Deadly Holiday Season: Two Peds, One Passenger Killed In Two Weeks

Yuee Yao, 56 (left) was killed by a drunk driver on a Twin Peaks road on December 20 during a visit from China. In a separate crash yesterday in the Mission, an unidentified 29-year-old woman (right) was killed while riding in a car, as was 26-year-old Francisco Gutierrez (no photo available) while walking into a convenience store. Drivers have been charged in both cases.

Two pedestrians and one vehicle passenger lost their lives in separate car crashes in the last two weeks, marking the last of 19 pedestrian deaths in 2012, and the first two traffic fatalities of 2013.

David Morales seen here during his arrest following the crash. Photo via ##http://www.ktvu.com/news/news/crime-law/pedestrian-killed-sf-driver-fleeing-police-identif/nTkR6/##KTVU##

Yesterday at approximately 8 a.m., 19-year-old driver David Morales of San Francisco was fleeing from police when he crashed into a car at South Van Ness Avenue and 21st Streets, killing an unidentified woman in the car and causing it to slam into a corner store and kill 26-year-old Francisco Gutierrez as he was walking in, according to SFPD spokesperson Gordon Shyy. The driver of the car that was hit was also hospitalized with life threatening injuries, but has since been upgraded to critical condition.

Morales, who was arrested at the scene of the crash (captured in a video here), allegedly fled a traffic stop after police received calls about a shooting at the Valencia Gardens housing complex at 14th and Guererro Streets, according to the SFPD. Morales was charged with two counts of murder for the fatalities caused by the crash, as well as multiple other charges in relation to the shooting.

The scene of the car crash at 21st St. and South Van Ness Ave. during a police chase on New Year's Day. Photo: ##http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Driver-flees-from-SF-traffic-stop-2-die-4159713.php#photo-3971253##Michael Macor, SFGate##

In a separate crash on December 20 at about 8:50 p.m., 56-year-old Yuee Yao, a visiting Chinese citizen, was killed when she and three others were struck on Christmas Tree Point Road near Twin Peaks by 23-year-old driver Gina Eunice, who was drunk and fled the scene, according to reports. Eunice was caught by police in a nearby parking lot several minutes later and faces charges of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, two counts of DUI causing injury, and one count of hit-and-run, according to KTVU.

Gina Eunice ran three people off of a road on Twin Peaks and killed Yuee Yao. Photo: ##http://www.ktvu.com/news/news/crime-law/woman-charged-manslaughter-dui-fatal-crash-twin-pe/nTfNm/##KTVU##

Yao, who was reportedly walking to get a view of the city with her son and his two friends on a road without a sidewalk, was one of three who were knocked off the road and down a hill. After the crash, “I called their names,” Yao’s son, Kai Yuan, told KTVU. “I heard my friend’s voice, his wife’s voice, but not my mom’s.” Yao, a Chinese citizen, was reportedly visiting San Francisco to help care for Yuan’s newborn son.

In a statement to KTVU, District Attorney George Gascón said, “The defendant’s reckless and callous behavior has cost Ms. Yao her life. Her life has abruptly and tragically been taken away from her family. This is yet another tragedy that illustrates the consequences of drinking and driving.”

Eunice, who plead not guilty, is reportedly held on $2 million bail. If she posts bail, she would be prohibited from drinking or driving.

In yet another hit-and-run crash, at Turk and Lyon Streets on Christmas Day at about 6:05 p.m., a 50-year-old woman was hospitalized with life-threatening head injuries by a driver in a two-door silver car, SF Weekly reported on December 31. We have a request in with SFPD for updates on the woman’s condition and whether or not the driver has been caught.

  • Mario Tanev

    Such sad stories. The perpetrators must serve serious time.

    But it all starts with the culture of negligence and desensitization surrounding the consequences of driving that makes the perpetrators think they can pull this stuff off. We need to have serious punishment for more minor cases to instill discipline. Everyone needs to have a friend who has lost their wages or their licence for not giving a pedestrian their right of way. It shouldn’t be just something that happens to “people I don’t know” or the statistics will continue to be poor.

  • Huh? So somehow if we do not punish ordinary drivers harder, who could be a bit more careful and more patient some of the time, because they could commit fatal DUI hit and run or high speed chase to run away from police? Just the fact that those two criminals killed others with their cars doesn’t mean that every car driver is a potential criminal.

    There are nutcases in New York that pushed innocent people to their death off the subway platform. Should we need to get “tough” on transit riders because they could be one of those nutcases too?

