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Adventures in California, or how my rental car got crunched.


*     The Story

*     The Wreckage

*     Where It Happened

*     The Official Accident Report


The Story


While on business in California, I was enjoying a day off driving in the hills in Marin County.  I had just been up to the top of Mount Tamalpais to enjoy the view and was driving back down to Panoramic Highway en route to the coast.  Entering a blind left turn, I suddenly discovered that my path was occupied by a car coming the other way.  With no time to react, we collided.  Fortunately, neither of us was going very fast.


The Wreckage

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This is my rental car, a Chevy Malibu.  I’ve moved it from its original position in the road onto the shoulder to allow other cars to get past the scene.  Note the angle of impact.  Thanks to the seat belt and the airbag I was not significantly injured, though quite sore for a while.

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This is the other car, a Suzuki Esteem, with Minnesota plates.  The driver lives in San Francisco, but has a Minnesota license.  Her story is that she was going 10 mph and that she was blinded by the sun as she approached the corner (plausible based on these photos; note that her sun visor is not down as mine and the passing truck’s are).  Again, note the angle of impact, as well as the streak of coolant left as it rolled back downhill from the impact point.  The big puddle is coolant from my car, as the engine was running while I moved it to the shoulder.  The white truck belongs to the park rangers and is parked.  The other cars you see are trying to get past us.  Shortly after this the rangers closed the road, as directing traffic around what was effectively a one-lane, blind corner was too problematic.  See how the shoulder disappears right about where the dark vehicle is.


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This is a shot across the “impact zone”.  Again, the other car is just passing by.  You can see the driver (left) and passenger of the other car sitting on the edge of the shoulder behind it. The driver had a “displaced fracture” of her left elbow (maybe from the airbag?), the passenger (who was asleep prior to the collision, with airbag but no seat belt) had abrasions on his nose and knee.  You can also see various bits of car strewn through the coolant puddle, and, in the foreground, the yellow marker for the center of the road.



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Where it happened

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This is from Google Maps.  The green “pin” is the site of the accident.  The red one is Marin General Hospital, where I was taken afterward.  The blue line shows the route we probably followed.


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Here’s an aerial perspective, courtesy of GoogleEarth.  This is a satellite photo, processed together with contour data.  The mountain at left center is Mount Tamalpais.


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A contour map of the area, from the trail map for Muir Woods National Monument, which is a bit further down the valley at bottom right and has some very impressive Redwoods.  I was on my way down from enjoying the view from the East Peak of Mount Tamalpais, at upper right.  The ranger station is at the bottom of the hill, where it says “PANTOLL”.  Based on Google’s satellite photos, the trees start 100-200 feet of elevation down the slope.


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A close-up aerial perspective view, again from GoogleEarth.  Note how there is no shoulder on this road, except right at the outside of the corner where the collision occurred, where it is almost certainly to allow cars to get off the road while admiring the view, which is clear out to the Pacific, though the shore itself is blocked by the hills.


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Another image from Google Maps, combining the road map showing the route from the accident to the hospital with the satellite photo.



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The Official Accident Report

I find this in complete agreement with my view of the accident, except that the shoulder is described as “asphalt” when it is obviously gravel.


*     Page 1 [ operator info ]

*     Page 2 [ collision details ]

*     Page 3 [  injuries ]

*     Page 4 [ collision diagram ]

*     Page 5 [ accident scene diagram ]

*     Page 6 [ officer's narrative ]

*     Page 7 [ evidence/conclusions ]

*     Page 8 [ cause ]


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