In the comment section of our piece detailing the video from Tuesday’s Muni accident involving a truck and a 19 Polk, commenter Wai Yip Tung says

I have done a frame by frame analysis on the collision video…It clearly shows that the bus has the right of way and the truck is at fault.

Most articles characterize this as both driver has ran stop sign, implying they were equally at fault. I think this is very misleading. A fair reporting should unambiguously call out the truck has caused this accident.

This is an interesting point! I don’t think anyone out there who’s watched the video disputes the fact that the truck seems to have barreled through the stop at quite a rate!

But the bus also did not stop (even the SF MTA admits this), which is not cool, right? If the bus had stopped, could this accident have been avoided?

The CA DMV says that drivers should “Yield to vehicles already in the intersection or just entering it. Also, yield to the car which arrives first or to the car on your right if it reaches the intersection at the same time as you do.”

So what do you think? Should those of us who are covering this accident be calling out the driver of the truck more aggressively?

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at eve@sfappeal.com.

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  • Xenu

    I’ll never forget the time a Muni drver ran a red light, and held a newspaper in front of his face just as the red light camera went off.

    He had the timing down perfectly. It was like he was professional red-light runner.

  • Xenu

    I’ll never forget the time a Muni drver ran a red light, and held a newspaper in front of his face just as the red light camera went off.

    He had the timing down perfectly. It was like he was professional red-light runner.

  • Akit

    Just a though: If Muni buses are on specific time schedules with certain major stops with exact time points, I wonder if all drivers have to do a “California stop” in order to operate on-time.

  • Akit

    Just a though: If Muni buses are on specific time schedules with certain major stops with exact time points, I wonder if all drivers have to do a “California stop” in order to operate on-time.

  • Alex Zepeda

    It’s an issue of legal vs moral guilt, no? Had the bus driver stopped he would have allowed himself enough time to see that there was someone likely to run the stop sign. However, being that the bus was first, the other driver still had a legal obligation to ensure that the intersection was clear before he entered it. Because the situation would have been avoided if either driver had acted differently, IMO, they’re both blameworthy… although perhaps not legally.

    Schedule or no, that’s not an excuse to drive unsafely. Full stop.

  • Alex Zepeda

    It’s an issue of legal vs moral guilt, no? Had the bus driver stopped he would have allowed himself enough time to see that there was someone likely to run the stop sign. However, being that the bus was first, the other driver still had a legal obligation to ensure that the intersection was clear before he entered it. Because the situation would have been avoided if either driver had acted differently, IMO, they’re both blameworthy… although perhaps not legally.

    Schedule or no, that’s not an excuse to drive unsafely. Full stop.

  • Wai Yip Tung

    Roll through a stop is bad. I’m not apologizing for this. But what we really interested in is how does a serious collison like this happens. The fact that the bus has not made a complete stop has very little role, if at all, in this accident. Instead it has become a distraction to public’s understanding.

    Take a look at frame 1 that I’ve captured. Put yourself behind the driver’s wheel. Assuming you are one of the few good citizen who has make a complete stop. You will then move forward. Don’t kid yourself that the accident could have been averted if it has made a full stop. Nobody in their right mind would expect the truck half a block away will blow the stop at 32 mph. I guarantee 100% of drivers will proceed in this situation. Then what happend? You’ll get hit! I don’t think if the bus has made a complete stop would have make any difference in this case.

  • Wai Yip Tung

    Roll through a stop is bad. I’m not apologizing for this. But what we really interested in is how does a serious collison like this happens. The fact that the bus has not made a complete stop has very little role, if at all, in this accident. Instead it has become a distraction to public’s understanding.

    Take a look at frame 1 that I’ve captured. Put yourself behind the driver’s wheel. Assuming you are one of the few good citizen who has make a complete stop. You will then move forward. Don’t kid yourself that the accident could have been averted if it has made a full stop. Nobody in their right mind would expect the truck half a block away will blow the stop at 32 mph. I guarantee 100% of drivers will proceed in this situation. Then what happend? You’ll get hit! I don’t think if the bus has made a complete stop would have make any difference in this case.

  • sunshipballoons

    There is no question that California law provides that a vehicle entering an intersection must yield right-of-way to a vehicle already in the intersection. That’s part of the vehicle code.

    What’s not clear is whether that section of the vehicle code has been interpreted to mean that, when there is an accident, the driver who violated is automatically the negligent party. Courts go different ways on whether particular violations of law automatically make the person who violated the law the sole negligent party. My guess–but only a guess–is that Wai Yip Tung is wrong and, in fact, it would be left up to a jury to decide whether only the truck driver was negligent, or if the bus driver’s negligence also contributed to the crash.

