Man Killed in Agua Dulce, CA, Van/18-wheeler Accident on CA-14
Agua Dulce, CA -- May 31, 2017, a man was fatally injured due to an accident in which his van was rear-ended by an 18-wheeler on Highway 14.
California State Police officials responded to the accident scene at approximately 1:00 a.m. They say it happened close to the Escondido Canyon Road overpass of State Highway 14.
Preliminary reports indicate that a van had broken down in the right traffic lane of Highway 14. As it was in the slow lane, it was struck from behind by an 18-wheeler which somehow failed to avoid it.
The driver of the van was ejected from the vehicle in the collision, inflicting fatal injuries. That person died at the scene. It's unclear if the truck driver was injured.
Police did not report any charges or citations resulting from the accident. They say investigations are ongoing.
Map of the Area
There are several details which are vague at this time that need to be clarified. The most important factor of these is the timing of which this all occurred. Basically, how much time passed between the van breaking down and the 18-wheeler crashing into it? Depending on these details, it could be that this accident easily could have been avoided, in which case it must be determined why it wasn't.
It's common knowledge that 18-wheelers can't stop on a dime. They're simply too massive and bulky to maneuver as deftly as a typical passenger vehicle. As such, when an obstacle suddenly enters the path of a commercial truck, it's understandable that at a certain point, the driver simply doesn't have enough time or space to avoid an accident. For instance, let's say that the van in this case was driving in front of the 18-wheeler came to an abrupt and immediate halt. This would realistically leave an 18-wheeler driver with very little time to stop, especially during darkhours with limited visibility. That being said, this is a very particular circumstance that is rarely encountered in realistic situations.
Especially in the case of mechanical failures, it's incredibly rare that a vehicle comes to an almost immediate stop. In almost every case, the vehicle slides, skids, or rolls to a stop over several seconds. If a driver is behaving responsibly--driving the speed limit, paying attention to the road, following at a safe distance--then they should have more than enough time to avoid a vehicle in front of them that acts in this manner. There are obviously very specific exceptions, but in most cases, a driver doing what they're supposed to do--even in a commercial vehicle--will be able to avoid a vehicle in front of them coming to a stop.
But again, this comes down to timing. The other possibility is that the van was stopped for several seconds or even minutes before it was hit by the 18-wheeler. If this is the case, then there needs to be an investigation to figure out why the truck driver failed to see the van in time. From what I can tell, this is a very open highway--four lanes in some spots--and while it may not be as well lit as an urban highway, 18-wheelers have headlights for a reason. On top of that, there are few vehicles on the highway at 1:00 a.m. that could block the truck driver's vision. So the question again must be asked--why didn't the truck driver see the van in time? If the truck driver had several hundred yards to see the van and three whole lanes of traffic to go around it, how did this collision happen?
Ultimately, there are just too many factors that could be involved to determine exactly what might have happened. What I do know is that in the hundreds of accidents like this that I've seen, what tends to be a significant factor is whether or not the truck driver was driving in a way that would allow him or her to properly react to a disabled vehicle in the roadway. Determining which of these is the case requires a thorough investigation by an experienced professional. In order for those affected by the accident to reach any sort of resolution, the full story needs to be told.
--Grossman Law Offices