Study: Number of people killed by red light runners hits a 10-year high (and how to prevent crashes)

November 20, 2019 | 6:00 am


We all learned the rules as children: green light means go, yellow light means slow, and perhaps most importantly, red means stop. Unfortunately, adults seem to be forgetting that lesson.

The number of people killed by drivers running red lights has hit a 10-year high, according to a study by Automobile Club of Southern California (AAA). Nearly 1,000 people were killed in a year, according to the most recent statistics available — that’s a 30 percent increase from 10 years ago.

Almost half of the people killed in those crashes were passengers or drivers of other cars hit by a red-light runner. And just over one-third of the victims were the driver who ran the light, the AAA study found.

The reason for the uptick may surprise you. While distracted driving played a role, traffic lights that weren’t timed appropriately were also to blame. But perhaps most surprising? Many crashes are the result of drivers intentionally speeding and breaking the law by running red lights. About one in three drivers said they’d done it within the last 30 days, even when they could’ve safely stopped, AAA reported. The reason drivers ran a red light even though they knew it was against the law is equally as surprising. About 2 in 5 drivers don’t think police will pull them over for dangerous driving.

The Bakersfield-based accident and injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles is urging drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians to use caution at traffic signals.

“Like crashes cause by those driving under the influence, crashes caused red light runners are 100 percent preventable crimes,” said David Cohn, managing partner and attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Drivers who decide to run a red light are making a selfish and reckless choice that puts all of us on the roadways in danger.”

The good news is there are several things we can do to prevent red-light crashes. Continue reading this blog post to learn how.

 

RED LIGHT CAMERAS

Crashes caused by red light runners can be curbed with red light cameras, which take photos and a 12-second video of the driver when a car runs a red light.

In fact, such cameras reduced red light violations by 40% in a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Those cameras take photos of vehicles that run red lights, which police can review for ticketing purposes. Running a red light will cost the offender $490, according to the Judicial Council of California, which sets fines for traffic offenses.

Locally, the Bakersfield Police Department reviews about 1,500 to 2,000 violations per month, according to The Bakersfield Californian. On average, 37 are cited each day. Red-light cameras are stationed at 10 Bakersfield intersections.

  • Bernard Street and Oswell Street
  • California Avenue and Oak Street
  • California Avenue / New Stine Road / Stockdale Highway
  • Chester Avenue and Brundage Lane
  • Coffee Road and Stockdale Highway
  • Coffee Road and Truxtun Avenue
  • Ming Avenue and Valley Plaza
  • Ming Avenue and Real Road
  • Ming Avenue and Old River Road
  • White Lane and Wible Road

These intersections with red light cameras saw collisions reduce by more than 80%, according to a recent Kern County Grand Jury report.

 

HOW TO AVOID RED LIGHT CRASHES

Besides putting in more red light cameras, Chain | Cohn | Stiles recommends pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers do several things to avoid crashes at intersections.

Drivers

  • Drivers should monitor “stale” green lights — those that have been green a long time as you approach the intersection. They are more likely to turn yellow as you arrive at the intersection.
  • Prepare to stop. Lift your foot off the accelerator and “cover the brake” when preparing to enter any intersection by positioning your right foot just above the brake pedal, without touching it.
  • Use good judgment. Monitor “stale” green lights, those that have been green a long time as you’ve approached the intersection. They are more likely to turn yellow as you arrive at the intersection.
  • Tap the brake. Tap your brakes a couple of times before fully applying them to slow down. This will catch the attention of drivers who may be inattentive or distracted behind you.
  • Drive defensively. Before you enter an intersection after the light has turned green for you, take a second after the light changes and look both ways before proceeding.

