Tag Archives: motorist fatality

No, Phoenix area drivers are not ‘safe’

The news today was almost too much to bear.

You might recall the absurd story from a couple of weeks ago (the news story ran 8/6/2013) azcentral.com where an unlicensed(!) driver was driving a minivan full of kids; “The 16-year-old was driving his six brothers and sisters westbound on Southern Avenue when the minivan collided head-on with a passenger car. The van had attempted to pass a car on the right shoulder and overcorrected, sending the van into oncoming traffic, where it was hit by a sedan, witnesses said”.

Yes, it gets weirder, yesterday (8/29/2013)… I’ll just give you the headline, Phoenix police: Girl, 6, dies after brother, 8, drives car into pole.

And for good measure, today besides that shocker, there were all manner of Arizona automobile-mayhem stories: $50M claim filed in crash that killed Tucson boy; it involved an on-duty Pima County Sheriffs Deputy. 10-year-old Xavier Arturo Sanchez died July 15, 2013 when he was hit by a deputy. I don’t know anything other than to note that “Tucson police investigators decided against submitting the case to the county Attorney’s Office because they felt the circumstances didn’t warrant criminal charges against the deputy” except to say, they probably ought to do more to avoid the appearance of impropriety; though i suppose TPD is supposed to be independent of PSCO. (far higher on the impropriety scale: see this one, involving a speeding PCSO deputy)… … … Road Rage, oh this it always fun: a PCSO deputy was the victim of apparent road rage: “Pima County Sheriff’s officials say 38-year-old Eric Santos ‘deliberately rammed and pushed the officer’s vehicle’ Wednesday night on Interstate 10″… … oh and the usual mayhem, this one seems tame by comparison: “Impairment may be factor in (double)fatal crash” in a 1PM high-speed collision at 43rd Ave and Indian School.

Phoenix high for driver safety?

EVERY YEAR we get treated to this stupidity: Allstate study ranks metro Phoenix high for driver safety. The story appears to be ripped right from a press release. Supposedly metro Phoenix has “safe” drivers because the number of claims is low. I’m sure this is all statistically true — unfortunately it does NOT translate into safe traffic (which normal people measure in terms of deaths and injuries), here is a comparison from last year’s Allstate data. In short, other cities that have far “worse” drivers, according to Allstate, have far better traffic safety records. It would seem to me this indicates something it terribly wrong with Arizona’s transportation infrastructure; we have surface streets built for hi-speed/hi-volume first and safety last.

Are cars dangerous? We all know it’s not the cars per se; but obviously we’re not doing enough to control their use.

Pedestrian struck by vehicle on sidewalk dies

Another, seriously how often does this happen?

Woman killed by truck identified

A pickup truck full of teenagers struck and killed a 23-year-old woman named Jackie Ruiz Saturday (2/2/2013) afternoon as she was walking on the sidewalk near 19th Ave and Thunderbird Road. Police say the 1997 Dodge 2500 pickup up truck was swerving before it left the roadway and went up on the sidewalk hitting Ruiz and then barreled into an apartment patio wall…The driver was identified as an 18 year old male. He had three other teens with him, said Phoenix Police Sgt. Steve Martos…

Think you’re safe in your car?

Man arrested in I-17 fatal crash in north Phoenix

Police have arrested a man suspected of killing a 61-year-old man in a high-speed collision on Interstate 17 in north Phoenix on Monday night (6/17/2013), a Department of Public Safety official said Tuesday…. Police say the white sedan was driven by Vick A. House (the victim)… Police are not releasing the name of the suspect yet.

Motorcyclist killed after crash in Phoenix

This appears to be highly typical mode of motorcyclist fatality

A motorist makes a bad left at intersection, striking oncoming motorcyclist.

Had this been a bicyclist-MV collision, it would be a crash type 212 – Motorist Left Turn—Opposite Direction, commonly called a “left hook”. This is a relatively uncommon fatal crash type, just 12 of 617 bicyclist fatalities nationwide in 2010 according to FARS. One supposes that the relative speeds involved make this far more likely to be deadly for motorcyclists than for bicyclists.

One wonders how the police handle such cases; from the description, it appears the motorist should be cited for 28-772 making a bad left, and charged with 28-672. since a death resulted.

