Long Beach Traffic Circle

Car Accidents at the Long Beach Traffic Circle

History of the Long Beach Traffic Circle

The Long Beach Traffic Circle also referred to as the Los Alamitos Traffic Circle was once called “the Wildest Ride in Town” by the Los Angeles Times.  Second, to the Queen Mary, the traffic circle is one of the most recognizable features in Long Beach.  Moreover, the loop is one of the only modern roundabouts in Orange County.  The roundabout which now serves approximately 60,000 drivers a day was designed in the 1930s by German Engineer, Werner Ruchti.  At the time, the City of Long Beach constructed the Long Beach roundabout to accommodate traffic for the upcoming 1932 Summer Olympics.  While the Olympics were set to be held in Los Angeles, aquatic and rowing events were held in Long Beach.  The Long Beach Traffic Circle’s novelty has led to the excitement and confusion of drivers. Often these drivers end up in automobile collisions or near-miss situations.

The safety of drivers in the Long Beach Traffic Circle has long been a point of dispute.  In its first year of existence, the Long Beach Traffic Circle experienced four motor vehicle collisions.  The Press-Telegram went on to call the Long Beach Traffic Circle a death trap. Early drivers of the roundabout were confused and perplexed.

In 1980, after nearly fifty years of service, the Long Beach Traffic Circle was considered one of the most unsafe intersections in the city. In a November 2002 article of the On-line Forty Niner, city traffic engineer David Roseman explained just how dangerous the roundabout had been.  Roseman stated, “In the city of Long Beach, we have a grading system for accidents.  An ‘A’ is for best, and an ‘F’ is for worst.  In the 1980s the grade level was almost an ‘F.’”

Despite negative safety grades, city personnel described the Long Beach Traffic Circle as a model of safety.  In 1989, Traffic Enforcement Cmdr. Charles Parks stated that there were so few automobile accidents at the roundabout that it would be a waste of time to count them.  The theory was that without red lights, vehicles in the traffic circle could flow freely.

Furthermore, with each vehicle entering the traffic circle at a forty-five-degree angle, head-on collisions were thought to be nearly impossible.  The most serious of car accidents thought possible were expected to be broadside collisions, and the most frequent were anticipated to be safer sideswipe collisions.  Nonetheless, drivers were quoted by the Los Angeles Times denouncing the circle, “when I was 19 I drove out of London the wrong way, and I felt safer.”

After residents and drivers continued to complain about the Long Beach Traffic Circle, safety changes took place in 1993.  In 1993, the Long Beach Traffic Circle became a true roundabout.  Caltrans spent approximately eight years reimagining the circle to improve its safety.  Some of the changes to the traffic circle included removing stop signs and replacing them with yield signs. Other changes included flaring the entry point lanes, and adding lane markers before the entrance to the circle.  Other recommendations by Caltrans went ignored.  Some changes such as lowering the speed limit and adding lane lines around the center island were deemed too expensive.   Even without the additional changes, Traffic Engineer Roseman stated that there was a forty-four percent drop in accidents eight months after the construction changes.

Today, the traffic circle remains a point of contention throughout the community, and the future of roundabouts in Southern California is not certain.  As reported initially by KCET, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety argues for more or them.  Whereas, other internet forums contain countless stories praising and vilifying traffic circles. Drivers concerned with safety, as well as those focused on saving money on insurance rates and car insurance quotes, are likely to be vocal in the outcome of roundabouts in California.

Recent Car Accidents at the Long Beach Traffic Circle

Nonetheless, serious automobile collisions routinely occur at the Long Beach Traffic Circle.  As discussed above, the design of the traffic circle was intended to cut down on the seriousness of crashes at the roundabout. As a result, it could be expected that there would be less personal injury lawsuits.  However, over the past few years, the roundabout has seen accidents involving pure property damage, catastrophic personal injury, and even the wrongful death of riders.

A review of traffic accidents from 2015 – 2017 reveals that many of the traffic circle’s car accidents may have been avoided had the city chosen not to forego some of their recommended changes.  Specifically, had the city lowered the speed limit of the roundabout and added lane lines inside the roundabout, some of the collisions might have been avoided.