Pedestrians and Bicyclists

  • Wait. Give yourself a few seconds to make sure all cars have come to a complete stop before moving through the intersection.
  • Stay alert and listen. Don’t take chances. Watch what is going on and give your full attention to the environment around you.
  • Be visible. Stay in well-lit areas, especially when crossing the street.
  • Make eye contact. Look at drivers in stopped vehicles to ensure they see you before crossing the road in front of them.
  • Never wear headphones or earbuds while commuting or talk on the phone.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of a red-light runner, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles responds to Kern County DA’s office decision to not file charges in wrongful death case

March 16, 2016 | 7:55 am


The attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles responded to the recent decision by the Kern County District Attorney’s Office to not pursue criminal charges against the deputy involved in the fatal crash in Bakersfield that killed motorcyclist Larry Maharrey.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles has filed a wrongful death claim related to the crash. On July 14, Larry Maharrey was driving his motorcycle eastbound on Norris Road, when Kern County Sheriff’s Deputy Marvin Gomez abruptly made a left turn against a red light onto Airport Drive directly into Maharrey’s path. Maharrey was unable to avoid the collision with Deputy Gomez’s patrol vehicle, and died as a result of the crash.

Deputy Gomez violated KCSO policies and procedures by failing to pre-clear the intersection before turning left against a red light. And the California Highway Patrol Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team suggested a vehicular manslaughter charge against Gomez.

The widow of Larry Maharrey, Paula Maharrey, as well as Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matthew Clark, shared their statements with local media regarding the District Attorney’s Office decision to not file charges against Sgt. Gomez in the fatal crash:

PAULA MAHARREY, WIDOW

“I’m very disappointed by the District Attorney’s refusal to prosecute Sgt. Gomez. My family is upset by the fact that the District Attorney and Sgt. Gomez are both employees of the County of Kern. It appears that one county agency is defending another, and it screams of a conflict of interest. We wish that an independent investigating agency such as the state Attorney General’s Office would look into this matter. We are also saddened by the fact that the needless loss of my husband’s life will do nothing to discourage this kind of reckless driving in the future.”

MATTHEW CLARK, ATTORNEY

“I, like my clients, are very disappointed in the Office of the District Attorney’s decision not to prosecute Sgt. Gomez. We’ve had four innocent lives lost in the county in the last four years due to the reckless driving exhibited by some employees of Kern County Sheriff’s Department. This is the most offensive kind of loss of life in light of the fact that people are being killed by those very officers who have taken on a duty to protect them.

“In an approximately 250-page report, the CHP Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team concluded that Sgt. Gomez’s conduct substantiated a violation of California Penal Code Section 192 (c) (2) – Misdemeanor Vehicular Manslaughter. The District Attorney’s decision not to prosecute appears to be in conflict of interest given the fact that the District Attorney and Sgt. Gomez are both employees of the County of Kern.

Without question, Sgt. Gomez conduct in this case was in violation of Kern County Sheriff’s Office policy regarding emergency driving in that he failed to pre-clear the lanes of the intersection. His failure to do so killed Larry Maharrey. The failure to prosecute sends the wrong message to law enforcement, suggesting that they are above the law.”

MEDIA COVERAGE

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Bakersfield crashes involving law enforcement vehicles share similar stories

May 4, 2015 | 10:31 am


Late last week, a family of four was driving in southwest Bakersfield when a Bakersfield Police officer driving his cruiser at freeway speeds crashed into them head-on, family members told Eyewitness News.

The officer, they said, did not have his lights or sirens on. The officer suffered minor to moderate injuries while the family members also were injured, and some were taken to the hospital. Fortunately, no one died in the crash.

Family members told Eyewitness News they were trying to turn left onto Wilson Road, yielding to oncoming traffic, when the patrol car swerved into them. Bakersfield Police Department said it’s continuing its investigation.

The case is eerily familiar to two recent cases handled by the Bakersfield-based law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles in which law enforcement officers driving at unsafe speeds have crashed with local residents. Unfortunately in those cases, fatalities occurred.

