BAKERSFIELD, CALIFORNIA – Two accidents on Highway 46 that have killed six adults and one infant within days of each other have re-directed attention to a two-lane stretch of highway known as “Blood Alley”. Last Wednesday, three 19-year-olds were killed on Highway 46 near Wasco when their Toyota Corolla collided with a truck. The car was attempting a high speed passing attempt just prior to the accident. Driver Steven Dub and passengers Kayla Shepard and Hilary Kendall Fix, were all killed.
On October 23, five days prior to that accident, Walter Earl Elliot and Shirlene Ann Soto died on the same stretch of road when their Toyota Prius was in a head-on collision with a Chevy Cavalier. The Cavalier was attempting to pass two trucks on the Highway at the time of the collision. The driver of the Cavalier, Jose Alberto Sanchez, and one year old Nathaniel Sanchez were also killed in that accident. Another passenger in the Cavalier was taken to Kern Medical Center with major injuries.
These recent fatalities occurred just before the planned November 10 ceremony to mark the beginning of expanding Highway 46 from two to four lanes. The improvements to the highway have been in the planning stages for about ten years due to safety concerns on the current two lane highway. After November 10, the improvements are set to be done in segments. The improvements were originally sparked by a 1999 crash that killed a young woman and left an entire family badly injured. After that accident, there was a public outcry to repair the road.
When that accident occurred, the Waski family, Michael and Eileen and sons AJ and Michael Jr. were traveling on Highway 46 to celebrate July 4th with friends. They were hit by a car driven by 22-year-old Michelle Phillips. She died at the scene. However, the Waski family all survived but their lives were forever altered. The family ultimately sued the state over dangerous road conditions and settled for $4 million in 2001. That amount was awarded to the Waski family to pay for weekly physical, speech and occupational therapy sessions for a few of the family members.
Soon after that accident and settlement, Caltrans completed an environmental study about the impact of expanding the road. Law enforcement officials still say that motorists are the cause of the accident, not the road conditions. Lieutenant Doyle Green of the California Highway Patrol said that unsafe passing is the real cause of the high fatality rate, not the highway itself. The speed limit on the road is 55 miles per hour and people get impatient and try to pass when passing is unsafe. Proponents of the increase to 4 lanes claim that a passing lane is necessary for driver safety on Highway 46.
Regardless of the cause of the accidents on Highway 46, those injured by someone else’s unlawful driving may be legally entitled to recover for their injuries. If you have lost a loved one because of a third party’s wrongful conduct, you may be able to recover for your pain and suffering and loss of support in a wrongful death action.
The lawyers at Berman & Riedel, LLP, led by managing partner William Berman, have handled many personal injury and wrongful death cases. If you would like to speak to a compassionate and experienced attorney, contact the firm to set up a meeting. There is no charge for your initial consultation.