    Wai Yip Tung’s frame-by-fram analysis indicates that this all happened over a period of fewer than three seconds. Given that short period of time, my view is that the bus driver was at least partially responsible for the crash.

    Did the bus have the right of way? Yes. Does that mean that only the truck driver was negligent? Not necessarily.

  • sunshipballoons

    There is no question that California law provides that a vehicle entering an intersection must yield right-of-way to a vehicle already in the intersection. That’s part of the vehicle code.

    What’s not clear is whether that section of the vehicle code has been interpreted to mean that, when there is an accident, the driver who violated is automatically the negligent party. Courts go different ways on whether particular violations of law automatically make the person who violated the law the sole negligent party. My guess–but only a guess–is that Wai Yip Tung is wrong and, in fact, it would be left up to a jury to decide whether only the truck driver was negligent, or if the bus driver’s negligence also contributed to the crash.

    Wai Yip Tung’s frame-by-fram analysis indicates that this all happened over a period of fewer than three seconds. Given that short period of time, my view is that the bus driver was at least partially responsible for the crash.

    Did the bus have the right of way? Yes. Does that mean that only the truck driver was negligent? Not necessarily.

  • Erik

    I’m also not convinced that a full stop by the bus could have avoided the accident. The truck driver is definitely more at fault than the bus driver but I think bus drivers should be held a greater standard of safety/caution.

    Though I wonder what would happen to on-time performance if every Muni driver was careful to make a complete stop at every stop sign for a few days.

  • Erik

    I’m also not convinced that a full stop by the bus could have avoided the accident. The truck driver is definitely more at fault than the bus driver but I think bus drivers should be held a greater standard of safety/caution.

    Though I wonder what would happen to on-time performance if every Muni driver was careful to make a complete stop at every stop sign for a few days.

  • Alex Zepeda

    Here’s the thing. Take a look at that video that looks out the front doors of the bus. Seventeen seconds into it, the bus is at the crosswalk.

    Now if he had been stopped, and spent two seconds looking both ways, you’d be at nineteen seconds in. What do you see at nineteen seconds? A truck that doesn’t look like it’s going to stop. A truck that’s plenty close to the intersection. What do you see at twenty seconds? A truck that didn’t stop. In fact the truck clipped the front of the bus. Had the bus been moving a teensy bit slower, or stopped, the bus would have clipped the back of the truck… if at all.

    From personal observation, I’d say most people will stop and wait when confronted with an ambiguous situation like that.

    There are a lot of problems at MUNI, and yeah, schedule adherence is one of them. But adding a few seconds to stop at each stop sign is not an insurmountable problem. I spent 20+ minutes today going from Forest Hill to West Portal. That twenty minutes would have been much better spent at stop signs avoiding accidents.

  • Alex Zepeda

    Here’s the thing. Take a look at that video that looks out the front doors of the bus. Seventeen seconds into it, the bus is at the crosswalk.

    Now if he had been stopped, and spent two seconds looking both ways, you’d be at nineteen seconds in. What do you see at nineteen seconds? A truck that doesn’t look like it’s going to stop. A truck that’s plenty close to the intersection. What do you see at twenty seconds? A truck that didn’t stop. In fact the truck clipped the front of the bus. Had the bus been moving a teensy bit slower, or stopped, the bus would have clipped the back of the truck… if at all.

    From personal observation, I’d say most people will stop and wait when confronted with an ambiguous situation like that.

    There are a lot of problems at MUNI, and yeah, schedule adherence is one of them. But adding a few seconds to stop at each stop sign is not an insurmountable problem. I spent 20+ minutes today going from Forest Hill to West Portal. That twenty minutes would have been much better spent at stop signs avoiding accidents.

  • Mike

    This is a very interesting case. I agree with a lot of what Alex said. Had the bus driver made a full and proper stop, he might have had a chance to react and realize that the truck was going to blow through the sign, or the bus might have hit the truck later. We’ll never know.

    If I were assigning fault, I would put it at something like 70-30 for the truck, based on the videos. There’s no way to predict what sort of legal/financial liability will be found, however. We are likely to see yet more taxpayer money paid out in this case as MUNI is clearly not fault free.

  • Mike

    This is a very interesting case. I agree with a lot of what Alex said. Had the bus driver made a full and proper stop, he might have had a chance to react and realize that the truck was going to blow through the sign, or the bus might have hit the truck later. We’ll never know.

