An eye-opening, one-car accident that left a Toyota on its side has gotten neighbors talking about traffic safety and ways to curb travelers making time on residential Glorietta Boulevard in Orinda.
On Monday, a motorist was uninjured other than blacking out and not remembering how his car came to rest on its side in a bush, alongside a hydrant at Glorietta and Parkway Court, near Glorietta Elementary School. (More about the accident below in the story.)
In recent months in the area, Orinda police have put a speed trailer, flashing electronic readouts on vehicle speeds.
"I've had so many people say that has really helped them realize how fast they are going and slow down (it has helped me too)," wrote resident Wendy Bond in an email. "I'd like to see more enforcement of the speed limit (it's very rare to see any ticketing) and some sort of walkway using curbs or a physical barrier to make it safer for pedestrians and bicyclists."
Neighbor Kris Foss wrote in an email: "Lots of kids walk and bike on this road (including mine) and that, combined with the traffic and lack of some sort of curb or barrier, has always been a source of anxiety to me! A curb or fence clearly wouldn't restrain a car in an accident such as this but I believe that a physical barrier would help drivers be more aware and cautious of pedestrians and bikers when driving on this road."
In Monday's accident, the Toyota Corolla apparently caught its right wheel in a deep gutter, upending the car, said Diane Eames, who heard the crash and ran outside immediately. The driver crawled out through the back window, which was knocked out in the crash, said Eames. The paramedics checked the man but he did not leave in the ambulance, she said. It was hard to talk with the man, who spoke Farsi, Eames said.
"This could have been a much worse scenario given the kids were let out of school about 10 minutes prior and walking in front of my house," wrote Eames in an email. "My kids had just come in from playing in the front yard."
The driver spoke broken English, said Orinda Police Sgt. Mohammad Djajakusuma, and was able to communicate to officers that he had no recollection of how he went off the boulevard.
The speed limit is 15 mph during posted school hours within a couple of hundred feet of the school, and otherwise 25 mph.
The Orinda City Council on Oct. 4, 2011, considered raising the speed limit from 25 to 30 mph in the area, which (some say paradoxically) would allow the police to do radar enforcement, reported City Engineer Janice Carey. At the lower speed limit, the discrepancy between a 25 mph maximum and a traffic survey's results of the 85th percentile having motorists going 36 or 37 mph would amount to entrapment legally because the speeds motorists are customarily driving are so far above the posted limit, Djajakusuma said. That's why police have used the speed trailer to alert motorists.
In a long council discussion Oct. 4, 2011, the council discussed results of a traffic survey and enforcement limitations. In the school zone, Police Chief Jeff Jennings reported, there were three accident reports in 2011 and seven in 2010. The council did not raise the speed limit at that time.
"Subsequently, after effective community outreach and education to slow the neighborhood traffic, another Engineering and Traffic Survey was conducted along the same segment of Glorietta Boulevard in May 2012," wrote Carey in an email. "The results of the study validated a 25 mph. speed limit on Glorietta Boulevard between Rheem Boulevard and the Lafayette city limit, except within the school zone where it is 15 mph. The study allows for radar enforcement by the Police Department. This Engineering and Traffic Survey remains valid for a five year period."
The discrepancy remains to curb use of radar enforcement on Glorietta between Rheem and Moraga Way, Djajakusuma said, but the enforcement is allowed on Glorietta from Rheem to the Lafayette city line, which includes the stretch by Glorietta Elementary School.