Three siblings on their way to see their critically ill father in a San Francisco hospital are dead after crashing into an illegally parked big rig on the shoulder of I-80 in Emeryville Thursday. A fourth sibling survived the accident but remains in critical condition.
Deceased at the scene were 26-year-old Eli Villareal, 22-year-old Sara Villareal, and 18-year-old Eva Villareal. The surviving sibling, Aaron Villareal, is 17 years old, according to California Highway Patrol. The accident occurred about 1 a.m. when the vehicle the siblings were driving collided with a big rig parked on the shoulder near the Powell Street exit. The driver had stopped to sleep, but the CHP says that parking on the shoulder is only legal during an emergency. CHP says that speeding and slick roads may have contributed to the fatal accident.
Although this investigation is ongoing, rainy conditions like those that occurred Thursday at the time of this accident can be dangerous.
Safety experts offer these tips for driving in the rain:
- Adjust your thinking: Driving in rain requires more thought processes than driving in perfect conditions. People are subconscious drivers; they drive out of habit. When it rains, thinking must be adjusted so that drivers are more focused and alert.
- Increase visibility: When driving during a rainstorm, it is important to make your car more visible, since visibility is reduced by the lack of sun and the actual rain coming down. Turn on your headlights, and of course, use your wipers. Replace wiper blades regularly so that they function as they should.
- Maintain good tires: You have a lot riding on your tires, literally. Tires with low tread can become even more dangerous in rainy, slick conditions since they do not give your vehicle adequate traction.
- Be mindful of hydroplaning: When tires lose traction with the roadway, hydroplaning results, in sending vehicles sliding out of control. Vehicles can hydroplane in just 1/12 of an inch of water and at speeds of just 35 miles per hour. If you begin to hydroplane, slowly let off the gas pedal, and steer straight in order to regain vehicle control.
Notably, I-80 in California, where this fatal accident occurred, is rated the 16th most dangerous interstate in the country by the Daily Beast. Researchers compiling the list of interstates with a disproportionately high rate of fatalities note that from 2004 to 2008, California’s I-80 stretch was home to 220 fatal accidents, 258 total fatalities, and 1.1 fatal accidents over its 199.24 miles. Curiously, California is also home to the 4th and 5th contenders on the list: the 287-mile stretch of the I-15, where 506 deaths occurred during the study period, and the 242-mile stretch of I-10 where 387 deaths occurred. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was used for the report.