    If I were assigning fault, I would put it at something like 70-30 for the truck, based on the videos. There’s no way to predict what sort of legal/financial liability will be found, however. We are likely to see yet more taxpayer money paid out in this case as MUNI is clearly not fault free.

  • Wai Yip Tung

    @Alex, do you drive in San Francisco? Do you practice what you suggest yourself? Making a full stop for 2 seconds, and doing it consistently at every intersection, regardless if the interesection is complete open? Do you honestly believe this rather conservative approach will be adopted by a majority of drivers in San Francisco?

    Would the accident be adverted if the driver has stopped for 2 seconds? Maybe. But that’s only because we are playing the timing game. What if the truck is also late by 2 seconds? Then it will ran the stop sign and hit the bus just the same. Let’s say the bus make a complete stop, waited 2 seconds even if the street seem complete deserted. At the end of the 2 second, a truck appears mid block on the right. What I want you to consider is the truck probably has not even entered the driver’s peripheral vision. Driver don’t normally see what’s going mid-block on the right. They scan the position immediately in front of the intersection, that’s it. And to any observer, the truct really does not look dangerous at this point. Nobody would have expect it to blow the stop sign 2 second into the future. So the bus convinced it has the right of way and it is safe, starts to roll forward. And 2.8 seconds later, BAAMMM, it got hit.

    I think your scheme is overly conservative and still not crazy driver proof.

  • Wai Yip Tung

    @Alex, do you drive in San Francisco? Do you practice what you suggest yourself? Making a full stop for 2 seconds, and doing it consistently at every intersection, regardless if the interesection is complete open? Do you honestly believe this rather conservative approach will be adopted by a majority of drivers in San Francisco?

    Would the accident be adverted if the driver has stopped for 2 seconds? Maybe. But that’s only because we are playing the timing game. What if the truck is also late by 2 seconds? Then it will ran the stop sign and hit the bus just the same. Let’s say the bus make a complete stop, waited 2 seconds even if the street seem complete deserted. At the end of the 2 second, a truck appears mid block on the right. What I want you to consider is the truck probably has not even entered the driver’s peripheral vision. Driver don’t normally see what’s going mid-block on the right. They scan the position immediately in front of the intersection, that’s it. And to any observer, the truct really does not look dangerous at this point. Nobody would have expect it to blow the stop sign 2 second into the future. So the bus convinced it has the right of way and it is safe, starts to roll forward. And 2.8 seconds later, BAAMMM, it got hit.

    I think your scheme is overly conservative and still not crazy driver proof.

  • Wai Yip Tung

    This leads to my point that media has mischaracterized this in the first place. Why do we spend 80% of time condemning Muni or discussing if the bus should have make a complete stop, when it is obvious that the truck is far more dangersous and should bear most of the responsibility? Why is hardly anyone condemning the truck driver? What is there no people suggest we put a camera at every intersection to catch red light/stop sign runner or other scheme? Yes this is impractical. But no more than saying we should all stop at every intersection for 2 seconds. At least this will deal with the root cause more directly rather than just act defensive.

    When people read the headline “both driver have ran stop sign”, this immediately latch on their mind that both are (equally) at fault. This completely gross over the fact there is a huge difference between rolling through a sign and blowing through it at 32 mph with no intention to stop. The former, for better or worst, is practice by a majority of drivers and in vast majority of case do not cause any accident. The latter is just very very dangerous.

    I think we should have spend proportional amount of attention to the severity of an issue. The bus driver’s issue has become a big distraction here.

  • Wai Yip Tung

    This leads to my point that media has mischaracterized this in the first place. Why do we spend 80% of time condemning Muni or discussing if the bus should have make a complete stop, when it is obvious that the truck is far more dangersous and should bear most of the responsibility? Why is hardly anyone condemning the truck driver? What is there no people suggest we put a camera at every intersection to catch red light/stop sign runner or other scheme? Yes this is impractical. But no more than saying we should all stop at every intersection for 2 seconds. At least this will deal with the root cause more directly rather than just act defensive.

    When people read the headline “both driver have ran stop sign”, this immediately latch on their mind that both are (equally) at fault. This completely gross over the fact there is a huge difference between rolling through a sign and blowing through it at 32 mph with no intention to stop. The former, for better or worst, is practice by a majority of drivers and in vast majority of case do not cause any accident. The latter is just very very dangerous.

    I think we should have spend proportional amount of attention to the severity of an issue. The bus driver’s issue has become a big distraction here.