Dramatic video of VTA bus crash, car driver asks why his fault?

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A small car collided with a big bus in San Jose. And now the vehicle's driver is asking how this is his fault when he had a green light. (KGO-TV)

A small car collided with a big bus in San Jose. And now the vehicle's driver is asking how this is his fault when he had a green light. He sent I-Team Reporter Dan Noyes a message on Twitter with that video, asking him to investigate.

Eric Canoy had the option of telecommuting to his job as engineer for a Silicon Valley electric car startup, but on this day in August, he decided to drive in.

"I just thought, 'Hey, why not? It's a Friday, traffic can't be too bad,'" said Canoy.

So he jumped in his Mazda and approached a light near the Cisco Systems headquarters, westbound Tasman Drive in San Jose.

Canoy told Noyes, "By the time I hit the intersection, I entered through, I just kind of looked up and I saw, 'Oh hey, there's a bus, oh hey, there's a bus.'"

Canoy was shaken, some burns on his hand and elbow from the airbags, not seriously hurt. His car was totaled. He told first responders he recorded the incident: "I have a camera in here somewhere."

His video does confirm he had a green light for a full four seconds before impact. Pete Sobolev was driving the same direction, just to the right of Canoy.

"I notice out of the corner of my eye the bus turning into the intersection which I thought, that shouldn't be," Sobolev told us.

He took a right hand turn, just as the crash happened.

"You know, I of course was wondering what caused the crash," Sobolev said. "And then I quickly came to the conclusion that that bus must have turned into that intersection against a red light."

Milpitas Police initially cleared Canoy.

"He came back and said, 'Hey, you know what, good news. You have the green light," Canoy told us. "So, there's no reason to cite."

But the investigator changed his mind, concluding in the traffic collision report, "Canoy was at fault. I determined that the VTA bus was legally in the intersection when the collision occurred. Canoy did not yield the right of way to traffic legally in the intersection."

Milpitas police Lt. Jared Hernandez told the I-Team, "The person that's entering the intersection on the green has a duty to make sure the traffic has gone through that intersection and that it's safe to proceed."

What about the bus driver's responsibility? Using the California Public Record's Act, the I-Team obtained recordings from the VTA of the bus' eight cameras. In video from the bus you see the bus stopped at the intersection, two cars pull away. Before he even hits that limit line, the light turns yellow. We counted-- the bus had more than 40-feet to hit the brakes and stop. But, it continued through.

The California Driver Handbook says, "When you see the yellow traffic signal light, stop if you can do so safely. If you cannot stop safely, cross the intersection cautiously."

Noyes: "Didn't that bus have the duty to yield, to stop before heading across the intersection?"
Hernandez: "That bus was already in past his limit line, he's already in the crest of his turn."

When you look again at the VTA recording the stop light disappears at one point and you can't see precisely when it goes red. But, the I-Team timed the light -- it's yellow for three-and-a-half seconds. So the bus hit the red and continued past the red light through the intersection.

Retired San Francisco motorcycle officer Jimmy Lewis, a 34-year veteran trained in accident investigation, blames the bus driver.

"It ran the red and so the bus should have stopped," he said.

Lewis cites California Vehicle Code 21451, which reads, "Any driver, including one turning, shall yield the right-of-way to other traffic ... lawfully within the intersection." He says Canoy, with that green light, was lawfully in the intersection.

"You have to yield to the cross traffic that has the green," said Lewis.

The bus driver did not return our calls, texts and email for comment.

After the crash, he called the VTA office and blamed Canoy.

"I was making a left hand turn," the bus driver said on surveillance video. "The other guy just went through the light, just went through the light."

Officials at the VTA declined an interview and sent us an email that said, "There is the potential for litigation and, therefore, we reserve comment. The safety of those traveling on or around our system is VTA's top priority."

There is a lesson here for anyone who drives.

"Just because the signal's green doesn't always mean that you can just go through it," said Lt. Hernandez. "You still have to take that moment to make sure that it's safe to do so."

This is the first time Eric Canoy has seen the on-board bus video that raises many questions. His insurance company settled, paying for damage to the bus and replacing his car. He tells me his premiums are up about 10-percent.

Take a look at more investigations by Dan Noyes and the I-Team here.
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