Support for this hypothesis can be found by utilizing the TIMS | SWITRS GIS Map provided by UC Berkeley.  The SWITRS tool pools data as reported by the California Highway Patrol and Department of Transportation to map vehicle collisions by location and cause.  The tool demonstrates that from 2015-2017, twenty-six vehicles were reportedly in car accidents at the Long Beach Traffic Circle. At least twenty-one individuals were injured at the Long Beach Traffic Circle in these two years.  On three occasions, the cited cause of the collision was “improper turning” or “merging.” Four other times, the vehicle collisions resulted from unsafe speed violations.  Finally, on five occasions the cause of car accidents was determined to have resulted from unsafe lane changes.  In total twelve out of fifteen car accidents over two years had to do with one of these three collision factors.

Unfortunately, some of the most dangerous car accidents at the Long Beach Traffic Circle have occurred when drunk drivers encounter the novel traffic device.  As reported by the Long Beach Post, in March 2016, a suspected drunk driver of a Maserati in the outer traffic circle hit a tree.  As a result, the Maserati was sheared in half.  The alleged drunk driver was ejected from the vehicle but survived.  Sadly, the passenger, Joseph Testone, died at the scene.


Drunk driver Joseph Testone dies in Long Beach Traffic Circle

Drunk driver Joseph Testone dies in Long Beach Traffic Circle

In sum, car accidents at the Long Beach Traffic Circle have occurred and will continue to happen.  Considering the volume of vehicles that utilize the roundabout, some say the roundabout is safer than the average intersection.  However, the novelty of the roadway requires that drivers take every precaution when navigating the roundabout and ensure that they follow all of the rules of the road for the traffic circle.  If you believe that there is a drunk driver in the street, call the Long Beach Police Department.

If You Have Been in a Car Accident in the Long Beach Traffic Circle Contact a Local Personal Injury Lawyer Right Away!

If you have been in a car accident at the Long Beach Traffic Circle, call a personal injury attorney right away. Make sure you gather all of the other drivers’ auto insurance information.  No one article can cover everything that people should know after a car accident.  Additionally, car accidents in the roundabout present unique legal challenges.  There are many local personal injury law firms throughout Long Beach, Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, and Newport Beach that can help.  Contact a lawyer right away to protect your statute of limitations, and ensure that you receive full justice for your claims.  Don’t let an insurance company lowball your demand for reimbursement of medical expenses, lost wages, or pain and suffering.

The information contained in this post is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this post, or website, should be taken as legal advice for any individual or case situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship.  If you have lost a loved one or have pain and suffering from a personal injury, we are available to assist.  For more information visit our wrongful death page, and car accidents page. For a free consultation, please reach out to our attorneys to arrange a time to discuss your case.  All you have to do is hit the big blue button labeled Contact Us at the top of this page!

Seal Beach bike vs. car accident memorial

We regret to learn that on January 11, 2019 in Seal Beach, CA, a tragic bike accident/car accident led to the wrongful death of a 64-year-old local rider.  This incident is already the third bicycle fatality in Southern California this year.  Moreover, it follows a November 2018 bicycle vs. car accident that occurred in Huntington Beach. That accident also resulted in the death of a 78-year-old cyclist.

As a personal injury lawyer, we become all too familiar with these kinds of accidents. Unfortunately, we usually become aware of this type of accident as a result of a wrongful death action. Generally, understanding where and how these collisions happen is a positive first step in reducing the number that occurs.  We hope that this post serves to remind everyone to be extremely cautious when encountering a cyclist on the roadway.

According to the Orange County Register, this tragic bicycle vs. car accident occurred on Friday morning January 12, 2019. The incident occurred near the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway (“PCH”) and Seal Beach Boulevard.  According to witnesses identified by Biking LA, the cyclist was traveling northbound on Pacific Coast Highway when he was struck from behind (rear-ended). The vehicle involved incurred windshield damage.

One witness stated, “I was at the scene when the accident happened, and CPR was rendered by 4 of us before EMS arrived.  We all knew what to do and did our best, but we know the tragic outcome all too often when it’s bike versus auto.  I ride my bike on that route most weekends and have had several close calls at that intersection.  I’m very sad for my fellow rider and his family and friends.  Talk about him a lot… it hurts but it helps too.  Peace.”

The fellow rider initially had his name withheld by the Seal Beach Police Department. He was later identified as 64 year old Long Beach resident and Parkcrest Christian Church parishioner, Paul Smith.  The Seal Beach Police Department later issued a press release about the incident.  The statement indicated that Paul Smith had sustained traumatic injuries at the scene.  His injuries required that he be transported via ambulance to a local hospital. He was later pronounced deceased at the hospital.

