EMERYVILLE (KPIX 5) — A horrific accident early Thursday morning on Interstate 80 in Emeryville killed three members of a San Pablo family and critically injured another. But the California Highway Patrol said the family crashed into something that never should have been on the side of the road.
The accident happened where westbound I-80 curves from Emeryville into the Bay Bridge toll plaza area. A minivan carrying two brothers and two sisters, ages ranging from 17 to 26 years, veered to the right and slammed into a semi-truck parked on the shoulder of the freeway. So why was the truck parked there?
“The driver of the big-rig had pulled over to get some rest,” said CHP officer Herman Baza. “Apparently, he was sleeping when the collision happened.”
By state law, truck drivers are only allowed to drive so many hours and then must rest for a prescribed period of time. The driver reportedly told officers he pulled over on the freeway because he was afraid he was going to exceed his hours. He could have driven another quarter mile and taken the off ramp to Maritime Drive at the Port of Oakland. But despite the fact there are hundreds of semis in that area, there is almost nowhere for trucks to park there, either.
“Like yesterday, somebody got a ticket just to park for less than two minutes … he got a ticket,” said local truck driver Oscar Sanchez, who added the long-haulers struggle to find a place where they can get some shut-eye.
“Sometimes you come here on the weekends,” he said, “and you’ll find people that come from out of state sleeping in the middle of the street because there’s no parking.”
Sanchez says a designated sleeping lot for truckers would help and perhaps might have prevented the tragedy. The CHP says Thursday morning’s accident proves that, besides being illegal, stopping on the freeway for anything other than an emergency can be deadly.
“We consider it like a bullet,” explained Officer Baza. “You have a two-ton bullet going past you if you’re pulled to the side of the road. You never know who’s driving it.” And he says it’s better to risk a parking ticket on a side road than to kill – or be killed – parking on the freeway.
The CHP says because the minivan veered onto the shoulder and may have been going too fast, the truck driver was not arrested at the scene. But they say they are still investigating whether any charges against the trucker will be pursued.