The east Los Gatos community is shaken by the deaths on Blossom Hill Road this year. They were both close together in time and close together in location.
The media isn’t connecting the stories, even though they are only about .15 of a mile apart. One of them was in Los Gatos and the other in San Jose (Blossom Hill Rd is the dividing line). One was a 2 car accident, the other was an auto hitting people in a crosswalk. Both took place in the first quarter of 2023.
The two recent accidents that caused deaths on Blossom Hill Road:
- On January 8th, 2023 at 9:52 a.m., a 19 year old Palo Alto man was driving his vehicle from Belgatos Road and turning left onto Blossom Hill Rd when he was struck by another vehicle and killed. The other driver was injured, also. I haven’t been able to find an update (whether the other driver was arrested or what).
- On March 26th, a mother, daughter, and dog were legally crossing Blossom Hill Road at Leigh when they were struck by a vehicle driving westbound with the driver running the red light. The driver did not stop. The mother died, the daughter was injured, and the dog also perished. The driver was identified, in part by the use of Automatic License Plate Reader cameras (discussed in a Belwood Neighborhood Watch meeting recently). That person was arrested and is now behind bars.
I want to add that it seems to be a small miracle that two weeks ago, when we had a multi day power outage, there were no fatalities along this part of Blossom Hill, despite the traffic light being out for days and with no police officer guiding traffic there and no temporary stop signs or orange cones in place. We saw people fly through that intersection as if it didn’t exist.
Part of the challenge for preventing injury and deaths on Blossom Hill Road is the question of jurisdiction. There are places where the northern part of the street is in San Jose and the southern side is in Los Gatos. Here’s a map with the approximate boundary line in green. The two Xs mark the fatal accidents this year.
The collision on January 8th was on the south side of BHR, so it’s under the Los Gatos Monte Sereno Police Department’s investigations.
The March 26 hit and run took place on the north side, so it’s being worked on by the San Jose Police Department.
Weaving border, cooperation mandatory for prevention of deaths on Blossom Hill Road
If this stretch of the road were only in San Jose or only in Los Gatos, it would be far easier and more straightforward to make changes. Cooperation between the departments, and between the Town of Los Gatos and the City of San Jose, will be essential for preventative action to take place. This is a multi faceted problem and it will require a multi faceted approach to solving the crisis.
These areas where the jurisdiction is split should not be treated as a no-man’s zone or “not my district’s responsibility”. If your department is in charge of the north or south side, then cover it! People are literally dying in these areas!
Lastly, while cars are the most lethal, cyclists and pedestrians are sometimes the underlying risk to safety. Everyone using the street needs to exercise caution.
A few ideas to improve safety and reduce future deaths on Blossom Hill Road:
- Speeding is endemic. Going the speed limit, 35 mph, is sure to get a driver tail-gated, especially coming from the crest of Blossom Hill and into the stretch past Union going eastbound. We need more officers with their lidar guns, more lit up signs that flash when the speeds are excessive, and more ticketing.
- Distracted driving is not quite as common, but whether it’s from texting, eating, scolding kids or whatever the case may be, too often eyes aren’t on the road. Maybe we need a campaign just around focus. Perhaps another around calling in dangerous drivers.
- Cyclists need to go single file, and not side by side, which can cause motor vehicles to swerve dangerously.
- Pedestrians need to always use the crosswalks, and there need to be more crosswalks for them to use.
- Pedestrians and cyclists out after dark would be helping with everyone’s safety if they wore bright, reflective clothing.
- When the power is out, the orange cones should go out at a minimum. We know that officers cannot be everywhere at once. Is there room in the budget to hire temp workers during storms to direct traffic to prevent harm? Cones are cheap. Perhaps some of the neighbors who live near traffic signals would not mind putting the cones out as needed – sort of a “volunteers in policing” but for emergencies? (Community Emergency Response Team – CERT?)
- Blinking lights at crosswalks can wake up drivers who are zoning a little. Pedestrians need to make a habit of using them when available.
- Any other useful tools for slowing speeds, including median islands, pinch points, or more traffic stops / lights and more – see this urban design page for many great ideas.
Of course, this is not the only unsafe stretch of Blossom Hill Road, but it is the most ignored. Here are links to older episodes:
In 2019, Jennifer Higgins Bradanini drove her car into a 66 year old man, Tim Starkey, standing by the trunk of his car on this same road, but near Blossom Hill Elementary. He died, she was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, and got a sentence of home confinement (no jail) among other penalties.
In 2012, there was a car versus bike accident on BHR, too. Luckily that was not a fatality.
We welcome the bright green bike lanes and the pedestrian safety improvements between Los Gatos Boulevard and Vasona Lake County Park along this same busy corridor. We ask only that the same concern become evident in east Los Gatos, too.