Telephone pole may have saved cyclist


A wooden telephone pole stopped the progress of a wayward car and probably prevented major injuries to a bicyclist traveling north on El Camino Real near Watkins Avenue in Atherton Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 30. An 81-year-old Atherton resident had fallen asleep at the wheel of an Infiniti sedan and veered off the road, police said.

The cyclist, a 25-year-old Redwood City man, suffered minor abrasions after falling off his bike. He fell after his bike was struck and knocked down by a bus stop sign, which the car hit and sent flying before running into the telephone pole, said Lt. Joe Wade of the Atherton Police Department. The cyclist was able to walk away from the scene, Lt. Wade said.

The car might have continued on into the cyclist but for the telephone pole, which did not give way and stopped the car, he said.

Neither the driver nor the car's one passenger were injured, Lt. Wade said.

The driver will not be charged and the matter now goes to the insurance companies involved for payment of damages, according to Lt. Wade.

"Obviously if this had been a fatality, we send those up to the district attorney," he added. "Ultimately, it would have been a crime if something worse had happened."

Does an accident involving an 81-year-old driver trigger an inquiry by the state Department of Motor Vehicles? "Not necessarily," Lt. Wade said, adding that he did not know if the DMV had a blanket policy for such cases.

A call to the DMV's public affairs office has not yet been returned.

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Like this comment
Posted by charge him anyway
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 1, 2010 at 3:23 pm

Can't they charge the driver with at least a moving violation? Doesn't have to be intentional to be illegal and dangerous. Are they not filing charges because of the cost of prosecution?

Like this comment
Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 1, 2010 at 4:00 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

This is what the DMV says:
Potentially Unsafe Driver
Unsafe Driver

If you know someone who may no longer be able to drive safely, you may request that the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) review his or her driving qualifications. This form is provided for your convenience. If you prefer, you may write a letter to your local Driver Safety office to identify the driver you want to report and give your reason(s) for making the report."

Seems pretty clear to me what the Atherton PD needs to do.

How would they have treated this incident if the drivers was fro East Palo ALto instead of Atherton?

Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 1, 2010 at 4:56 pm

If the police can give a ticket for talking on your cell phone, they should be able to give a ticket for falling asleep at the wheel.
According to the police the cyclist was hit by a vehicle last year going southbound on El Camino, almost directly across from yesterday's accident.
On the lighter side the owners of the medical building almost had their first tenant, luckily the car only hit the building and didn't enter it. The place still stands empty

Like this comment
Posted by Scholar
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Dec 2, 2010 at 12:21 pm

The old man or his family should end his driving career before it gets worse.

Like this comment
Posted by Come on you ppl
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Dec 2, 2010 at 1:15 pm

[Post removed. Please refrain from attacking other posters.]

Like this comment
Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2010 at 1:56 pm

How does 81 years old and falling asleep at the wheel automatically lead you to the conclusion that the driver fell asleep because of his/her age? I personally have fallen asleep at the wheel twice in my life. Once when I was in my early 20's and in the military (lack of sleep because of duties) and once in my early 30's (lack of sleep because of my own stupidity). Fortunately, I didn't hit any thing or any one. Don't you think that the responding officers likely determined the cause of the sleepiness and made an informed decision? I know its stylish on this forum to fault an Atherton cop for any action they take, or don't take, but come on.

Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 2, 2010 at 2:03 pm

I agree. This forum does have plenty of judgment being passed without sufficient awareness of the facts.

Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 2, 2010 at 3:08 pm

Police Dept. can and should have reccommended a driver reevaluation to the DMV. Perhaps this person can no longer drive safely.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 2, 2010 at 3:34 pm

The above cited DMV procedure does NOT involve a judgement by the person who submits the form - that judgement will be made by a qualified medical professional at the request of the DMV.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 2, 2010 at 3:46 pm

If this driver is not reported to the DMV and then this driver has a fatal accident then what do you think are the chances that the Atherton PD won't be sued?

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 2, 2010 at 5:27 pm

I could be wrong, but I think this accident occurred in Menlo Park PD's jurisdiction.

Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Why is the headline about a telephone pole saving a cyclist and not "Dozing driver nearly kills cyclist"?

Like this comment
Posted by concerned resident
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 2, 2010 at 9:39 pm

I just submitted an "there oughta be a law" write-up to State Senator Joe Simitian a couple weeks ago requesting that once senior drivers hit a particular age (exact age tbd)the DMV needs to require an actual physical driving test every few years rather than the standard written test.

Regardless of whether this particular driver fell asleep due to his/her age, if you're in agreement that in general our reflexes, sight, level of alertness etc. tend to degrade over time, I encourage you to send a note to this effect to Mr. Simitian as well.

Like this comment
Posted by Catherine McMillan
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 3, 2010 at 7:14 pm

When my mom started to feel drowsy at the wheel in her late 70s, she made sure to stop for a catnap, 5 to 10 minutes, and planned for those. The last time she did, she was looking to get off the highway but the next exit was too far off and her otherwise eminently fit body just couldn't hold on: looking to do the right thing and get off the highway, she dozed off in seconds, crossed 4 lanes on I-80, w/o hitting anyone, hit the embankment and flipped her car over. Miraculously, she got off with bruises and a concussion. But the realization that she could have killed someone -- her grandchildren or anyone in a car she might have hit -- were the most compelling argument she could ever have been presented with. She gave up driving so thereafter, and moved to a place where she wouldn't be car dependent. I am blessed to have a mom with such insight and grace ... and hope to live by her example.

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