Motorcyclist, 20, killed when driver, 84, failed to yield

By Yihyun Jeong
The Arizona Republic-12 News Breaking News Team
Thu Apr 11, 2013 4:03 PM

A motorcyclist died after a car tried to make a left turn in front of the motorcyclist at Cave Creek Road and Union Hills Drive in Phoenix Wednesday, officials said. Police responded to a serious injury collision at the intersection of Cave Creek Road and Union Hills Drive around 4 p.m., Sgt. Steve Martos, a spokesman for the Phoenix Police Department said. Police were told that a motorcyclist was down and his motorcycle was on fire. The motorcyclist, Angelo Wright, 20, was taken to a nearby hospital where he died of injuries, Martos said. The police department’s Vehicular Crimes Unit responded to the scene and determined that an 84-year-old female driver of a Volkswagen Rabbit, was heading east on Union Hills and tried to make a left turn at Cave Creek Road to travel north, Martos said. The driver failed to yield to Wright, who was riding a Harley Davidson motorcycle, and collided with him. Wright was not wearing a helmet.


Was the driver cited and/or charged? Dunno. Would have to get police report and get driver’s name, since police didn’t say, and then do a lookup.


1 Motorist Dead, 1 Bicyclist Dead

[Final update 3/17/2015: The defendant was found incompetent to stand trial and all charges were dismissed CR2013003301. A statement on the defendant’s lawyer’s website relates some more details: “Marie Blandford, who accidentally took Ambien (zolpidem) and blacked out while driving…” “Blandford, a widow and mother of three children, has suffered from progressive dementia and Alzheimer’s and is incapable of assisting her counsel at trial” She now “resides in a 24-hour care facility and has significant memory deficits” ]

[Update 4/5/2013: Authorities have released the victims’ names, they were Clare Louis Kirby, 46, of Mesa (bicyclist) and  William Phillips, 72 (motorist). The sheriff’s office spokesman said a homicide investigation is underway; and that criminal charges will be filed and that other charges will depend on the results of the investigation. The suspect was also identified as 73-year-old Marie Blandford of Payson. Victims in 2 fatal crashes ID’d; charges likely for injured driver ]

A hit-and-run driver in a green SUV killed an as-yet unidentified female cyclist on the Bush Highway near Usery Pass Rd 4/3/2013 around 9am. in the Tonto National Forest. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office is investigating.

Witnesses who followed the green SUV saw that vehicle, then get into a separate collision several miles away at Ellsworth and McKellips where the driver of the green SUV T-boned another vehicle, the driver of the other vehicle died a short time later; The driver of the green SUV was injured; police identify her only as a 73-year old female.

Driver suspected in fatal hit-run gets in 2nd fatal crash in Mesa

Google maps view of the two locations; pin A is the bicyclist fatality, and B is the motorist fatality. They are 6.7 miles apart; a driving time of some 9 minutes according to google maps. A more exact location of the bicyclist crash wasn’t give, it appears from the news-copter footage that it was Bush Highway somewhere west of the intersection with Usery Pass (Usery Pass Road is also called Ellsworth Road in Mesa; the 2nd collision was at the intersection of Ellsworth and McKellips). This area is a designated bike lane, and appears to be in good shape.

This is FARS case=40216 ; the driver is positive for zolpidem (Ambien).

Bad Drivers and friendsofcalholman.com

Looking North
Looking North

(motorist) Cal Holman was killed in a horrific traffic collision in 2007 involving very high speeds and alleged street racing. Going on 5 years later a lot has and continues to happen, the two other drivers, Van Brakel and Aronica, have eventually plead guilty to certain crimes, Van Brakel going to prison for manslaughter. Aronica received probation, and subsequently  requested it be reduced, but that apparently was denied.

The site friendsofcalholman.com is doing, and has done an excellent job of making court documents available; such as the plea agreements. Van Brakel’s 5 year sentence was reduced to below 3 years actual  both by the 1 day for every 7 served (that’s normal; it where the “85%” figure comes from); but also apparently because of  “over 2 years credit because he was out on bail while the criminal hearings were going on“. How does that work? Being out on bail somehow counts as the same as being incarcerated? [see suggestion in comment below that this may have been erroneously calculated] This is criminal case CR2008-031157  (minutes) (which i could only find by searching Maricopa County Superior directly) — and here is Van Brakel’s (who is Party 001) 9/16/2011 sentencing minute “5 year(s) from 09/16/2011; Presentence Incarceration Credit: 487 day(s); Presumptive”. Note that this is “non-dangerous” manslaughter — sick joke. p.s. the way sentencing math works apparently is: 85% (assuming he got the most time off) of 5 years is 1551 days minus the 487 leaves 1064 (just under 3 years).

