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Traffic accident data tough to get from police department

Original post made on Aug 19, 2016

Last year, Mountain View saw a spike in traffic fatalities, with six people losing their lives in crosswalks, major intersections and even parking lots. But the police department has adopted a policy -- of questionable legality -- that denies the public access to pertinent information about traffic accidents.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, August 19, 2016, 12:44 PM

Comments (15)

Posted by Insider
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 19, 2016 at 2:20 pm

Kevin Forestieri - author of this piece: Your assertions against the police department remind me of my children when they were six years old. You live in the era of instant gratification and cry "foul" when you are rebuffed. There are very good reasons for the records to remain private. The incidents are occurring between private citizens and the police department is protecting them and their families. Imagine losing a loved one in a traffic accident and having the gory details splashed over the newswires, presented as an entertainment. These are real people losing their lives and the police department is giving you enough information to report the tragedy, without sensationalizing the details of the death.

Posted by Well that was quick
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Aug 19, 2016 at 2:26 pm

Ha, wow, and I bet Keven poured a lot of effort into that piece, only for it to become a non-issue with the first comment.

Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Aug 19, 2016 at 2:40 pm

What is with our public employees and all this secrecy?

No one is looking for "gory details".

Heaven forbid we learn from our mistakes.

Posted by Linda
a resident of Monta Loma
on Aug 19, 2016 at 3:03 pm

I'm grateful for this topic and have often wondered why the reporting of an accident is so skim and useless to learn from. Now I understand and appreciate the effort that went into this article. Keep on it; the more info the public gets the better. Thanks.

Posted by PA Resident
a resident of another community
on Aug 19, 2016 at 3:42 pm

The cause of an accident (not all the gory details) is relevant to us all. How else do we learn from mistakes?

Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Aug 19, 2016 at 4:17 pm

Stop calling them accidents! Most traffic collisions are preventable and are caused by bad decisions, not bad luck.

Posted by Mixed feelings
a resident of Monta Loma
on Aug 19, 2016 at 4:19 pm

I actually agree with both sides of the arguments to this one. On one hand, I agree that the gory details may be spared, though I'm not sure it's the police department's job to be the arbiter of what should and shouldn't be shared.

On the other hand, it would be disappointing to learn that data was being collected but not utilized to make recommendations or improvements to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Ultimately, I believe it's possible to keep the personal information out of the public's purview while analyzing -- if not sharing -- data relevant to keeping the rest of us safer. The real shame is if we don't learn from our mistakes and similar accidents happen again.

Posted by Bruce England
a resident of Whisman Station
on Aug 19, 2016 at 4:56 pm

I hope that anyone with opinions about this will consider attending the next Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee meeting (August 31st, 6:30PM in the City Hall Plaza Conference Room). We have a "communications from the public" portion of the meeting near the beginning, and we are very interested in hearing what you have to say. The meeting agenda will be posted here a few days before the 31st: Web Link

Posted by PA Resident
a resident of another community
on Aug 19, 2016 at 5:02 pm

The reason these are called "accidents" come from the very first fatality of a pedestrian being hit by an automobile in London in 1896. The coroner described it as "an accidental death" and hoped that it would never happen again.Web Link

Posted by PA Resident
a resident of another community
on Aug 19, 2016 at 5:11 pm

The CHP makes some valuable accident data available on request including but not limited to: primary road, cross street, primary collision factor, violation code, # injured, # killed, tow away?, etc. Any resident can request this for specific streets for specific time-frames. I have used this service to document an extremely high rate of accidents on my street. More information available at

In addition, the California Office of Traffic Safety posts a ranking of cities grouped by size in more than 10 categories (i.e.: Alcohol involved, pedestrian < 15, pedestrians > 65, etc.

In the most recent report available – 2013 – Mountain View ranks in the middle or on the good side in almost every category. Mountain View’s composite rank is 57 out of 103 Group C cities, with populations between 50,000 and 100,000. By contrast, Palo Alto’s composite rank is 33 out of 103 cities and PA is #1 in Speed related accidents, #1 in Bicyclists < 15, and #3 in Pedestrians > 65 (to be clear: ranking #1 means the most accidents in a category). Visit to look at your city.

Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Aug 19, 2016 at 6:44 pm

PA Resident said:
"In the most recent report available – 2013 –"

There's your problem! Data from the CHP is 3 years old. Lots of things have changed since then. How can you respond to safety issues in a timely manner when your police department won't talk and the CHP data is stale??

Posted by ann
a resident of another community
on Aug 19, 2016 at 7:13 pm

maybe something else is going on behind the scenes...ponder this...a couple years ago i was sitting behind another car at a red lite...bam...screeching tires and the culprit at fault hit the car behind me and totaled it and pushed it into my car. police came promptly and we gave our licenses and insurance to the officers....i asked the officer 10 times for the info..license and insurance on the guy who hit us...the officer was evasive....the next thing i see is the police letting the guy who hit us drive away with his front fender dragging on the asphalt making sparks...i said ...stop him..why are you letting him officer said to me...well he only lives a few blocks away so its okay.....i asked for the guys info luck... no injuries that required immediate care.. but wow...i called the police dept a couple of times but was told reports not ready...i let my insurance company handle it from there. my insurance company told me after weeks of waiting....that the guy had no DL....the car was registered to someone else... the tags on the car were expired and there was no insurance... yup...he was illegal.....and the police let him drive away....sanctuary city? isn't that how it works..

Posted by Stone Walling Turf Battles
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 20, 2016 at 12:26 am

This data could easily be anonymized to "protect" the privacy of those involved, and yet still yield very valuable information on the aggregate.

But don't fool yourself into thinking that the police care about your privacy. All they care about is their budget, and their pensions. Unless, of course, a city council member calls the chief to complain about an aggressive dog. Then they will backtrack and tell everyone what a great job they are doing all along.

Posted by Ernie
a resident of Castro City
on Aug 22, 2016 at 10:55 am

This is an important topic for local journalism.

I've had a similar bad experience with MVPD. They don't like to give Public Records Act data that shows trends that suggest they are not policing effectively. The police chief got involved with my request and it was all smoke and mirrors from there. I've come to conclude over time that MVPD is not well-managed and in tune with the spirit of Silicon Valley whereby information can help society and not hurt it.

Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Aug 22, 2016 at 2:10 pm

I hear you Ernie.

Anyone who has done a few records requests with the government will find our public servants don't like to share the information we pay them collect and maintain.

It's like they don't realize who they work for anymore.

And exactly what is so secret? It's not like they guard nuclear launch codes.

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