  • Andy – the Freakonomics guys did a study and figured you could pretty much drive back and forth across the US, drunk, 8 times, before being expected to get pulled over for DUI. Just because you could get lucky and not cause that collision doesn’t mean that you’re not a hair’s breath away from doing so.

    There aren’t transit riders pushing people onto train tracks willy nilly. But the number of DUIs that are actually recorded indicates that drunk driving is a little more “ordinary” than we’d like to believe. Similarly for pedestrian violations.

    Tell you what – we’ll book any transit riders who try and fail to push someone on the tracks.

  • Michael Morris

    Mario

    Hearing other friend’s DUI stories was all I had to know, the amount of time and money those things cost is amazing, if pedestrian related violations were 1/4 the cost I would see that as fiar and effective, hopefully cops would only enfore the rule where very necessary.

  • Mario Tanev

    Andy,

    The idea is to shift the normal distribution by shifting the mean. The issue is that the “normal” governs what “extreme” is. If cutting off pedestrians is “normal”, or driving after a little bit of alcohol is “normal” then driving callously under heavy influence is the extreme. But if cutting off pedestrians is already extreme, then anything further is on the really long tail of unconscionable. When people assess risk they do it relative to some norm. If you know that your friends get away driving after one beer or cutting off pedestrians at low speed, then you’re not that far off driving with two beers and cutting off pedestrians at higher speeds. Most human traits and behavior are distributed “normally” (think bell curve), with most people sharing the same level of diligence, some having higher diligence and some having lower diligence. The normal distribution is governed by the mean (average behavior) and variance (the deviation from the average behavior). The variance I think would remain similar no matter how far you shift the mean as it is all about risk perception, and risk perception is driven by one’s observation of others’ behavior, enforcement and societal norms (in some cultures deviating from the mean is unconscionable). So shifting the mean, would mean shifting where the extremes lie as well.It’s the same issue with the gun debates. Most people don’t do anything particularly bad with guns, but the higher our tolerance and proliferation of guns, the more chance there is for extreme behaviors. Just reducing the number of guns would most likely reduce deaths statistically.

    It is very convenient to think and to point to the extremes as if they are completely disconnected from the average, but that is just not true.

  •  The US is not only lax in enforcement of drunk driving, it is lax in its very definition of the act–operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .08 or greater.  In Finland, Austria, Switzerland, Netherlands, Australia and Denmark the limit is .05.  In Sweden and Norway the limit is .02. These eight countries have traffic fatality rates one to two thirds of ours. Their pedestrian fatality rates are half of ours though on average they do twice the walking.

    Though I’ve just done a blog post lauding walking to Twin Peaks (and though I feel the route I recommend is quite safe during the day), I have to say that the infrastructure up there very poorly accommodates either pedestrians or average bicyclists (though vehicular bicyclists may be happy enough.) Double one-way freeway-like lanes could be replaced with a single vehicle lane augmented by a pedestrian travel lane and a bike lane. The max speed should be 20 mph and speed humps added for physical enforcement. Raised crosswalks for pedestrians between hiking paths with large signs saying “yield to pedestrians in crosswalks” are also very much needed. This won’t entirely prevent drunken drivers from mowing over pedestrians up there but it would help the situation a great deal.

    As to risky, unsafe driving of all sorts, the consequences should be having licenses taken away or suspended for periods of time draconian enough to make people really take notice. Monetary penalties are not enough.

  • Karen – you’ll have trouble getting your way on that because Andy and his ilk send up 3 or 4 gigantic buses onto Twin Peaks daily.

  • Anonymous

    @KarenLynnAllen:disqus Your blog post was very timely as I too just walked up to Twin Peaks on New Years and noticed the same thing: how pedestrian unfriendly it is. And the worst part is: it is so *easy* to fix. Like the guardrail/”bunkers” that hikers half to climb over. Or how there is relatively light traffic so the roads could easily accommodate bike lanes. I really realized how much the whole place just cries out for people to drive up there rather than hike/walk or bike. Really a shame.

  • Guest

    Here’s what happens when something that isn’t that easy to operate safely even by the most skilled, informed and aware– is the default transportation for all.

  • I don’t think we’ve been tolerating more DUI than in the past. In fact it is the reverse. The laws have been getting tougher. There’s more options and promotion of alternatives when someone needs a ride when under the influence.

    As to cutting off pedestrians, we don’t have good enough education, designs, and laws (which should be complied by both sides, which often are the same people). There’s not going to be any “traffic calming” that will prevent someone who is trying to run away from police from ignoring traffic laws and putting people at risk.

  • I don’t think we’ve been tolerating more DUI than in the past. In fact it is the reverse. The laws have been getting tougher.

