Because I set my phone to “silent mode” I missed a call from Reader Jennifer, who spotted this accident, which involved a car hitting a passenger departing an N Judah train last night. Fortunately the injured party has no life threatening injuries and is recovering at a nearby hospital.
However, this incident illustrates one of the biggest hazards of riding the N, or any public transportation – the hazards of de-boarding when you’re basically being dropped off in traffic. I’ve had more near-misses and seen too many accidents at 9th and Irving, usually caused by drivers who are driving too fast down Irving and apparently can’t wait the few minutes for people to leave the train and have to run over people, just so they can run over MORE people at the crosswalk.
It makes me wonder just how stupid one has to be to get a driver’s license in this state anymore. When I was a car-commuter, it would never occur to me to try and clip people walking across the street, no matter how many angry horn honks I got for not taking a right on red. My attitude was that it was my car, and my safety on the line, and I wasn’t going to risk killing civilians just so Mr. Horn Honker can make his turn 2 minutes faster.
Likewise, I’ve seen so many people who apparently don’t know the rules on left turns, again, especially at busy intersections like 9th and Irving, I have begun to wonder if they’re going to have to ban left turns entirely at the intersection. People making left turns don’t seem to understand that they have to yield to oncoming traffic first, then make their turn. Instead they cause traffic jams trying to make turns and cut off oncoming traffic. This is good for no one: drivers or walkers or bikers.
It’d be nice if we had some system whereby people could learn how to driver smarter, and then perhaps have a state agency that had the task to issue some sort of certificate, or license, that would be earned through a test of some sort. As driving is a privilege and not a right, you’d think that maybe, just maybe, we could have a way to better educate people on how to drive. (I’m still amazed at how STUPID some people are when it comes to finding parking – I used to own a car that was tough to fit into SF parking spots, and I found a legal space most of the time.)
I know it’s crazy and I’m sure the loud angries in our midst would freak out if we ever did such a thing, but watching how clueless drivers can be, I have to wonder if it’s better than having lots of accidents and seeing auto insurance premiums go up. Couldn’t hurt.
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Driver education (behind-the-wheel) was one of the first things eliminated in public schools after Prop 13.
I’ve often considered bringing a very heavy (possibly iron) cane with me when I ride the N. Before stepping out in to traffic I’d poke the cane out. If it went through someone’s windshield, then I’d know it wasn’t safe to put my legs out.
And if some moron behind the wheel happened to get some shards of glass in his neck, I’m not sure I’d feel particularly guilty about it.
It blows my mind that Muni thinks it is ok for passengers to step off the train directly into a lane of moving traffic.
So that’s what the deal was, I had to get off the N car behind it and as I was walking by I thought it was weird that it didn’t look like the N had hit a car (which was obviously my first assumption).
@Erik: Do recall that when the line was built 80+ years ago, most of the sunset hadn’t been built yet. Transit engineers say that if the line were built to today’s standards, there’d be platforms for people to exit to, instead of having these stops on streets. There is word that federal money has been allocated to a safety program along Irving and other busy stops that are dangerous, but I haven’t seen the plan yet.
@fred: indeed. I remember when I was in college watching Gov. Deukmejian take actual pride in witholding driver’s education money from all the schools for some political posturing he was doing that seemed like a big deal to him at the time.
It was awful! I was a passenger in the car and the driver was slowing with much caution. Muni passengers should not walk quickly out of a train in front of traffic like a child without a supervising parent. Muni needs to fix that system and passengers need to know cars can’t lock their brakes when the train stops, they do take a moment to come to a safe stop. LOOK where you are going! That poor girl only had an injured ankle, but I hope she recovers soon!! (and learns a valuable lesson we all teach our children)
Funny that they took the victim all the way to SFGH instead of a few blocks away to UCSF.
In the event that you (as in the driver of a car) approach a Muni train which is in the process of disembarking passengers the appropriate action is to not pull forward until the area is clear. Yes, you might get honked at from other inconsiderate drivers but that is a small price to pay to ensure the safety of others.
