Driver Cleared in Hailey Ratliff Accident

Novato police said toxicology report came back negative and there was no indication that the unidentified man did anything wrong behind the wheel when 12-year-old girl tried to cross in front of him.

After five and a half weeks of investigation, Novato police Tuesday said the driver who struck and killed a young Novato girl who was riding her bike home from school was not at fault.

Hailey Ratliff, a 12-year-old seventh grader, was hit Sept. 27 by a GMC SUV near the western city limits. The driver, an out-of-state man who has not been identified by police, cooperated with officers at the accident site on Novato Boulevard just west of San Marin High School.

Toxicology reports on the driver came back negative, according to the police report.

"There were no indications that he went outside his lane or had any unsafe driving maneuvers," acting Lt. Jennifer Welch said.

“Few things are as heartbreaking as the loss of a child,” said Police Chief Jim Berg said in a statement. “Accidents such as this reaffirm the city’s ongoing commitment to help make our community safer for everyone. We at the city are saddened by the loss of anyone as a result of a traffic accident, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends during this difficult time.”

Multiple witnesses were interviewed as part of the traffic unit's investigation, Welch said. Officers who specialize in reconstructing crash scenes conducted a skid analysis study and combined the data with information obtained from witness interviews, police said. The girl was crossing Novato Boulevard where there is no crosswalk; the closest crosswalk to the crash site is in front of San Marin High a quarter mile away.

"It is the determination of the NPD that the collision occurred because the bicyclist entered a roadway without yielding the right of way to an approaching vehicle," the report said.

Welch said later Tuesday that police would not be releasing more specifics about the crash. In its release, the department did not mention Hailey Ratliff nor the driver by name pursuant to state Vehicle Code Section 20012, which deals with confidentiality.

The investigation is being forwarded to the Marin County District Attorney's Office for review. Police did not reveal anything about lawsuits being filed in connection with the accident.

The Ratliff family — father Charles, mother Angela and their three young boys — have since moved back to New Mexico, from which they had moved to Novato late this summer. Charles Ratliff had started an administrative job at Journey Ford Lincoln dealership in Novato.

The Ratliffs lived in a relatively new subdivision about a quarter west mile from the intersection of Novato Boulevard and San Marin Drive, just across Novato Boulevard from the Dogbone Meadow dog park. School kids from the subdivision often walk or ride on bike paths on either side of Novato Boulevard. Hailey Ratliff had ridden her bike on the south side of the road and attempted to cross Novato Boulevard at Sandy Creek Way, just before the dog park, when she was hit by the SUV.

Hailey's death sparked a large response from family and friends. Hundreds attended a candlelight vigil the day after she died and a roadside memorial has been maintained at the accident site. Memorial bracelets and T-shirts have been sold in her memory to support a fund set up to help the family.

A committee comprised mostly of residents from the Ratliffs' neighborhood has been formed and is working with police and Novato's Department of Public Works to see if additional safety measures can be taken in the area to protect pedestrians and bicyclists.

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Wendi Kallins November 08, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Safe Routes to Schools provides pedestrian and bicycle education at Novato schools. We teach pedestrian safety to 2nd graders and bicycle safety to 4th graders. We also teach advanced bicycle safety to 6th graders. both 4th and 6th grade classes include a bicycle rodeo.
oblio November 09, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Anthony, I have lived in Novato for only 10 years, and during that time there have numerous accidents on that stretch of road. I have driven it many times, and I have bicycled it many times as well. In my opinion, the speed limit there is too high. I don't know how long you've been out of high school, but a residential subdivision went up there since I've lived here, with no changes to the speed limit. Novato can do better.
It Me November 22, 2012 at 09:56 AM
As a former resident of Marin County, it’s a little late in the game to have all this rage, hate, and anger, if every one was so worried, why then pray tell was not a partition to the City of Novato presented some years ago? The one thing I notice over the years most drivers ignore the posted speed limited, and do some of the strangest things to get from point A to point B. as example, I could have been seriously injured when this old man went from highway 101 to exit on Northgate drive (see Google maps for a better understanding). I have seen blatant speeding, passing over double yellow lines, red light running. So next time your out driving, check your Speedometer, and the yellow doesn’t mean speed up.
Tori Waymire February 15, 2013 at 02:53 AM
Hailey was a beaitiful girl who loved to ride her bike and understood the importance of safety she would never had done anything to cause this accident however the driver needs to be able to continue through his life even though she can't (please continue to be supportive of her family and the many others going through this with them ) She will be missed especially here at home.
Steve Bingham May 05, 2013 at 12:44 AM
I don't know if anyone is reading here anymore. My wife and I lost our daughter Sylvia Bingham who was killed on 9/15/09 in Cleveland while riding her bike to her new VISTA job, 4 months after college graduation. She grew up in Marin and graduated from Terra Linda High. We are just now reaching out to Hailey's family as we are organizing a Ride of Silence to remember all who have died biking. see http://www.rideofsilence.org/locations-domestic.php?s=CA#CA. The Tiburon ride is listed under San Rafael. We have a website www.sylviabinghamfund.org. I agree w/ comments about reducing the speed limit where Hailey was killed. Nicasio has model signage. It's apparent Novato hasn't reflected on the recent development on that stretch of road and should promptly bring the speed limit down to 25-30. One thing I noticed is the slight curve in the road which probably prevented Hailed from seeing the oncoming SUV which at 45 mpg is going 66 feet PER SECOND. Think about how fast that is. a football field in less than five seconds! Also I noted the decrepit condition of the road which may have made it difficult for Hailey to maneuver her bike (also true of the street where our daughter was killed). So bottom line, driver may not have been at fault but there was fault by Novato authorities.


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