Rampant Excuse-Making for Fatal Hit and Run Drivers on PCH

 

Early Monday morning, 73 year old Amelia Ordona and her 67 year old sister were crossing the street when a car struck Ordona, felling her.  Then, Ordona was struck at least six more times, and at least five of the drivers of those vehicles just kept driving, never stopping to see whether their car was responsible for Ordona’s death.

As you might expect, the L.A. County Sheriff’s office was quick to the scene and quick to start making excuses for the drivers.  The words "hit and run" are never mentioned, either by the police or the news reports, but the word "accident" is tossed around like a baseball at Dodgers training camp.  I’m not surprised that one would avoid using scary terms such as "hit and runs" when you’re still hoping the callous drivers will turn themselves in, but later in the day, when it was clear they weren’t coming forward, the police and news were still in full blame-the-victim mode.

Just watch the KTLA report listed above, in just three minutes were given these excuses for the drivers hitting and running, and perhaps killing, a woman.  What’s even more amazing is that these explanations are given surrounded by footage of the grief-stricken family:

1) It was dark

2) It was the women’s fault for crossing the street wearing dark clothing

3) The victim was so disfigured, the drivers didn’t know that they hit a woman

A separate story on CBS, also mentioned daylight savings times as a culprit.

Way back when I was earning my driver’s license, I clearly remember being told over and over again that I should never be driving so fast when it’s dark that I don’t have time to break if I see something in my headlights…especially in a partially residential area.  What is so hard about taking a couple of seconds to mention that when driver’s kill someone instead of just blaming the victim and calling it a day?

  • Such a sad story. Why the bias towards the ones in huge metal capsules? I am, as always, apalled. Call it what it is: a hit and run. We shouldn’t have to fight so hard for justice as pedestrians. People keep driving because they don’t want to get caught, same as if they hit parked cars or other property. These are LIVES. What can be done to re-classify this kind of “accident”?

  • Eric B

    I got snarled on my way to work for several hours from the investigation. It’s fair to say that daylight savings was a factor given that that exact same hour would have been light the week before. But the report didn’t bother to mention the fact that drivers routinely do 60-65 in that 50 mph zone. 50 mph may even be too high given the residential nature of that part of the highway. The nearest crosswalk is about 1/4 mile away at the light at Paradise Cove (meaning that they were legally crossing the highway). What’s not clear is why the women were trying to catch the bus where they were. The bus stops down at Paradise Cove, not at Winding Way where the incident occured. Did they see a bus and decide to risk it? I’m hoping that more information comes out from the investigation. This scares me given that these are the exact same drivers I deal with when I commute there by bike. Altogether very poor reporting.

  • This story makes me sick. Sadly, as we continue to hear more about automobile drivers’ lack of respect for other people — regardless of their choice of vehicle — I grow less and less surprised that our society allows this kind of unacceptable behavior.

    I’ve always wondered how many people even took driver’s ed before they took their driver’s license test. I can still remember the exact words of my high school driver’s ed teacher: “Never drive faster than is SAFE FOR CURRENT CONDITIONS.”

    The news report’s “explanations” seem to completely implicate the women in this tragedy; if this were a motor vehicle vs. motor vehicle accident in which one driver left the scene, it would easily have been deemed a hit-and-run. It is unsettling that there are some in the media who don’t quite understand it’s a hit-and-run whether the victim is a person in a car, a person on a bike, or a person crossing a street.

  • Spokker

    Those are certainly excuses for hitting someone, but not for running away from the scene.

  • Spokker

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mnrl2fT2-E&feature=sub

    But clearly, citations aren’t working. Some guy in this video had three speeding tickets this year so far, and it’s only March. That’s like a thousand bucks. A speeding ticket should be at minimum a couple grand. Three strikes and your license is taken away for a year and your car impounded and sold and the money put into a fund that paves bike lanes, and I say that as a guy who doesn’t even like cyclists all that much. That might make driving real safe, real quick, but probably not.

  • Matthew

    Everyone needs to get all the FACTS before they comment.

    The speed limit at this point of PCH is 55 MPH. It’s posted. The victim was NOT in a crosswalk. It doesn’t matter how good of a driver you are, no matter what car you’re driving, at 55 MPH on a HIGHWAY (yes, Virginia, PCH is a HIGHWAY), there’s little chance you can avoid hitting a pedestrian in your car without swerving off the road or into oncoming traffic and killing a lot more people. Here’s a link to the ABC 7 report.

    http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news/local/los_angeles&id=7330979

    The pedestrian was completely at fault here. No one should be crossing a highway on foot where the speed limit is 55 MPH and there are no crosswalks. Ever. Ever. Ever. Ever. Don’t do it. You will get killed.

    It sounds like at least two people stopped (maybe three, the wording of the report is vague) and there’s no real way of knowing whether six people actually hit her. If her dead body flew into oncoming traffic, it wouldn’t necessarily take that many cars to move her body that far. A car at 55 MPH imparts a lot of inertia to an object (and yes, many drivers exceed the speed limit, but at 55 MPH and up a pedestrian should never be on the same roadway). If cars swerved but missed her, they probably went on. Very few people stop to testify about an accident if they aren’t directly involved. And some of the people might not have realized they struck her if it was a glancing blow. It was obviously dark and in the absence of any information that you’ve hit a person, I would not assume that every clunk I hear when I’m driving is a body (if I did, I’d have to pull over every ten or fifteen minutes here in LA. The streets in some places are terrible).

    It’s sad that she died, but this isn’t a bunch of horrible, despicable drivers who have no feelings and are deliberately gunning for pedestrians. It was a case of a pedestrian who completely ignored the law and common sense and got killed. Get the facts straight before you go on another jeremiad.

