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Claude Wyle
Claude Wyle
Attorney • 888-787-5718

HGTV Host Killed in San Francisco Motorcycle Collision

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I am saddened to have to post about another motorcycle fatality, this one hitting close to home. Bill Beckwith, co-host of HGTV’s “Curb Appeal” was killed this past Monday night in a car vs. motorcycle crash right here in San Francisco’s Lower Haight District.  While not all of the detailed facts are in, it appears that at about 8:30 pm, while riding his motorcycle at the intersection of Oak and Steiner Streets, a car attempted to make a left turn in front of his motorcycle and Mr. Beckwith was unable to stop in time to avoid a collision. Mr. Beckwith was knocked from his motorcycle and reportedly struck his head, causing severe injuries, and his eventual death at a San Francisco hospital. My heart-felt condolences go out to Bill’s loved ones and to his family, his girlfriend, and his friends, and fellow riders.

Beckwith’s girlfriend spoke out on a memorial  facebook page setup for the HGTV star, exclaiming:

“My love, so kind and bright, adventurous and strong. You are loved by so many good people! I wish you could stay with us for way longer,”

Many others spoke out about Beckwith’s impact on friends and family,

“He was a great writer and thinker. Farmer. Dancer. Woodworker. TV star! Artist. Athlete,” wrote Andy Seaver…”So silly. So deeply pensive. His smile could destroy you.”

Beckwith himself was aware of how precious life can be, as seem in his post of October 21st, where he stated:

“Was the first one out of my truck this a.m. at a head-on collision, made sure everyone was breathing and then directed traffic,” he wrote. “A solid reminder that our lives can change at any instant, and to be grateful for what I have right now.”

“Curb Appeal” has been running on HGTV since 2002, and Beckwith joined the show in 2010.

This deadly motorcycle accident is receiving lots of press, so why am I writing about it? I hope that as we learn more about the details of this crash that we will be able in some way to help prevent future motorcycle injuries and deaths. While I did not know Bill Beckwith personally, I am a member of the San Francisco motorcycle community, and know some of his friends. As a San Francisco motorcycle attorney, I also have some questions about how this tragic collision occurred and some comments myself about some comments I have read in the press. First of all, I understand from some of the articles written about this crash that the car involved was making a left turn in this intersection. So, let’s understand the law.

In California, when you are making a left turn, you must do so safely and yield the right of way to traffic that is proceeding straight if that traffic constitutes a hazard while you are turning.

California Vehicle Code Section 21801 states:

Left-Turn or U-Turn

21801.  (a) The driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the left or to complete a U-turn upon a highway, or to turn left into public or private property, or an alley, shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles approaching from the opposite direction which are close enough to constitute a hazard at any time during the turning movement, and shall continue to yield the right-of-way to the approaching vehicles until the left turn or U-turn can be made with reasonable safety.

(b) A driver having yielded as prescribed in subdivision (a), and having given a signal when and as required by this code, may turn left or complete a U-turn, and the drivers of vehicles approaching the intersection or the entrance to the property or alley from the opposite direction shall yield the right-of-way to the turning vehicle.

Some facts I would like to establish about this motorcycle accident would be:

Did the left turning driver signal?

Did the left turning driver look for vehicles approaching?

Did the left turning driver see the motorcyclist before he began his turn, and if not, why not?

Just how slow and methodical was this left turn? The quicker the turn in front of the motorcyclist, the harder the car would be to avoid.

Was there something that was distracting the driver?

Was there something that was distracting the motorcyclist?

How fast was each vehicle travelling at all times?

Was there something dangerous about this intersection that contributed to causing this crash?

What were the sight lines for both vehicle operators?

What was the striping like, and how did the configuration of the roadway and any changes in elevation impact the driver’s or the  ability to perceive and to react on time?

Should a left turn be allowed at this intersection?

Should there been additional signage?

 

The above are just a few of the questions that should be asked by competent investigators, by accident reconstruction experts and by skilled attorneys who are experienced in not only car crash cases, but also in the dynamics of motorcycle riding and motorcycle crashes, and who are also experienced in handling cases against public entities for dangerous intersections.

 

I have to admit I was somewhat appalled to read some of the comments to some of the stories online, wherein the motorcyclist was automatically blamed for speeding and/or distraction. There is no evidence that this motorcyclist was doing anything wrong. While the details are still emerging, it would seem that the driver of the car should have perceived Bill Beckwith and yielded the right of way. Was Bill’s riding a contributing factor? Maybe, however we don’t know yet. Perhaps, we should not rush to judgment if we want to see justice done and we want to try to learn from this tragedy. I tend to be pro-motorcyclist since I am a rider and a motorcycle attorney, however I am also often critical of motorcyclist behavior as well.   The key is in making our community safer by looking at what causes crashes and injuries and deaths, and after learning the facts, changing our behavior.

Sadly, Bill Beckwith is not the first motorcycle related fatality this year in San Francisco, and his death is not likely to be the last. It is important that we all take the extra time to look for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists while on the road. Taking just one extra second when you make a turn or cross an intersection can save a life. I would appreciate your comments about what you think happened and what either the driver or the motorcyclist could have done to prevent this sad result.

 

Hello, I’m Claude Wyle, a motorcycle accident attorney. Have an idea for a topic you’d like to see covered here? Feel free to contact me: cwyle@ccwlawyers.com or visit www.ccwlawyers.com.