    I am completely untolerant of strawmen.

    The question is not whether or not we are more tolerant than in the past. The question is if the laws on the books – AND their enforcement – AND the sentences handed down – are sufficient.

    The number of dead bodies says NO.

    Shifting the debate is a tactic used by my 3 year old son.

  •  Of course for you the punishment will never be high enough because the number should be zero. So the requirement should be so high that otherwise an ordinary driver wouldn’t be qualified to drive.

    If no one drives, then there’s no traffic deaths. Meat is murder.

  • And clearly you don’t think people should be prevented from driving drunk.

  • Anonymous

     Of course we need to discourage people from driving drunk. That’s one of the outcomes with my involvement in alternative transportation. I also know people who got penalized for getting a DUI.

  • Anonymous

    DUI convictions are painful to the drivers who commit them, as well they should be. But they should be stricter. For example, it’s practically a given that first time offenders can get a restricted license to travel to work after a 30 day suspension, whether or not there’s transit servicing their work commute route.

    It’s a sad statement about our transportation system when the courts tacitly acknowledges that driving is a basic requirement for anyone who works.

  • Anonymous

     Even the 30 day suspension can be a job killer, for some with occupations that require some driving. Not everyone has the luxury of having a downtown desk job can be reach by transit.

    The goal should be focusing on preventing recidivism. For those who have never offended the law, they should know when they shouldn’t be driving.

  • If having your license suspended would mean you lose your job, maybe you should be very, very careful when you drive. Maybe you shouldn’t drink and then drive whatsoever. If drinking is important to you, either drink at home, drink within walking distance, have a sober friend who will drive you around, or get a job that doesn’t require a valid driver’s license since you should lose yours quickly.

    Why is it we’re so concerned a reckless, irresponsible person might lose their job? Why do we identify with what the drunk driver might suffer and not his/her potential victim? Why do we think drinking and driving is okay until the first DUI and only after that it’s time to get serious?

  •  Andy – please go off an do a google search of “six DUI” and tell me if current laws are preventing recidivism.

    And really, the sorts of jobs that you lose over a 30 day driving suspension are the dime a dozen jobs that can be easily replaced. Better jobs that might require some driving – say for example a salesperson – you don’t lose over a 30 day suspension, because if you were any good at the job you have a rolodex that protects your job.

    The job that is threatened by a DUI is any sort of professional driver. As far as I am concerned – if you are a professional driver of any sort and you get a DUI – game over, go find another line of work. Taxi, cop, firefighter, bus, etc… If you have gotten to the point where you have that class of license and you get a DUI, your livery/etc… professional license is gone, forever. Some jobs just have certain requirements – I firmly believe that those sorts of jobs should have that as a very hard requirement.

  • Anonymous

    Where did I say that it is OK to commit a DUI the first time? It is not OK anytime. But we can’t pre-punish someone who hasn’t committed a DUI so that they won’t DUI, For those who have committed the first time, and didn’t have as much alcohol or resulted in collisions, ignition interlock should be available so they can drive with restrictions.

    We do have a lot of people driving without a valid license (and just those who have committed DUIs). We can’t pretend that those who do not have a valid license are all just going to ride bikes or take transit. Unlicensed drivers are just as unsafe.

  •  I assert that tougher penalties for DUI would be a stronger deterrent.

    You said yourself that a 30 day suspension could cost someone their job. Have you heard of anyone who lost their job due to a DUI? No. So nobody thinking about whether or not they have had too much to drink thinks “I am risking my job”.

    Of course, plenty currently don’t think “I am risking my life and the life of many others” so maybe you are right. I still say the penalties should be much much stronger and enforcement should be targeted at the very clearly known places where drivers are leaving places drunk.

  •  This discussion has been interesting and has prompted me to do some research on drunk driving in San Francisco which I’ve written up here (because no way would it all fit in a comment posting!)

    http://karenlynnallen.blogspot.com/2013/01/drunk-driving-in-san-francisco.html

    Some highlights:

    1) First offenders are responsible for 74% of all alcohol-related collision fatalities. Chronic recidivists (2 or more DUIs) are responsible for only 7%. If you want to reduce the fatalities you have to prevent drunk driving before the first DUI.
    2) San Francisco has the lowest DUI arrest rate in the state.
    3) San Francisco has the fifth lowest DUI conviction rate in the state.
    4) If you are between the ages of 1 and 35, not a gang member, not a drug dealer and not suicidal, some kind of motor vehicle accident is the most likely way you’re going to die.

  •  Karen – some of your stats are self-fulfilling.

