No Crime in Fatal Pedestrian Crash So How About a Law That Makes It One?


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An 81-year-old woman, who has been identified as Yee-Sung Poon, was walking in the crosswalk at the poorly designed intersection of Santiago Street and Sunset Boulevard last night when she was killed by a driver. There are no stop signs or traffic lights and according to the SFPD it’s just "a tragic accident."

"It doesn’t look like he was speeding or under the influence or
anything like that," Sgt. Renee Pagano told the Chronicle. "There’s no crime here at
all."

The driver did actually stop at the intersection along Sunset
Boulevard, a street that most drivers treat like a highway in the
city’s Sunset District.

Manish Champsee, the president of Walk San Francisco, said Poon is the second pedestrian killed by a driver in SF in the last two months.

"Someone’s loved one has been killed.  This person was in a crosswalk and did nothing wrong and yet no one is held accountable."

The real problem, according to Champsee, is the absence of a law that makes it a crime. Oregon is the only state with a Vulnerable Users law. It basically says if a driver hits and seriously injures or kills a pedestrian, cyclist or any "vulnerable user of a public way" he or she will face a year in prison and a $6,250 fine. Some are now pushing for a Vehicular Homicide law that would require stronger penalties for unlicensed drivers.

  • Thanks for posting on this senseless death Bryan.

    So, this is really the law, crosswalks provide no legal protection for pedestrians? Does this literally mean that they are *optional* for motorists, a perverse form of the joke about the ‘optional stop signs being ones with white borders,’ but in this case not a joke at all? If they are optional for motorists, aren’t they absolutely unsafe, and therefore we should even have these lines striped on the ground? (to play devil’s advocate). Ugh.

  • Leah

    The SF Police Department should be called to task on this one. This is par for the course for them, assuming collisions between motorists and pedestrians are “accidents.” As if there’s nothing a motorist could even do about it…..these officers should be ashamed of themselves.

  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    The real problem here is that the crossing is not compatible with the street. The street is far too wide, the sightlines are much too open, and the distance between signals is very large. Drivers routinely reach highway speeds here, and they don’t have time to stop for anyone crazy enough to use the crosswalk.

    The solution is to calm traffic by narrowing the roadway, installing lots of greenery close to the road, and install signals, stop signs, humps, bumps, and possibly even unpaved sections if necessary, until cars slow to the pedestrian-compatible speed of 15MPH.

  • Matt H

    Bullshit. This is a crime, plain and simple.

    California vehicle code section 21950
    “The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection”
    http://dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d11/vc21950.htm

    The fact that a police sergeant does not know this, and would make such a ridiculous statement to the press means he/she should be disciplined and re-trained.

  • @Matt, I believe that’s an infraction, not a crime. He could be cited, but I doubt he’d even get a point on his license, let alone be trucked off to 850 Bryant.

  • So sad. You can’t drive when you get older, you can’t walk. What are our poor seniors to do? Just in sit inside and watch the world pass them by? Time for a revolution.

  • ben

    read this lovely crap
    http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/2009/01/23/20090123roberts0124.html

    According to Tempe police, the light had been red for 7.83 seconds when he came through, doing 48 mph in a 35 mph zone. Put another way, he was 550 feet from the intersection when that light turned red. Police said he had “more than adequate distance” to stop.
    Yes there is more alot more to the story. He won’t even get a felony out of the deal.

    I can’t even begin to tell you how much BS this is.

  • TB

    OK,so other than the time of accident, 6.15, we don’t have any other concrete information.

    We don’t know, for instance, how much warning the driver had.

    If this pedestrian stepped off the curb directly in front of an oncoming car, or with only 30 or so feet before the car drilled here, the damn right “There’s no crime here at all.”

    Quit flying off the handle before we have all the facts. Sometimes it IS the pedestrian’s fault you know.

  • Mike

    I must agree with TB and find quite disturbing the Oregon Vunerable Users law.

    In 1984 in Portland, Oregon, I hit a pedestrian who literally stepped off the curb in front of my car with no warning. I was driving below the legal speed limit, obeying all laws, and being cognizant of my surroundings.

    The pedestrian however was legally drunk, did not cross anywhere near a crosswalk, and did not even look to see me driving down the street. This person literal stepped off the curb in front of my car. Thank goodness he came away with just broken leg. Thanks goodness there were plenty of witnesses who saw the accident, or I might have went to jail.

    Should I have been charged with a crime just because I was driving a car and had size and inertia on my side? If there were no witnesses, should it be assumed I was in the wrong? What about the culpability of the Pedestrian?

    The accident in the Sunset is very tragic, but since none of us were able to witness it, how can we judge?

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