  • Last year, Chain | Cohn | Stiles settled a wrongful death lawsuit between the County of Kern and the families of two people killed by a speeding Kern County Sheriff’s deputy. That $8.8 million settlement is believed to be record-breaking for an automobile accident case against the County of Kern. Chain | Cohn | Stiles managing partner David Cohn represented Daniel Hiler’s fiancee and two young sons. The 24-year-old was struck and killed along with Chrystal Jolley, 30, in late 2011 by Kern County Sherriff’s Deputy John Swearengin. Both were crossing a road in Oildale when Swearengin’s patrol vehicle struck and killed them. Swearengin was driving 84 mph in a 45 mph zone before hitting Hiler and Jolley. He was responding to a call of a stolen vehicle; however, his emergency lights and sirens were not turned on. Law enforcement officers can travel in excess of the posted speed limit so long as their forward facing overhead lights are activated to warn others that they are responding to an emergency, but Swearengin didn’t do that, Cohn said. In fact, the deputy violated several policies and procedures. The Hiler family received $4.8 million from the settlement.
  • And in September last year, 72-year-old Nancy Joyce Garrett was driving her vehicle at the intersection of North Chester Avenue and China Grade Loop in Oildale when she was struck and killed by a Kern County Sheriff’s Department patrol vehicle. She had just returned to Bakersfield from a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game she attended with her family and friends. The California Highway Patrol’s MAIT Team is still conducting an investigation of the collision.

“Under nearly every circumstance, law enforcement officers driving department vehicles are bound to the same rules of the road as everyday citizens unless they’re operating with lights or sirens when it’s necessary,” said Matt Clark, attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “That certainly doesn’t appear to be what happened in this recent case.”

If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident at the fault of someone else, contact Chain | Cohn | Stiles at 661-323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

CCS represents family of woman killed in crash with Sheriff’s deputy

October 6, 2014 | 9:07 am


On Sept. 28, 72-year-old Nancy Joyce Garrett was driving her vehicle at the intersection of North Chester Avenue and China Grade Loop in Oildale when she was struck and killed by a Kern County Sheriff’s Department patrol vehicle. Garrett’s family has retained the Bakersfield personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Below is the news release sent by CCS to local media, followed by the subsequent various news coverage:

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Chain | Cohn | Stiles represents family of woman killed in crash with Sheriff’s deputy

Bakersfield, Calif. (Oct. 1, 2014) – By all accounts, Nancy Joyce Garrett was a friendly neighbor, a caregiver for our community, an active blogger, and most importantly, the pillar of her family. Nancy, 72, had been a drug and alcohol counselor for the Kern County Mental Health Department, and had also volunteered her time as a substance abuse counselor for STEPS, a local nonprofit that provide DUI awareness services.

Nancy passed away early Sunday morning when Kern County Sheriff’s Deputy Nicholas Clerico collided with the vehicle she was driving at the intersection of North Chester Avenue and China Grade Loop in Oildale. She had just returned to Bakersfield from a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game she attended with her family and friends.

Nancy leaves behind a son, Mark, and a daughter, Deborah, along with grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Ms. Garrett’s family has retained the Bakersfield personal injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles to represent them in this case. Her family is still mourning and requests that their privacy be respected at this time.

Mark McGowan, her son, stated: “We are all devastated. My mother was the most loving woman that you could ever meet. To see her go like this, under such tragic circumstances, breaks our heart. We hope that with time the truth is revealed and that future tragedies like this never happen again. In the meantime, the family requests that the media and members of the public respect our privacy out of deference to my mother.”

The California Highway Patrol’s MAIT Team is currently conducting an investigation of the collision.

Partner Matthew C. Clark added: “What we know at this time is that Nancy Joyce Garrett was a wonderful human being who had devoted her life to giving back to the community. Our hope and expectation is that the CHP will conduct a thorough investigation of this collision. We will not rush to any conclusions in the meantime, and we ask that the public do the same. But we promise to get to the bottom of what happened, and of course, as we learn more about the collision, we will share that information with the public.”

Chain | Cohn | Stiles also represented the family of Daniel Ace Hiler, who was hit and killed by Kern County Sheriff’s Deputy John Swearengin more than two years ago. That case resulted in a combined $8.8 million settlement.


1430 Truxtun Avenue, Suite 100 – Bakersfield, CA – 93301 – Phone: 661-323-4000

CHAIN | COHN | STILES is Kern County’s leading plaintiffs’ personal injury law firm, voted Bakersfield’s “Best Law Firm” in The Bakersfield Californian’s Readers Choice Poll the last two years in a row. Our Bakersfield personal injury attorneys have represented clients from throughout the San Joaquin Valley and California for 80 years. We concentrate our efforts on protecting the rights of individuals who have been seriously injured due to the negligent, reckless or intentional conduct of another. If you have been injured due to the fault of another, you have the right to hold that person or entity accountable, no matter how rich or powerful that person or entity may be. At Chain | Cohn | Stiles, we pride ourselves on having the reputation and resources necessary to overcome the most difficult challenges while achieving the best possible results for our clients.

