When making a right-hand turn with a green light, the pedestrians there also have a green light to walk across Camarillo. However, there used to be several tall bushes on the right that make it difficult to see whether there are pedestrians there waiting to cross or not. I can think of two times where I began to turn onto Camarillo only to have to stop sharply when pedestrians stepped out onto the street. The pedestrians were not at fault, to be sure: the trees were making it difficult for me to know whether there were pedestrians or not, because you can’t see them as you approach the intersection to turn right. Of course, the correct action is to come to a complete stop before you make a right-hand turn, even when you have a green light. . . but how often does everyone do that?

    Some time within the past couple of months, I notice that those tall bushes have been removed, eliminating the blind spot. I don’t know why the bushes were actually removed, but I think that corner is much safer for pedestrians now. I wonder if there is some similar action that can be taken for the corner of 5th and flower. . .

  • The corner of Flower & 5th, especially for the fair amount of height granted a DASH driver (a wide and low window combined with a gracious amount of height on top of an A-frame with a considerably high CG and therefore, clearance) is not difficult to negotiate, being an intersection of two very wide one-way thoroughfares. Even when that annoying farmers’ market is present (and as folk in soCal are barely walkers on a good day, this shoe-gazing festival is a bit of a bother for anyone wishing to even contemplate an ambulatory path!), there is a great amount of clearance on the corner for the many POV drivers that wish to turn left. For a DASH driver, such a turn should be no problem. I walk round and through this corner every day, and have even had a formal, recorded interview with LADOT Sgt. Keith Jordan on this very corner in mid-2008, not15 feet from where the memorial was placed for the woman who was killed by the LADOT DASH B.

    As a former third-generation cop whose father was head of Accident Investigation in a capital city east of here—for well over a decade—I must argue that which he likewise argued: accidents are far and few between. It is a matter of semantics, and were the impact to be reinvigorated to recognise the weight of the word—i.e., collision, for instance—then perhaps such “accidents” would occur less frequently.

    I have stated more than once that such an incident was inevitable, if not imminent, not too many months ago. This was no “accident” nor is there any question of visibility for a DASH driver whose seat may not be posted as high as that of a Metro bus driver but is nevertheless higher than the average POV—the latter vehicle being far more frequent yet seems to have fewer fatal collisions with pedestrians at the corner under review.

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