On Sunday, January 13, 2019, Paul Smith’s family and friends held a memorial for him.  The memorial which can still be seen is at the intersection of Seal Beach Blvd. and PCH.  Paul Smith was described as an avid and experienced rider who competed around the country.  His friends also described him as a good man who gave back to the community and country. One example was when he went to Texas in 2017 to help flood victims affected by Hurricane Harvey.  Sadly, car accidents and personal injury law regularly remind us that it is always the best that are taken too soon.

Bike vs. Car Accidents in Southern California

No more demonstrative of this heavy toll are the statistics that reflect bike accidents in Southern California communities.  According to Biking LA, Pacific Coast Highway is regularly referred to as “SoCal’s killer highway.”  Information is available from the California Highway Patrol’s (“CHP”) SWITRS crash database reflecting just how dangerous riding at our beaches can be.

In 2016, Ed Ryder prepared a report called “Bike Collisions on the Pacific Coast Highway.” The report compiled data from the CHP SWITRS crash database. The report also discussed bicycle accidents in Southern California’s Los Angeles County, Orange County, and San Diego County.

One of the components discussed in the report is when and where these bicycle accidents are occurring.  It was noted that the top 10 cities for bicycle accidents include Newport Beach (#1), Long Beach (#2), Huntington Beach (#3), and Seal Beach (#9).  In fact, for the time period reviewed, Newport Beach had more bicycle accidents than Los Angeles and Malibu combined!  Furthermore, the bicycle accidents disproportionately occur on Saturday (23%) and Sunday (17%).

Understanding when and where these bike accidents occur can be helpful in understanding why they occur. The Ryder report found that bike collisions are historically the most prevalent on weekends in the Orange County beach communities.

The logical conclusion is that there must be a correlation between the increased volume of riders on the road, and the number of auto vs. bike collisions that occur.  However, when focusing on the most serious of automobile vs. bike collisions, more typical causation factors are present.

With regard to cyclist fatalities, Ryder’s report found that in auto accidents, driver’s were found to be at fault 46% of the time.  Sadly, driving under the influence (“DUI”) and biking under the influence (“BUI”) were leading causes for these kinds of accidents.  In fact, driving under the influence (“DUI”) and biking under the influence (“BUI”)  accounted for 47% of rider fatalities.

The other four factors identified were traveling at an unsafe speed (19%), improper turning on the roadway (14%), failure to use traffic signals and signs (10%), and unsafe lane changes (10%).  The potential correlation between an increased number of DUI/BUI drivers at Orange County beaches on the weekends, and the increased number of cyclist, is another potential point of discussion when examining the cause of these collisions.

Drive with Caution Near Cyclists on the Roadway

To minimize the chance of a car crash with a bicycle rider, it is essential that every driver remember the rules of the road.  The rules of the road can be found in the CA Driver’s Handbook.  Furthermore, the CA DMV makes the CA Driver’s Handbook available on its website.

The CA Driver’s Handbook states, “bicyclist have the same rights and responsibilities as vehicle and motorcycle drivers.”  It goes on to state that due to the slower speed of cyclist, drivers should follow at a safe distance.  In the event a driver wishes to pass the cyclist, the Driver’s Handbook recommends changing into another lane.  If the driver cannot turn into another lane, the Driver’s Handbook advises drivers to allow at least 3 feet between the car and bicycle.  Then once the road is clear, the driver should pass at a safe speed to not endanger the rider.  It is also important to remember that riders may be traveling faster than you think.  The Driver’s Handbook states, a driver should not turn in front of a cyclist unless there is enough time to make the turn safely.  Regardless of the situation at hand, the common theme is to operate a vehicle with caution around a cyclist.

We hope that the information presented in this post helps drivers remember to be extremely cautious when sharing the road with a bicycle.  If you have any information regarding this particular incident, please call the Seal Beach Police Department.  Please remember, cyclist have the same rights as drivers on the roadway, and they must be treated with caution.

If you are involved in a car accident with a bicycle, it is essential to call the police and paramedics.  Furthermore, if you have suffered personal injury as a result of a bicycle accident, reach out to a bicycle accident lawyer right away before speaking to any insurance companies.  With this information in hand, get out there and practice safe driving and safe riding practices!

The information contained in this post is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this post, or website, should be taken as legal advice for any individual or case situation. For more information on car accident claims, go to our car accidents page.  For more information on wrongful death claims, go to our wrongful death page.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship.  If you have lost a loved one in a wrongful death action or have pain and suffering from a personal injury case, we are available to assist.  For a free consultation please reach out to our attorneys to arrange a time to discuss your matter.  All you have to do is hit this link or the big blue button labeled “Contact Us” at the top of this page!