At this year’s Fourth of July Main Street Parade, an elderly woman trying to get home in a maroon sedan made her way past barricades and onto the parade route. Once there, her driving was described as “fast” and “dangerous.”
Parents pulled their children out of the car’s path, kids screamed, and parade attendees reportedly swarmed the driver, forcing her to cease. One child was struck between Hill Street and Ashland Avenue, although the child suffered only minor injuries, including a scraped knee, thanks to her father’s actions of pulling her out of the way of the vehicle.
This incident was described in the Santa Monica Mirror’s coverage of the Main Street parade, but it was the public’s outcry on the comment section of that story that prompted the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) to respond.
“She just missed hitting about eight other children,” read a comment from “A.L.” on the Mirror’s comments section. “The children were scared and some cried and sat frightened during the parade.”
Sgt. Richard Lewis, SMPD’s public information officer, told the Mirror that the driver, a woman in her late 70s, was driving without a license because she had failed a reissuing test months prior.
“The person to blame here is the lady. She didn’t follow directions. She was without a license,” Lewis said. “She should not have even been driving.”
She told police at the parade that she had planned to take another test on Tuesday, July 5, once the offices of the DMV had opened again after the holiday. Nonetheless, she was cited and was issued a DMV Drivers Reevaluation, which means she cannot drive until she passes a written test and an actual driving exam again.
“To be honest with you, she is not going to drive anymore. When we do that, you usually don’t get your license back,” said Lewis, adding that she will have a tough time completing the driving portion of the test considering the police department also towed her car.
Referencing comments that officers stood with her after the incident, drove her home, and apologized for even having the parade, Lewis simple said, “That’s completely wrong.” Officers stayed on site because of where the incident occurred, on the parade route, prohibiting an immediate investigation without stopping the parade. “We couldn’t do anything until the parade was over.”
As to how she got onto the parade route in the first place, Lewis said Santa Monica police had all the streets blocked off. In fact, he said the driver even came to couple of the barricades where she was told she could not cross.
SMPD determined that she gained access to the route through a private driveway that transcends from Second Street. Lewis described an open gate through an alley near Starbucks, on the north and east side of Ocean Park Boulevard and Main Street intersection. Lewis said the police believe she drove through this private drive, then headed south along the parade route.
“If anyone was blocking that private driveway, they actually moved for her and let her on to Main Street,” he said. “Her access was not via a public property that the City maintains. There is no way to plug every single hole. We couldn’t even do that for the (LA) Marathon. She sought out the openings…She was told she would have to proceed south, just into Venice at Rose (Avenue), and that she could cross over into Neilson (Way that way,” said Lewis. “Obviously, she wasn’t going to comply with those directions.”
Lewis said the police department is in talks with the event organizers to have a screening process for drivers in the parade. “Because once you are on that route, if something goes tragically wrong, there is no protection for the crowds.”
Additionally, the traffic control plan for the parade has previously been approved by City Hall. Lewis said that future parades will be screened through the police department’s traffic unit. Also, only two officers on motorcycles were allowed to roam the parade route, while the other six assigned motorcycle officers we fixed to barricade posts.
“That is not sufficient for a parade,” said Lewis. “We’re meeting with event organizers so that next year, it will be a bigger, better, and most importantly safer event.”