Lawsuit: Dangers of Highway 99 through Bakersfield should be addressed for safety

January 13, 2021 | 5:00 am


In November 2019, a big rig driver slammed into the back of a pickup truck on Highway 99 at Rosedale Highway, killing both the pickup’s driver and passenger, Kathy McNutt and Luther Harold Goldman. A year later, at nearly the same location, a 10-year-old boy died when a big rig crashed into the back of the car he was riding in.

The stretch of Highway 99 through Bakersfield has seen in its share of crashes in recent years, particularly in central Bakersfield, which is currently is under construction. Officials should take extra steps to make sure it’s safer for drivers.

That’s the message from Jimmy McNutt, son of Kathy McNutt, who died in the November 2019 crash. Chain | Cohn | Stiles is representing the McNutt family in their wrongful death lawsuit against the big rig driver, his company, and Caltrans, and helping raise awareness of the dangerous roadway.

California Highway Patrol reported in that November 2019 crash that there was no evidence of tire friction marks from the semi, showing the driver did not attempt to brake, and leading them to believe negligence could have played a role. The driver of the pickup, Luther Harold Goleman, was Kathy McNutt’s boyfriend. Kathy McNutt was a loving grandmother, mother, daughter, and sister, Jimmy McNutt said.

“There is a big increase in accidents there, for sure,” Jimmy McNutt told KGET-17 News. McNutt works as a tow truck driver, and regularly assists and responds to accidents locally. “We respond to quite a few. It seems like if not every day, every other day.”

Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matt Clark suggested Caltrans could increase the number of warning signage to make sure drivers are aware they are in a construction zone, or install “rumble strips” in the area to alert inattentive drivers of potential dangers, which cause a vibration and audible rumbling.

In the case of the fatal crash involving the 10-year-old in November 2020, CHP reported that traffic had come to a complete stop on the southbound lanes of Highway 99 just north of Rosedale Highway. A driver of a semi-truck was unable to stop in time and crashed into the rear of the vehicle, pushing the car into the rear of another trailer.

UPDATE (APRIL 28, 2021): A 33-year-old motorcyclist died in a crash on southbound Highway 99 near Rosedale Highway.

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Highway 99 through the Central Valley named the deadliest highway in America

July 25, 2018 | 10:01 am


In all, the United States has 2.7 million miles of roads — some parts safer than others. Unfortunately, the most dangerous roadway in America happens to be in our own backyard, according to new study.

Highway 99 through the Central Valley was named the deadliest major highway in the country, according to data compiled by ValuePenguin, a private consumer research organization based in New York, using statistics from the National Traffic and Highway Safety Administration database of fatal crashes.

The 400-mile highway — which runs through Bakersfield, the Central Valley, and up through Sacramento — recorded 62 fatal accidents per 100 miles over a recent five-year span, from 2011 to 2015.

What makes Highway 99 so dangerous? The study looked at three factors that contribute often to crashes: weather, lighting, and driving under the influence, and evaluated which highways were the most dangerous by category. The study found that Highway 99 had the largest number of fatalities caused by dark, unlit roads anywhere in the county, and ranked second for the highest number of drunk driving fatalities.

In total, Highway 99 saw 264 fatal crashes in the five-year period. Fifty of those involved driving under the influence.

Interstate 45 in Texas had the second highest rate of fatalities, 55 per 100 miles, followed by Interstate 95, which runs down the eastern seaboard from Maine to Florida.

“Certain things are out of our control when we’re driving, but we can all take several steps to make sure we all get home safe,” said attorney David K. Cohn, managing partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Don’t distract yourself while driving, don’t speed, practice defensive driving, and never drive while under the influence.”

California highway officials have been working on $1 billion worth of safety and efficiency improvements on Highway 99 over the past 10 years, using some of the $20 billion in infrastructure bonds approved by state voters in 2006 under Proposition 1B, according to news reports.

Highway 99 was the only freeway singled out in Prop. 1B specifically for upgrades. At the time, state officials said the old highway was outmoded, with narrow shoulders, tight ramps and under-sized interchanges. Improvement work has been ongoing since then.

Besides being connected with the title of having the most dangerous roads in America, Bakersfield also has been ranked high for having the deadliest roads for pedestrians, and has been grappling with a rash of bicycle-related accidents and deaths.

Doing its part, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has partnered each year with local agencies to give away free safety helmets and bicycle lights, is a close partner with Mothers Against Drunk Driving Kern County in the fight against driving under the influence locally, and regularly provides safety tips for Kern County drivers.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident on Highway 99 due to the fault of someone else, please contact the accident attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.