Van Brakel’s pre-sentence credit of 487 days was due to him being incarcerated immediately (i guess) after his initial sentencing in 2010.

Here is Aronica’s 5/18/2010 sentencing minute of probation; pleading guilty to two counts of endangerment which is, like Van Brakel’s manslaughter, designated as a “non-dangerous” crime.

On a larger scope, they have exposed these two men’s driving history; again something we rarely get to see. According to friendsofcalholman the two,

Van Brakel was driving an AMG Mercedes, after hitting Cal Holman his car continued 75 feet past the intersection. Van Brakel hit first on the passenger side. He did not sustain any injuries in the crash…  Since 2004 there have been 7 tickets for various moving violations. Driving 55 in a 35 zone, 67 in a 40 zone, and failing to yield in a cross walk are a sample of his driving record… Van Brakel has several previous driving violations. One ticket in 2004, was for doing 120 miles per hour in a 75 miles per hour zone. [link]

and the other:

Aronica’s Mustang flipped on impact and landed in the ditch on the side of Scottsdale … Aronica was injured with a broken arm and his passenger had minor cuts…. Since 2002 Aronica has had 13 citations. On December 3rd, less than four weeks prior to the accident where he hit and killed Cal Holman, he was cited for doing 88 miles per hour in a 60 miles per hour zone. This was in Texas while he was traveling to Arizona… Other citations include speeding. In Virginia speeding 84 in a 65 zone, in Florida traveling 20-29 miles per hour over the posted speed, again in Virginia speeding 79 in a 65 zone, in Maryland he had four speeding violations, and in Michigan he has 3 violations for speeding including a careless driving and a 78 in a 55 zone. [link]

This really makes me wonder how such repeated dangerous driving behavior can be tolerated — why weren’t their licenses suspended or revoked before they killed somebody? Traffic collisions, even after a marked decline, continue to be a leading cause of death for Americans. Who’s minding the store?

Another Ray Road Wreck in Ahwatukee

Westbound, single-vehicle, presumably one or more fatalities occurred Sept 24, 2011 early morning hours. The vehicle was apparently going way too fast, lost control and smashed into some trees in the median. I didn’t see any skids. The palm tree got decapitated, and a smaller tree was snapped off (you can see the original trees in the google maps streetview, below). The picture barely shows the twisted wreckage. The cops were keeping people way way way away. To the extent one wonders what was trying to be hidden? I was told I “can’t” take a picture. Weird.

google maps view of the vicinity; E. Ray Road about mid-way between 33rd and 34th St.

News Report

Press coverage was brief; e.g. az rep piece that appears to have been drawn from a police statement:

One woman was killed early Saturday morning after her car crashed into a palm tree, Phoenix police said. The crash occurred just before 2 a.m. Saturday near E. Ray Road and 33rd Street, said Phoenix police spokesman Tommy Thompson. The victim, 28-year-old Nicole Johnson, was driving at high speeds when she entered the center median and collided with the tree, Thompson said. She was taken to a local hospital where she died as a result of her injuries, he said. Police said Johnson was the only occupant in the single-vehicle collision, and it is unknown at this time if impairment was a factor.

The KPHO piece is very similar, but mentions the model of vehicle was 2007 Mitubishi Eclipse.


The Walls Continue to Keep Tumbling Down

This area is the scene of many wall-knockings-down. There were two I know of in broad daylight within this past year. Here is a pic of one in the east 3200 block from March 2011. Less than a month before that, another careless driver knocked down a wall exactly 2 blocks west of here, that time at 34th Street.

These are the result of extreme negligence, and it’s only by happenstance that no one gets killed. The broad sidewalk and shoulder attracts all manner of pedestrians, joggers, dog walkers and bicyclists.

I haven’t seen the Phoenix Police Department doing any speed enforcement here in ages. Years. Don’t they love us?

… update: on Sept 30, there was a motorcycle unit monitoring speed at 32nd Street and Ray at ~ 7:30 AM (which, by the way, is when traffic is pretty heavy, and it seems to me, less likely to be speeding.

Horrific Crash kills 4 Motorcyclists

It was reported on 8/27/2011 that Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery will retry Michael Jakscht. The first trial ended with a hung-jury mistrial.
There’s a new trial date set for June 6, 2012

The driver of a heavy commercial dump truck piled into a group of motorcyclists who were stopped at a red light; reportedly he was distracted.