    The reason most DUI fatalities are first offenders is because the most probable way you get a DUI is if you get into a crash. There are just so few DUI arrests unless there is an incident. “First offender” means you have never been caught, not that you’ve never driven drunk.

    The last stat is probably true nationwide – certainly for very small children. I mention this to everyone who asks me if I am worried about my son getting hit in the bike trailer – “the most likely place for your child to die is in his car seat – doesn’t that worry you?” Of course this stat is also misleading, if there were more children in bike trailers, more would die in bike trailers. But they sure aren’t getting killed in solo bike accidents, at least nowhere near the rate of children being killed in solo motor vehicle accident.

  • Just more penalties would be no different than “war on drugs.” I think that we need more carrots in promoting and offering more alternative transportation, and more alcohol education.

    I think the problem with the first time offender is that they don’t know what point they shouldn’t be driving. There’s a lot of “it won’t happen to me,” “I didn’t drink that much,” or “I am still OK to drive.” If somehow they know for certain that what they’re doing is illegal, then I think they will react differently.

    I know people who have lost jobs because of DUIs. I know people who have gotten into a collision because of DUI. And I know people who drove with a suspended license with a DUI.

    By the way, European countries have a lower legal drinking age. So that we know that partial prohibition (for those under the age of 21) isn’t a really effective mean of reducing DUIs.

  •  Andy,  If you read my post, you’ll know I didn’t say that we need more penalties, just different ones–license suspension. Alcohol programs don’t work, giving people mild “wet reckless” and “dry reckless” convictions don’t work in preventing the first DUI and fatal accidents that occur before the first DUI. If your average 24 year old knew he/she would lose his license for six months if caught driving after drinking a couple drinks, they wouldn’t do it.

    Other countries have far less drunk driving even though their citizens, too, must experience some confusion about how much is “okay.” Given your argument we should lower the blood alcohol level to zero, that way it would be quite clear drinking any amount and then driving is illegal. Also, the prime years for drunk driving are ages 21 – 35 so there is less of a need to focus on the under 21 crowd.

    Murphstahoe,  well there are around 1480 DUI arrests in San Francisco a year, a bit more than the 480 alcohol-related injury accidents and 13 alcohol related deaths. I couldn’t find data on just alcohol-related non-injury accidents, although for mild accidents the police don’t even show up so they couldn’t possibly check for DUI.  I suppose some DUI arrests occur when someone pulls some idiot stunt right in front of cop that they just can’t ignore. In any event, it isn’t chronic offenders causing the lion’s share of fatal drunk driving accidents.

  • Karen – 1480 per year is less than 5 per day. And arrests in SF includes not only denizens of SF but residents of the 8 Million strong Bay Area who are in SF. There are probably in the hundreds of drivers operating a car over the limit in SF daily.

    Andy – have you tried influencing your friends as to their drunk driving ways?

  •  @twitter-14678929:disqus That’s true, if you add in all the non-San Francisco residents who are driving around the city at any given time, San Francisco’s incredibly low DUI arrest rate (again, the lowest of any county in the state!) would be even lower. A depressing thought.

  • Most people who’ve arrested for DUI get an automatic administrative license suspension, which is independent of the judicial process. At least 30 days must be served before restricted license can be granted. The administrative suspension applies even if the defendant pleaded to “wet reckless” instead of DUI.

    If the idea that a restricted license should not be granted, I think it would encourage most of them to drive anyway without a license.

    I am not suggesting that we should lower the standard to zero. People who have one or two cans of beer don’t need to wait 4 hours before driving, and no, I don’t believe we have enough alcohol related education. It would be interesting to compare the difference in how Europeans take on driving and drinking culture and Americans.

    Most of the DUI cases that I know were learned well after the fact. So it is not as if somehow I could prevent it.

  • Granjon

    Last year in October I was stopped by a San Francisco cop for driving too SLOWLY.

    The case was dismissed. The cop had been FOLLOWING me. What was I supposed to do, speed up?

    Meanwhile, in January of this year, my car was wrecked in a three car accident caused by a red light runner at the corner of 12th Ave. and California at 11 in the morning, just around the same time the first cop had stopped me for ‘impeding the flow of traffic’ the previous October.

    With 19 pedestrian deaths last year, and three so far this year and it’s only February, what the %&*(^&^( are the cops doing stopping people for going too SLOW?

  • Thomaskane23

    Most people do not get charged with a DUI in their lifetime. But the
    majority of those who do get charged with DUI only get charged once.
    After that, they learn to drink within the legal limits and fix their
    mistake. 

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