National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs
Washington, D. C. - The National Transportation Safety Board determined today that the probable cause of an accident last year in Santa Monica, California was the unintended acceleration by the driver who drove through a temporarily closed street, and his failure to maintain control of the vehicle. Contributing to the severity of the accident was the lack of barrier systems to protect pedestrians. The Safety Board recommended that the City of Santa Monica install rigid barrier systems as a physical barrier to errant vehicles.
On July 16, 2003, an 86-year-old man, driving a Buick LeSabre, struck a stopped car, continued through an intersection and drove through a farmers' market, striking pedestrians and vendors' displays before coming to a complete stop. The accident resulted in 10 fatalities and 63 injuries.
"There are more than 3,000 farmers' markets throughout the country, many resulting in temporary road closures," said Chairman Ellen Engleman Conners. "It is imperative that cities understand the hazards associated with road closures and apply countermeasures that will prevent the intrusion of vehicles into pedestrian areas."
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, unintended acceleration (also known as sudden acceleration) is an unintended, unexpected high-power acceleration from a stationary position or very low initial speed accompanied by an apparent loss of braking effectiveness.
During its investigation, the Safety Board learned that the City of Santa Monica erected traffic control devices based on a 1986 plan that did not provide motorists with barriers and allowed vehicular traffic to penetrate the pedestrian zone. A-frame type I plastic barricades were in place at the accident site. Furthermore, that city had not updated its traffic plan for the market since 1986.
As a result of the accident, the Safety Board made the following recommendation to the City of Santa Monica:
Update your temporary traffic plans for roadway closures to ensure the safe operation of the city's certified farmers' market and review and evaluate the adequacy of the plans annually.
A synopsis of the accident investigation report, including the findings, probable cause, and safety recommendations, can be found on the Publications page of the Board's web site, www.ntsb.gov. The complete report will be available in about six weeks.
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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.