No wonder we continue to die on California streets, when CHP says killing a cyclist is just an accident

This morning I received the following email from Chris Willig regarding the tragic death of Hollywood writer/producer Carol Schreder while riding on Mulholland Hwy last Saturday.

A public spokesperson for the CHP West Valley station stated in a phone call Monday that no citation has been issued nor is there likely to be one in the December 3rd death of cyclist Carol Schreder in a tragic traffic incident on Mulholland Highway in Malibu.

He indicated that it was a “unfortunate accident” caused when a possibly inexperienced driver of a van towing a trailer applied the brakes too hard. This caused the trailer to force the van to the right in a jack-knife. The rear end of the van caught Carol who was riding on the right of the fog line severely injuring her. She later died in hospital. Because there was no “criminal intent”, charges against the van’s driver are not being considered.

Wait a minute.

Since when has “criminal intent” been a required element for a traffic infraction?

Under that standard, no one would ever be held accountable for any traffic violation in California. No tickets for running red lights. No violations for driving drunk, since it would be impossible to ever prove intent.

Not even a ticket for distracted driving, since drivers could claim they just broke the law without thinking, and didn’t really mean to do it.

You know, just one of those things.

Like killing a cyclist.

And that, in a nutshell, is why you can count the number of knowledgeable cyclists who still have faith in the CHP on one hand, and have enough fingers left over for a well-deserved gesture.

After all, this is the same organization that said cyclists are responsible for the overwhelming majority of bike-involved collisions — based strictly on their own auto-centric investigations, as well as their pronounced lack of training in the rights and responsibilities of of cyclists and the physics of bicycling collisions.

Let alone that this is the same organization that advised Governor Brown to veto the state’s three-foot passing law.

And despite the fact that it only takes a quick scan of the California Vehicle Code to find a number of violations for which the driver could, and perhaps should, have been cited.

Like the California Basic Speed Law, for instance.

CVC 22350.  No person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather, visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and width of, the highway, and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property.

Even if strong crosswinds contributed to this collision, as some have suggested, the driver would have been in violation of the requirement mandating due regard for weather. And at least one other cyclist reports that the van was seen traveling at an excessive rate of speed just prior to the collision.

Then there’s the requirement to follow at a safe distance; the fact that the driver had to brake sharply to avoid the vehicle ahead offers prima facie evidence that the driver was in violation — let alone that there was a stop sign just 260 feet ahead of the point of impact.

CVC 21703.  The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicle and the traffic upon, and the condition of, the roadway.

And most damning of all is the requirement for drivers towing a trailer to maintain control of both vehicles.

CVC 41104.  In any case, involving an accident or otherwise, where any rear component of a train of vehicles fails to follow substantially in the path of the towing vehicle while moving upon a highway, the vehicle shall be presumed to have been operated in violation of Section 21711.

CVC 21711.  No person shall operate a train of vehicles when any vehicle being towed whips or swerves from side to side or fails to follow substantially in the path of the towing vehicle.

According to the standard set forth in CVC 41104, the simple fact that the collision occurred in the way it did is demonstrates a clear violation that the driver should have been held accountable for, regardless of a possible lack of experience.

And proof that the driver should have been found at fault for the collision, and the death that resulted.

By failing to hold a killer driver responsible for his actions, the CHP has not only failed Carol Schreder, her family and loved ones, but the entire cycling community.

Because we will continue to die on California roadways as long as authorities allow drivers to break the law with impunity.

And just drive away, regardless of the consequences.

If you’re not pissed off yet, maybe you should go back and read this again.

Anyone with information on this case is urged to contact the CHP West Valley Station 5825 De Soto Ave, Woodland Hills 91367-5297; 818-888-0980; maybe if they hear from enough witnesses they’ll reverse this outrageous decision.


  1. Mark Elliot says:

    I agree wholeheartedly. It is an outrage. Without sufficient awareness in the cycling communities, though, we’re destined to see this again.
    It’s telling that the CHP ‘bicycle riding’ webpage has a long list of what people on a bike need to do:
    But what we can expect from the motorist is only 1) not to open the car door in our way, and 2) to stop at a stop sign. And that’s it.
    No mention about, say, not running down a cyclist with a van and trailer. (Maybe a necessary addition?) No wonder why CHP doesn’t recognize the flagrant violations you point out, Ted.

    Re: more info on CHP, it seems like they use an internal server for everything but the public-facing essentials. We’ll want to communicate with the Assistant Commissioner (Staff) and hone in on the Enforcement and Planning Division, organized in 2010 for just our kind of complaint.
    That Asst. Comm reports to Deputy Commissioner and ultimately the Commissioner. But no are no names on the CHP site – and no information is posted anywhere on CHP.CA.GOV about the officer we need to reach.

    Stay tuned!

  2. James Lucas says:

    Protect and serve? Yeah right. The CHP and most police agiencies protect first their own most of the time, that is why you cannot find the officer that you need to reach.

  3. ubrayj02 says:

    She should sue! Oh, hold on, she’s dead isn’t she? Carry on – it’s not like we have public prosecutors sworn to act on behalf of the people. Anyway, people don’t ride bikes so why protect them? I mean, sure, this one person was riding a bike and then was killed by an operator of a multi-ton machine that requires licensing from the state (which includes a test of competency in operating said vehicle), but now that she is dead no people ride bikes, just animals with distinctly human-like features. These humanoid forms are not a part of our legal system, and so those that kill and maim them are not obliged to face any consequences.

  4. Zeke says:

    I wonder if pressure on the State’s District Attorney could be brought to bear and require a review of the CHP decision not to write any infraction. You have clearly laid out what would appear on the surface to be very relevant charges.


  5. […] No Wonder Roads Aren’t Safe for Bikes, CHP Thinks Crashes Are Accidents (Biking In LA) […]

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