On July 16, 2003, about 1:46 p.m. Pacific daylight time, a 1992 Buick LeSabre, driven by an 86-year-old male, was westbound on Arizona Avenue, approaching the intersection of Fourth Street, in Santa Monica, Los Angeles County, California. At the same time, a 2003 Mercedes Benz S430 sedan, occupied by a driver and front-seat passenger, was also westbound on Arizona Avenue and had stopped for pedestrians in a crosswalk on Fourth Street at the intersection with Arizona Avenue. The Buick struck the left rear corner of the Mercedes, continued through the intersection, and drove through a farmers' market, striking pedestrians and vendor displays before coming to rest. As a result of the accident, 10 people were fatally injured, and 63 people received injuries ranging from minor to serious. The Buick driver and both Mercedes occupants were uninjured.
The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of this accident was the failure of the Buick driver to maintain control of his vehicle due to his unintended acceleration. Contributing to the severity of the accident was the lack of a barrier system to protect pedestrians in the Santa Monica Certified Farmers' Market area from errant vehicles.
The major safety issues discussed in this report are the unintended acceleration of the accident vehicle, the adequacy of temporary traffic control measures for the protection of pedestrian traffic in the Santa Monica Certified Farmers' Market, and the need to equip motor vehicles with event data recorders.
As a result of its investigation, the Safety Board made recommendations to the Federal Highway Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the city of Santa Monica.
To the Federal Highway Administration:
Revise the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, Chapter 6, "Temporary Traffic Control," to provide specific references and guidance on the use of barricades, barriers, crash cushions, and other devices, as appropriate, for road closure situations other than highway construction or maintenance. (H-04-25)
To the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
Once standards for event data recorders are developed, require their installation in all newly manufactured light-duty vehicles. (H-04-26)
To the city of Santa Monica:
Install a temporary rigid barrier system at the closure limits of the Santa Monica Certified Farmers' Market to provide a physical barrier to errant vehicles entering the market. (H-04-27)
Update your temporary traffic plans for roadway closures to ensure the safe operation of the city's certified farmers' markets and review and evaluate the adequacy of the plans annually. (H-04-28)