For more information, go to chainlaw.com, and visit our blog to stay up to date on firm news: bloggingforjustice.com. Find us on Facebook, Twitter (@chainlaw), Instagram, LinkedIn, Yelp, Pintrest and Google+

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This crash has been covered extensively by Kern County media. Below are some of the news articles and videos of the crash, and the coverage following the news release.

Following the release to local media, several local media outlets informed the public of the news.

And lastly, CCS attorney Matthew Clark spoke with The Bakersfield Californian’s CEO Richard Beene on the live streamed news show “First Look with Scott Cox” regarding the case. Catch the coverage here:

Motorcycle safety: Be aware, share the road, ride sober

July 11, 2014 | 9:57 am


Two recent motorcycle accidents resulting in fatalities have local law enforcement officers and safety officials urging drivers and motorcycle riders to be more aware and alert while on Bakersfield roads, according to media reports.

Last month, a Bakersfield woman died after she crashed into a car when it turned in front of her motorcycle. The driver of the car did not see the motorcycle, California Highway Patrol officials reported.

Then, earlier this week, a Tehachapi man was killed when he crashed into a big rig that had turned into his path. The motorcyclist, who had the right of way, dropped his bike to its side to avoid the collision, but it was not enough to avoid impact, according to CHP reports.

Safety officials say it’s important for all drivers on the road to pay attention, share the road and ride sober. All motorists are reminded, by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for example, to safely share the road with motorcycles and to be extra alert to help keep motorcyclists safe. Motorcyclists, too, must do what they can to make themselves visible to other motorists.

Also, statistics show that the percentage of intoxicated motorcycle riders in fatal crashes is greater than the percentage of intoxicated drivers on our roads. For this reason, the safety administration urges all motorcycle riders to always ride smart and sober.

A national report by the safety administration on motorcycle safety lists 82 recommendations. To read those, go here.

The Bakersfield personal injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, too, advises Kern County motorists of all sorts to drive safe. Additionally, it’s important for all motorcycle riders to wear helmets, as is required by law in California.

But if the unexpected happens, the motorcycle accident attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles have the knowledge and expertise to deal with cases involving motorcycle accidents. If you or someone you know has been involved in a motorcycle-related accident, contact the law firm immediately.

The law firm has compiled several frequently asked questions and answers related to motorcycle accidents. Read some of them below, and all of them at Chainlaw.com.

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Is an investigation of my motorcycle accident case important?

It is critical. Since there is almost a presumption in the general public that motorcyclists assume the risk for their own injuries and they are usually at fault for causing accidents, it is essential that a quick and thorough investigation is performed to establish fault on other responsible people or entities and to establish that the motorcyclist did little or nothing to contribute to the accident.

Investigation should consist of an examination of the scene, an examination of the instrumentalities that were involved in the accident, obtaining statements from witnesses and obtaining the reports from investigating agencies. Of prime importance is maintaining the motorcycle and helmet in the exact condition they were in at the moment when the motorcyclist came to rest after an accident.

How long do I have after my accident to file my motorcycle injury case?

A motorcycle accident and/or wrongful death action, under California law, must be brought within two years of the date of the accident.

In cases against public entities, a claim must be filed against the public entity within six months from the date of the accident. If the plaintiff is a minor, a minor has until their 19th birthday to bring a case unless there is a government claim in which a minor should bring the claim within six months of the accident, or one year at the latest.

Is it important to retain an attorney for my motorcycle accident case?

Yes, if the motorcycle accident has resulted in a serious injury or death. Without an attorney, there will always be an assumption that the motorcyclist was at fault and evidence will be gathered by the other side to support that contention. You need to hire an attorney to perform investigation and retain the right experts to prove your case and your injuries. Further, through the litigation, an attorney will be able to cross-examine witnesses against you and hopefully turn their testimony to your favor.