@Devin: Every passenger knows not to step into traffic without looking. The problem is that stepping out of a bus or train isn’t a place where you should ever encounter moving traffic.
BTW, if the driver was moving at all next to a stopped train with its doors open then he or she wasn’t behaving with caution.
Also, this is the kind of situation where a lawsuit (either from the injured passenger or from the car driver’s insurance, whoever ends up paying the hospital bills) might be the only thing that could actually force Muni in a timely fashion to stop doing something ridiculously dangerous.
@Jeff: I know it seems strange, but trust me, this was the right move. SF General is a level 1 trauma facility, and has the expertise to deal with someone who’s been in a serious car wreck or something.
UCSF is more of a research and teaching hospital, and is more of a place you go if you need a treatment for cancer, long term type stuff, and so on. It’s not a horrible place to go, but it doesn’t take that long to get to SFGH if you’ve been in a smash up.
It’s worked fine for 80 years, and works fine in the rest of the world. Look at Philadelphia, look at Boston, look at Austria and Switzerland. I’m sure they have plenty of places where passengers disembark into traffic. And it works fine, just as long as drivers know to stop when the train has its doors open. Maybe some more brightly flashing lights on the back of the train are in order? The other thing is that of course drivers are not necessarily very familiar with this system. Perhaps something vaguely school-bus like should be used, to trigger that little bit of mandatory knowledge?
It’s illegal to overtake a bus or streetcar that has stopped (or is about to stop) to let passengers on or off if there is no safety zone (i.e. platform). I hope the driver got his or her ticket here.
I don’t have my Vehicle Code book handy, but I’m sure there’s a section regarding passing a stopped streetcar or light rail train. Some years ago the accompanying graphic showed a cable car; in more recent editions, the illustration showed a train that looked more San Diego Trolleys. And yes, fitting Muni rail units with school bus type stop lights might be a step in the right direction (tourists can be almost as careless as some school kids). The comment on incompetent drivers reminds me of the question to such people, “Where did you get your license? In a box of corn flakes?” If this topic comes up again, I’ll tell my story about the [West] German Consulate.
There are ‘Do Not Pass’ signs at every stop along Judah. I’ve tried to make the link on this comment point to the one at 12th and Judah.
What drivers also need to realize is that people disembarking the train CANNOT SEE oncoming traffic until they’re in front of it. When you exit the N the steps are below the train’s windows and your peripheral vision is blocked by the doors.
As others have pointed out, we used to have a system for training drivers called driver’s education in high school. No funding for that, screw teaching people useful skills, have to cut taxes again. Bah.
I once was honked at on 9th Street by a woman who was pissed off that I *didn’t* run a yellow/red light, which also happened to have a camera on it. She was honking a screaming at me, so I rolled down my window, stuck my head and and calmly said (loud enough for her to hear) “If you’d like the $300 ticket you’re more than welcome to cut me off.”
She shut up.
In addition to the clear violation of the transit-specific Code 21756 already cited, I’d expect that the automobile would also be “passing on the right” which is prohibited on surface streets:
left Glen Park BART tonight, and crossing Bosworth, witnessed an IMBECILE of a driver make a blind (he was only looking at oncoming vehicle traffic) right turn INTO a cluster of pedestrians. Came inches from plowing into a woman. Was he in a dire rush? No. He was turning just to pull over (into the bus lane, I might add) and wait to pick up someone.
I hope the struck N commuter is okay.
My favorite is when you see a driver actually stop behind the train, and then the other drivers behind them start honking furiously and yelling at them to move.
I can’t count how many times I’ve been nearly killed getting off the L-Taraval. For a while, I was tempted to throw a handful of pennies at the cars of offending drivers. As temporarily satisfying as that might have been, I now carry a very bright LED flashlight in my pocket and flash it (not into drivers’ eyes, of course)out the door of the L before I disembark.