News - November 24, 2010

Alpine Road fatality is third for truck driver

by Dave Boyce

In an unusual set of incidents, the Nov. 4 collision of a bicyclist and a tractor-trailer at the Alpine Road/Interstate 280 interchange was the third time since 2003 that the truck driver had been involved in a fatal accident.

In the first two cases, he was found not to be at fault, and preliminary findings from the Nov. 4 accident investigation suggest he wasn't at fault in that incident, either.

In December 2003, a woman died after her vehicle crossed the center line on Highway 1 near Moss Landing and collided head-on with a truck being driven by Gabriel Manzur Vera, 44, said Officer Robert Lehman of the California Highway Patrol.

In August 2007, a bicyclist died as a result of a collision with the right side of Mr. Vera's truck as it was making a turn at an intersection in the city of Santa Cruz, CHP Officer Art Montiel said.

In the Nov. 4 incident, in which Los Altos Hills cyclist Lauren Perdriau Ward, 47, died after colliding with the left side of his truck, the preliminary indications are that Mr. Vera was not at fault, Mr. Montiel said.

Mr. Vera, who drives for Monterey-based demolition contractor Randazzo Enterprises, had been headed onto southbound I-280 from a job in Menlo Park, Mr. Montiel said. CHP investigators have not yet determined what happened.

"That's very unfortunate: same driver, similar situation," Mr. Montiel said about the two bicycle fatalities.

In the Santa Cruz incident, a video originating either from a surveillance or street camera showed that Mr. Vera was not at fault, Mr. Montiel said. A call to the Santa Cruz Police Department has not been returned.

The CHP keeps records for four years, so details of the 2003 incident on Highway 1 have been purged, said Mr. Lehman of the Monterey office of the CHP. That section of the highway is two lanes and runs through a marshy area without much shoulder, Mr. Lehman said. "There's not a lot of places to go if someone's coming into your lane," he said.

With truckers on the road so much longer than the average driver, do they have a greater likelihood of being involved in an accident? "They absolutely do, just because that's just their job, to be out on the road," Mr. Lehman said.

They are also held to a higher safety standard and are expected to drive more defensively, he added. In an accident, professional drivers are evaluated as to whether they were getting enough sleep, eating adequately, "things that you normally don't think about, but we want to double check in their state of mind," Mr. Lehman said.

Mr. Vera's series of similar incidents "is uncommon (but) I wouldn't doubt the integrity of the investigators in the fault that they found," Mr. Lehman said. "Some individuals are in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Lawsuit ahead?

The family of Ms. Ward is apparently considering legal action and has retained San Francisco-based attorney John Feder, of the firm Rouda Feder & Tietjen.

In a brief interview, Mr. Feder said it was clear that Mr. Vera had been inattentive in the 2007 incident and that the ensuing lawsuit, which ended in a settlement, supported that position. "His sworn testimony under oath indicated that he was, in fact, at fault," Mr. Feder said.

The case may turn on the question of whether the Nov. 4 accident was preventable, Mr. Feder said, while also noting the importance of the CHP's determining what actually happened. Witnesses, if there are any, have not yet come forward, Mr. Montiel of the CHP said.

The fact that Mr. Vera was involved in similar accidents in the past does not automatically trigger an investigation into his driving habits, Mr. Montiel said. If he had been found at fault, then investigators would begin to look for similarities.

In the Nov. 4 incident, the truck was found to be in its own lane and preparing to make a right turn onto the freeway; investigators found nothing to indicate a leftward turn into the cyclist, he said.

Does the configuration of this particular truck warrant special precautions? "There's really only so much (drivers) can do," Mr. Montiel said. Cyclists and operators of other small vehicles should take it upon themselves to make sure they are seen, he said.

"If you can't see me, I can't see you" is a sign, in the voice of the driver, that is commonly seen on big trucks, referring to the rear-view mirrors. Such signs should be taken seriously by cyclists, Mr. Montiel said.


Posted by Fascinating, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 23, 2010 at 11:31 am

Mr. Vera should buy a lottery ticket:
See: What are the odds of killing 2 bicyclists via the link below.
Web Link

Posted by truck behind you, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 23, 2010 at 12:51 pm

If a truck is passing a bicyclist close on the right side, there is really nothing the bicyclist can do to get out of the way. The normal escape route is to the right, but the truck has cut that off. If you try to veer to the left, you risk get hit by another vehicle passing on that side. Your only other choice is to trust the truck driver not to hit you, which is apparently what Ms. Ward chose to do.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 23, 2010 at 1:14 pm

By the date on this online story I assume it is in the Wed printed version. However this story is at least five days old as it appeared with the SJ Mercury News on Nov 18th.
Editor - could you please explain the rational of why the Almanac, the local, paper didn't bother to put this story online last week?

Note: It was posted last week, and updated Monday night. This thread is on the online archived print story.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 23, 2010 at 1:16 pm

link to the SJ Merc story of Nov 18
Web Link

Posted by Tom Gibboney, publisher, a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Nov 23, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Bob: We notice that you often like to criticize the Almanac for not writing stories as soon as other local media. Our answer is that we are doing the best we can with a small staff, and our priorities are very likely different than yours.
If you are not happy with the Almanac's coverage of local issues, we invite you to find another website and post your comments there. Town Square is provided so our readers can freely discuss local issues. Unsubstantiated personal attacks on other posters or anyone else are not permitted.

Tom Gibboney, publisher

Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 23, 2010 at 3:15 pm

First I do not enjoy criticizing the Almanac and if my priority is local news and the Almanac's is not then perhaps the Alamnac should get out of the local news business.
As you noticed I already do read many other media sites. Otherwise I wouldn't be calling to your attention stories. As these other sites seem to carry the stories I have no need to post on them. Also, you'll notice that every story I've mentioned is very local - Menlo Park or Atherton. On some occasions these are follow-ups to stories in the Almanac. And I have even on occassion contacted the staff by phone and given story leads which have been followed-up on.
The point is the Almanac is the local paper and does not seem to be able to cover the local news as well as the non-local papers.
In the words of your own web site -
"The Almanac Online is the community news and information service for Menlo Park, Atherton, Portola Valley and Woodside..." I and I am sure others would appreciate the extra effort to fulfill that statement.
As to your last sentence - "Unsubstantiated personal attacks on other posters or anyone else are not permitted." I have not done so here nor in the past. Thus it would be appreciated if this response to your response is left intact.
Thank you for the opportunity to respond. - Bob

Editor's note: The story was posted last week, and updated Monday night. Here is the link to the other thread: Web Link
This thread refers to the online archived print story.

Posted by Tom Gibboney, publisher, a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Nov 23, 2010 at 5:18 pm


If you had any idea how the news media works, you would understand my previous point. The Almanac sets its own agenda for what we cover and when, not Bob or the other Peninsula newspapers, one of which does not even have a website. Our readers know where to find the local news that is important to them. If you are not happy with AlmanacNews I invite you to post your comments in the other media you like to follow. Your gratuitous criticism is not welcome here and will be taken down.

Tom Gibboney, publisher

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