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CHP officer's U-turn didn't turn out so well

By MARY BROWNFIELD

Published: January 28, 2011

CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY Patrol officer Matthew Lieb, 33, received stitches in his head at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula Saturday morning after he pulled from the shoulder of narrow Carmel Valley Road into the path of a large truck driven by Cachagua resident Tom Nason. The collision occurred just west of the turnoff for Tassajara Road.

“Our officer was parked on the westbound shoulder of Carmel Valley Road, and he began to initiate a U-turn and didn’t see an approaching vehicle also moving in the westbound direction,” explained CHP public information officer Bob Lehman.

Fortunately, Lieb saw the oncoming Ford F-550 truck at the last minute and managed to slightly correct his patrol car, avoiding a T-bone crash that could have killed him. Instead, Nason’s truck plowed along the side of the CHP cruiser, smashing the door, wrinkling the windshield and munching the fender.

“It was a big truck, so the officer’s pretty lucky,” Lehman observed. The crash occurred around 8:30 a.m. Jan. 22.

While Lieb was taken to CHOMP for treatment of the lacerations on his head, Nason was uninjured, and his truck sustained moderate damage.

Lehman said collisions involving officers undergo the same investigation and scrutiny as wrecks caused by civilians, and the CHP is looking into Lieb’s crash.

Because making a U-turn from the shoulder of the roadway is against the law — and has resulted in many serious accidents on the Peninsula — it’s likely the officer will be found at fault. Citations are rare in crashes unless they involve drivers who are unlicensed or don’t have insurance, according to Lehman, so Lieb won't get a ticket, but if the investigation concludes it was his fault, he may undergo some additional training by the CHP. Other corrective action could also be taken.

In addition, the CHP will foot the bill for repairs to Nason’s truck.

“In this case, the highway patrol will be the one that will cover the cost of that,” Lehman said.