A Tale of Two Crashes…

53_10_crash.jpgI think it was the tree. Photo: Fourbyfourblazer/Flickr

Last Sunday, a cyclist was forced off his bike when trying to avoid colliding with a car that raced out of a parking lot on Sunset Boulevard. The cyclist went over his handlebars, while the vehicle sped off.  Another cyclist, who did not know the victim, raced after the driver and photographed their plates and the driver herself before returning to the scene.  Eventually, the driver did as well; only to find the LAPD didn’t seem interested in the crash, or the driver fleeing the scene and refused to even write a report.  Naturally, there was some outrage.

You see, while people refer to the law about leaving the scene of an accident as a "Hit and Run," it’s actually about fleeing the scene of an "accident."  In this case, the driver who caused the accident should have been cited under CVC 2001 (a) which reads:

20001. (a) The driver of a vehicle involved in an accident
resulting in injury to a person, other than himself or herself, or in
the death of a person shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene
of the accident and shall fulfill the requirements of Sections 20003
and 20004.

It’s not like this code is a secret or some hard to remember loophole.  Fast forward five days and the LAPD is citing that very code in a crash involving a slain pedestrian in North Hollywood.  The LAPD is still looking for information on the driver who caused the crash, but are clear in their language that he fled the scene.

Two different crashes.  Two wildly different approaches to the law.  While some argue that the LAPD is chronically understaffed, these two incidents, just as the wildly different approaches to pedestrian safety we see in Mid-Wilshire and The Valley, highlight how difficult it is to really bring change to an agency with roughly 10,000 employees.  Remember when the LAPD discontinued its bike licensing program?  Remember a couple of months later when a cyclist was cited for riding without a license?

The good news is, that the Downtown Headquarters seems to be getting the message: a taskforce of cyclists and the LAPD are meeting regularly and bike racks have finally been installed at the new headquarters.  The bad news is that actual policy change has been slow coming, and that once those changes happen it’s going to take even longer for the messages to saturate down through all of the divisions.

Sadly, the LAPD is too large an agency for any sort of reform to happen easily or quickly.  Even if the Working Group downtown brings rapid policy change, which seems unlikely, it could be years before the policies work their way down to the street.  In the meantime, cyclists, pedestrians and all road users need to know their rights.

If you’re involved in a crash, make certain the responding officers write a report or make a trip to the local HQ and file a complaint.  As much as we’d like to think we can count on the LAPD when someone is wronged on the road; there’s no guarantee that the the cops at the scene will have a full grasp of the law.  If we’re not sure that the LAPD knows the law, then it’s up to the users themselves to be prepared.

  • A few days ago, a young man that I sponsor on behalf of my shop ruined a tendon in his shoulder while avoiding a collision with a car that backed out of driveway right in front of him. The car sped off, leaving this young guy broken and lying in the street. The LAPD happened by and didn’t give a crap about the car that caused the accident. With no police report, how is he going to file a claim against the car driver?

    The answer is, he won’t be able to. He also can’t afford surgery required to repair his damaged shoulder, and County turned discharged him with a bunch of pills and “Oh well, sorry.” He is a paid gymnastics instructor who can no longer lift his left arm above his shoulder.

    If the LAPD had taken a statement, written a report, he might have a chance of being compensated.

  • Roadblock

    Umberto. Can you get these details to the usual suspects including myself?

    A report was not taken at first by the LAPD in the cyclist incident above, but once the crew got on the email and phone circuit LAPD reversed and took a report.

  • Yes, Umberto, if you’re able, get as many details from your sponsor-ee as possible–make/model/color of vehicle (plates seem doubtful), description of driver, date/time/location of incident, the more the better.

    Hopefully, the driver “that backed out of a driveway” either lives or frequents the place from which he was backing out and can be further investigated. Perhaps plates can be obtained if s/he is spotted there again.

    Nobody likes doing futile acts (i.e., calling LAPD to make a report only to have them refuse to do so), but if LAPD never hears of crap like this, on the few odd occasions when they do, they’ll be more likely to dismiss it.

  • Josef,

    When a motorist causes a cyclist to go down, sustaining injuries in the process, and then the motorist flees the scene, it is not simply a compensation issue, it is a crime.

    This is no longer a Traffic Report” which will allow insurance companies to juggle liability, it’s a crime report that allows the People of California to prosecute a criminal.

    The issue must be framed properly, “Motorist causes a cyclist to go down, causing injury to cyclist, motorist flees scene.” It’s a crime, get a supervisor and insist on a crime report.

  • Alright guys, I’ll see what I can do. If anyone knows Charlie (the kid who did the coaster brake challenge on a Flying Pigeon) from Cypress Park, please have him contact either me, Stephen Box, or the Ridazz above.

    Stephen Box is pretty confident that we can get him some help. His shoulder has a snapped tendon in it, and he’ll be crippled if he can’t have surgery to re-attach it. He’s got no money, but he does have rights. Hopefully those will equal some medical treatment, and soon.

  • Yuri

    If the LAPD doesn’t enforce the existing laws regarding these hit-and-runs, they are fostering a culture of lawlessness on the streets. If there are no consequences for running from the scene of an accident, why would anyone stay put? It’s the Wild West in autopia and they are not doing their job of protecting and serving law-abiding cyclists.

  • I can’t say how sad and yet, incredibly helpful your words of wisdom are, Damien. We all need to protect our bikes and our safety, by knowing our legal rights, documenting when we get hit/license plates, and taking pictures of/engraving our Driver’s license numbers onto the bottom of our bikes. Otherwise, the LAPD doesn’t ever prosecute or take our issues of theft and life threatening injury seriously.

  • Sgt David Krumer

    Please get me the information and I will be happy to look into the matter. Ross, Stephen, and Roadblock have a direct line to me.

  • Sgt. Krumer, thank you so much for taking the time and getting involved. The young man injured in Cypress Park had a patrol car make a report the other day on his behalf (thanks to you).

    His shoulder is really mangled, and we’re really hoping he can get some medical attention.

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