  • Matthew,

    Your post does an excellent job of portraying the car driver’s perspective on this sort of crash. A few other points.

    1) The victims had just left their house of employ. Regardless of the speed limit, the area is at least partially residential. Common sense would tell someone that when there’s a mix of driveways along an area, they shouldn’t go the maximum speed in their vehicle allowed by law.

    2) A clunk? I assume hitting a body would do slightly more than make a clunk. Also, are you assuming they didn’t watch the road to see they hit something big?

    3) How would you propose the victims get home if the bus stop going in their direction was across the pch? Should they just get a new job? I hear those are falling off trees.

    Honestly? This wouldn’t have been more than a mention in Today’s Headlines if the police and news had added a throw away line about driving safer in the dark, or along the PCH. As it was, all the focus was on the victim’s actions and excuse making for the drivers. That, is unnaceptable in a lot of ways.

    Also, regardless of the situation, if you hit someone and leave the scene of the crash, it is a hit and run under state law. The unwillingness of anyone to say so shows a complete lack of respect for this law.

  • Eric B

    Also, Matthew, in your quest for FACTS, perhaps you can tell me which of the following speed limit signs indicates that 55 MPH is a safe speed on that stretch of highway?

    This one?
    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=winding+way+and+pacific+coast+highway,+malibu,+ca+90265&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=55.806079,79.013672&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Pacific+Coast+Hwy+%26+Winding+Way,+Malibu,+Los+Angeles,+California+90265&layer=c&cbll=34.025758,-118.765533&panoid=zFHAXL0XHUw5oCtmDGcWDA&cbp=12,95.89,,2,-0.58&ll=34.02577,-118.765431&spn=0.003628,0.004823&z=18

    Or this one?
    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=winding+way+and+pacific+coast+highway,+malibu,+ca+90265&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=55.806079,79.013672&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Pacific+Coast+Hwy+%26+Winding+Way,+Malibu,+Los+Angeles,+California+90265&ll=34.025908,-118.77476&spn=0.00361,0.004823&z=18&layer=c&cbll=34.025806,-118.774593&panoid=9uu7xbxyuMzklTxnxtW4lg&cbp=12,292.59,,0,3

    The last one is within sight of the incident scene. The first one indicates that speeding is in fact a problem on this stretch of highway (as anyone that travels it regularly can attest).

    Perhaps you need to do your own fact checking, particularly when you rely on news sources that don’t bother to do it themselves.

    PCH is a highway, not a limited-access freeway. It’s also considered Malibu’s “main street” as it is the primary route for pedestrian, bicyclist, and transit transportation. 55 is the default speed limit for an undivided highway in the state of California. Any speed limit lower than that is a warning sign to drivers that something about the roadway makes faster speeds unsafe.

    As Damien said, this wouldn’t be a story if the cops had said, “When it’s dark and hard to see, everyone needs to be a little more careful out there.” Instead, the sheriff took it upon himself to admonish a dead, elderly pedestrian for daring to take public transit to her job, as hundreds of Malibu caretakers do every day. Apparently people driving down the street at high speeds have no obligation to not hit things in their way, or to stop when they do. That’s the story.

  • It’s easy to say that peds shouldn’t cross outside of crosswalks, but Malibu and the City of LA do very little to facilitate peds crossing PCH outside of major intersections. There are NO SIDEWALKS, let alone crosswalks, for huge swaths. And PCH is the ONLY way in and out of Malibu, unless you count Topanga/Malibu Cyn etc, and those windy roads have no accomodations for peds either.

    The residents of Malibu who hire domestics need to be more responsible for ensuring they get to and from work safely — when I lived in the Palisades Highlands I knew people who would pick up and drop off their housekeepers and nannies at the bus stops, ensuring they get their safely, as opposed to just letting them walk for miles or try to cross busy streets on their own. Of course, many would just allow their help to show up and never wonder exactly HOW they got there and got home.

    And few places in LA are more clearly perfect for pedestrian overpasses than PCH, from Sunset on up.

  • Damien, most people are not aware that there would be pedestrians along PCH, just like it would be unlikely to expect pedestrians down a winding mountain highway where there are no amenities. The density there is very light and there are no sidewalks, as noted. While legally not jaywalking because both sides are not signalized, vehicles do have the right of way and it is incumbent on the pedestrian to leave the traveled way as quickly as possible. The car driver should be charged with hit and run though, and not just released. However, if he had stopped and rendered assistance, I would not charge him with any crime.

  • I missed this somehow, but excellent article.

  • Gene Santa Maria

    To the family of my late and wonderful friend,

    I just found out about this tonight and can still remember when she left Guam for Los Angeles to help her Family. I miss you and will continue to pray for you.

    Amelia also known to her friends as Nelly, you will be missed and we know you are in heaven.

    Love,
    Gene and Family.

  • Jarrett and Jennifer Teeters-Santamaria

    How cruel people are to say she is at fault. What happened about Pedestrian rights? Come on 7 vehicles struck her before everything was realized? Where is justice? To the family, our condolences extends to you for this tradgedy that is unforgivable. The pain is strong, but do not forget that other people Auntie Nelly touched is also in mourning. May God bless her and her family and that the people that was involved will come foward and confess of there wrong doings.

  • The charges of hit and run are quite grey… If the drivers had no knowledge of the crime and thought they ran over something in the road (happens often in LA) then it’s one thing. But, if they knew they hit someone or something (e.g. car or other property) they should have stopped and given their information.

  • Jbeamm2001

    You do know she was hit walking north on pch and I’m sorry that happend but I was there going for my first day at work at lax and was fired because I did not show up I did see cars hit her and never stopped but I did I did get sued and my insurance did pay but was not my fault