October 16, 2013

A 25-year-old woman is in police custody after allegedly merging into the HOV lane on the 405 south across double yellow lines and crashing into a motorcycle, killing the passenger.

The incident occurred around 5:40 pm Wednesday in Culver City. Following the collision with the 2009 Yamaha motorcycle, the driver, who has been identified as Casha Cheema of Irvine, stopped her 2006 Toyota Prius to check on the condition of the motorcycle riders. However, just before CHP arrived Cheema fled the scene and entered the nearby 90 freeway eastbound.

Witnesses pointed out Cheema's vehicle to the CHP when they arrived, who arrested her. According to the CHP the charges against her were suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and failure to remain at the scene of an accident involving injury or death. Authorities say Cheema is now being held at $50,000 bail.

The passenger, 24-year-old Yuliana Gutierrez of South Gate, was reported to have died about five hours after the accident at a hospital, according to the Coroner's office. The cause of death is said to be major head trauma suffered during the crash.

The driver of the bike was an unidentified 30-year-old Hawthorne man who suffered minor injuries.

A YouTube video which has been circulating, reportedly taken years earlier of Casha, shows her and friends laughing about "a few fender benders". The video was quickly taken down by the author, only to be reposted again. The new video contains thoughts and comments from people who seem to be close to Casha as well as those who are infuriated by the incident.

One of the most tragic elements of this accident is that it was an incredibly foolish act of carelessness that ended a young woman's life all too early. Most riders will at some time or another be faced with traffic merging into them absent-mindedly. The best thing we can do is be prepared to react when such an event occurs. If you find yourself in this situation the ideal course of action is largely circumstantial, based on your speed in relation to the speed of the merging vehicle, and where your bike is currently positioned.

Generally it's safer to apply the brakes rather than speeding up. By doing so you'll put yourself behind the car rather than in front, where you risk having your rear tire clipped by the car causing you to fall in front of a clearly inattentive driver. Additionally, if you're cruising at the bottom of your bike's power band, hitting the throttle may not do much to get you to safety, but applying the brakes will always give you the same response. The Los Angeles motorcycle accident lawyers here at RiderzLaw offer our sincerest condolences to those affected by the loss of Ms. Gutierrez, and additionally wish the best to the driver of the bike through this difficult time. Please stay safe riders.