Santee residents crowded the City Council chambers to discuss the issues surrounding a fatal car crash outside West Hills High School and how the area can be made safer for everyone, according to recent reports. Ryan Willweber, 17, a high school junior, was killed when he attempted to make a left turn out of the campus driveway onto Mast and was hit by an oncoming SUV on April 30. His younger brother, Cory, was hospitalized as a result of the accident but is now recovering at home. The student driving the SUV was also injured.
The driver of the SUV, also a junior at the high school, spoke at the meeting. According to Anthony Ortiz, he has seen accidents or near-misses “every day” since he started high school. “I believe there should be a light there to slow traffic and save lives even more. One death should be enough to get something done,” said Ortiz, who was not speeding at the time of the crash, according to investigators.
Other residents expressed concern over the lack of a traffic light at the location, stating that cars often speed down Mast without any law enforcement efforts to control them. The posted speed limit on the road is 40 miles per hour, but the speed limit drops to 25 miles per hour near the school when students are present.
The Sheriff’s Department is still conducting the investigation into the crash, and city traffic engineers are reviewing the incident to determine what can be done to make the street safer for students and others traveling in the area.
A common theme heard during the Santee discussion can be summarized as, “How many times does an accident have to occur before the city takes action?” This is a very good question when someone has been injured or killed and the city has the means to change the traffic patterns to avoid future accidents.
While the city may or may not be liable the first time someone is injured, if accidents continue to happen in a particular location, it is likely that at some point the victims may be able to hold the city accountable. This idea is based on the doctrine that liability occurs when a party “knew or should have known” that an area is dangerous.
If you have been the victim of a car accident, it is possible that not only the driver who hit you but the city itself could have liability. Contact Daniel M. Gilleon in San Diego to discuss your case.