Phoenix Public Safety Manager Jack Harris described the scene “I have never seen such a horrific accident involving so many motorcycles,”

The crash 3/25/2010 at Carefree Highway and 27th way, Phoenix, initially killed 3, a fourth died a few days later. Several were seriously injured, including a Phoenix Fire Captain in critical condition.

Today the Arizona Republic is reporting in a 3/27/2010 story that the driver has a string of infractions, many of which sound like technical/equipment-related, and several of them were dismissed. However, the driver has an outstanding citation for failure to control about two weeks ago in Scottsdale, related to an (apparently minor) collision. These cases pop up on a search of the Arizona Supreme Court case lookup. But strangely, the reporter seems to be unaware of additional actions in Maricopa Justice Court, including one just dated just a couple of days before the huge crash. (search on Michael Jakscht)

The investigation is still ongoing, but with no hints of impairment the likely outcome, barring a surprise, will be a traffic ticket and no criminal charges.

The Surprise

Driver in fatal Phoenix motorcycle crash booked on 4 manslaughter counts, 4/06/2010 & Bond for driver in fatal motorcycle crash set at $1 million, 4/07/2010, AZ Republic.

Phoenix police arrested Jakscht on suspicion of driving under the influence of methamphetamine. Continue reading Horrific Crash kills 4 Motorcyclists

Update on Van Brakel’s manslaughter sentence

There is an update to the who-is-at-fault-in-a-left-turn-collision story from 2007 where former state representative Cal Holman was killed while making a left turn at an intersection and was struck by two motorists who were criminally-speeding, and appeared to be racing.

One motorist, Travis Aronica, plead to endangerment and got probabtion.

The other motorist, Robert Van Brakel, was found guilty of manslaughter and received a five year sentence (which seems light to me, i thought the presumptive for manslaughter is 10.5 years?). Van Brakel (who i presume, is currently imprisoned?) won a review of his sentence by a different judge, claiming improprieties by the sentencing judge. He is scheduled to be re-sentenced “from scratch” by a different judge; because of re-sentencing rules it is extremely unlikely he would draw more than the original 5 years. This is currently scheduled for 8/12/2011.

As Laurie Roberts put it in her July 27, 2011 column “One of the racers gets probation. The other gets five years in prison. Really, that’s what they got… Both men had lousy driving records and both were charged with manslaughter.”

You can also read about the case at friendsofcalholman.com , but be careful because reading that is what got Judge Ryan “in trouble”.

There a newer update at bad-drivers-and-friendsofcalholman-com — Van Brakel was released somehow in 2014.


Are Cars Dangerous?

Superhuman-sized objects moving at superhuman speeds are dangerous. Inherently. But who bears this danger? Motorist liability insurance is one supposed motivator; in theory motorists are supposed to bear the cost of the risks they are inflicting on others, but has many limitations (see e.g. The Disneyland Model). In reality this risk-spreading ends up socializing the costs of driving — paid for by others, subsidized, also called an externality. Thus we get more driving, because it is artificially cheap, and more traffic death and destruction.

It is worth pointing out to nervous cyclists that the large majority of traffic death and destruction is done by drivers of automobiles to other motorists (see, e.g. the chart here). This is to be expected, of course, since the large majority of traffic is motoring.

Here are a couple of  recent, local incidents… out of control “accidents” all —

Girl critically injured, was standing on the sidewalk, May 6, 2011: Deette Lynn Perry, 54, was arrested Friday after she was discharged from the hospital, where she had been admitted following the May 6 incident, Sgt. Steve Martos of the Phoenix Police Department said. Perry was in a 2004 Nissan Altima near Thomas Road and 23rd Avenue when she drove onto the sidewalk and struck a 17-year-old girl, Martos said. Police suspect Perry was impaired by drugs, Martos said. The girl suffered a fractured pelvis and severe head injuries, Martos said.


Tourist killed at Phoenix intersection The Arizona Republic, Glen Creno – Aug. 19, 2010

An Australian tourist crossing a Phoenix street was killed late Tuesday when a sport-utility vehicle slammed into him, authorities said Wednesday…The SUV was moving so fast the victim was dismembered by the impact. Witnesses told police the vehicle apparently ran a red light…Ramzy Khalil, 29, of New South Wales, Continue reading Are Cars Dangerous?