SFPD: No Charges for Trucker Who Killed Woman, 91, on Fillmore Street

Police have declared no wrongdoing on the part of a cement truck driver who ran over and killed a 91-year-old woman on Fillmore at California Street last Thursday afternoon. According to reports, the woman was crossing Fillmore mid-block, in front of the stopped truck, when the driver began driving forward and ran her over. She was taken to SF General Hospital where she died of her injuries:

Image: KTVU

Investigators found that the truck driver, who stayed at the scene and cooperated with officers, was not at fault, [SFPD Sergeant Eric] Mahoney said. The driver had just crossed through the intersection at California Street when he came to a stop behind a couple of other vehicles, according to police. As the other vehicles started moving again, the woman stepped in front of the truck and was hit.

Of the four other drivers who have killed pedestrians in San Francisco this year, the SFPD has cited three, except one who fled and evaded police.

SFPD won’t cite or charge the driver in this case because, as Mahoney told KTVU, he “did not do anything to violate the vehicle code.” The victim was apparently jaywalking (an offense which, as the BBC recently pointed out, was invented by the American auto industry, and is not illegal in most countries, including the UK)

There are, however, two sections of the CA vehicle code that the driver may have violated.

The cement truck was partially blocking the crosswalk after the driver hit the woman. Image: KTVU
The cement truck was partially blocking the crosswalk after the driver hit the woman. Image: KTVU

CVC Section 21954 is the clause that requires pedestrians to yield to vehicles when crossing outside of a crosswalk, but it also says, “The provisions of this section shall not relieve the driver of a vehicle from the duty to exercise due care for the safety of any pedestrian upon a roadway.”

In addition, CVC Section 22106 says a driver may not “start a vehicle stopped, standing, or parked on a highway… until such movement can be made with reasonable safety.”

KTVU footage also shows the truck stopped with its rear encroaching on the crosswalk, indicating that the trucker could have been blocking it when the woman attempted to cross.

What it comes down to is this: Does the SFPD really believe this truck driver, before stepping on the pedal, exercised all due care to look for people crossing a bustling, two-lane shopping street like Fillmore?

  • triple0

    I’m left wondering: was this woman walking (outside of the crosswalk) in front of the truck because the truck was blocking the crosswalk — which would be the contributory offense…?

  • I certainly don’t want to make excuses for the driver, but based on the photo, showing a high hood and driver seat pushed back from it- depending on the height of the victim, I could visualize a scenario where the driver literally couldn’t see someone step out right in front of the far front corner. That brings up a number of other issues about whether trucks should be designed this way, but it might support the SFPD’s decision in this case. This is 100% speculation based on a photo on the Internet, though, so please take it with a grain of salt.

  • gary

    So you kill someone with your car, if you stay at the scene and say it was the victim’s fault, the SFPD will more than likely buy it and excuse you. Seems that’s what happens in most of these cases.

  • gneiss

    We should not be allowing this truck design on our city streets. The visibility from the cab is simply too limited to be safe in an urban environment. Instead, city officials should push to get these kinds of cabs on cement trucks to be the only ones that can be used here. If the NTSB had investigated this collision rather than the police, you’d better believe that there would be a service bulletin that would mandate that all cement truck operators would use these types of trucks rather than the ones currently being used.

  • Guest

    Yup, CVC 22500 (a) and (b) both prohibit stopping in a crosswalk, as does CVC 21970. As far as I can tell, even though at least three laws prohibit this behavior, none of them are ever enforced, even in extreme cases like this one.

  • Greg

    Seems like you’re really fishing here to blame the driver. Maybe it really wasn’t his fault.

  • Eliza

    This breaks my heart. Perhaps large trucks with poor sightlines should not be allowed anywhere, let only a city.

  • djconnel

    Photo shows the truck is blocking the crosswalks. Crosswalks are sidewalks. Blocking sidewalks is illegal. The only question is where the truck was BEFORE the collision. It drove forward, so unless it subsequently backed up, it was blocking the crosswalk even more, since the woman clearly wasn’t killed on the opposite side of the intersection. What was she supposed to do, climb over it? No — the real issue here is it is the police who fish. They fish for excuses to let the driver off. If they can’t find any, at least now, finally, after an excess of public pressure, reluctantly issue a citation.

  • p_chazz

    That’s called advocacy journalism.

  • Greg

    When the “advocacy” goes so far that it just sounds like complete BS, you lose all credibility.

  • Mom on a bike

    When you say “seems like you’re fishing here” when there’s clear violation of the VC *and* evidence of the crosswalk being blocked that’s called a lack of reading comprehension.

  • Upright Biker

    Agree. Once again, the solutions are there, we’ve just got an entrenched user base that insists (like SFFD and their opposition to bulb-outs and narrow alleys) we spend a fortune to change the way the world works instead of them spending a small amount in changing their equipment.

    In this case, sadly, that cost was someone’s life.

  • Gary Fisher

    All major shopping streets should be closed to cars and trucks from 10am till 2am. More income for the merchants, less poison and danger for the shoppers. Most Euro cities are doing this. Wise up San Francisco!

  • murphstahoe

    One instance of blocking the crosswalk isn’t likely to cause a death, but institutionalizing that it’s OK to block the crosswalks will result in some number of deaths/injuries.

    Changing that institution requires us to take hard looks at situations like this.

  • HuckieCA

    What is a pedestrian supposed to do when a vehicle is blocking the intersection? You do the same thing that drivers are supposed to do, wait to enter an intersection until your path is clear and it’s safe to do so. This happens to me daily crossing Market at Castro when either cars or the F-Line pulls out and blocks the entire crosswalk every 5 minutes. I might weave between cars if I can make eye contact with the driver, but I kinda like my body too much to ever step out in front of an F-Line, knowing that the driver probably isn’t paying attention and probably can’t see me if I try to cross in the 6 inch gap he left between his front bumper and the rear of the vehicle in front of him.

    Just because one person does something stupid/dickish/illegal, doesn’t make it OK for everyone else to throw rules, etiquette, and any regard for their own safety or the safety of others out the door. An oft complaint on this site is that drivers are impatient, but in reality, all humans are impatient, regardless of their mode of travel. Also, VC 21950 Part a is often cited here, but there is a Part b that says that Part a does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of using due care for his or her safety.

    When I’m driving, I would love to have the other drivers be conscious of their surroundings and stop honking at me when I refuse to cross an intersection because I will be blocking the crosswalk. However, I’d also like to not see pedestrians stepping off the curb on red lights or with 1 second left on the count down timer, and then saunter across 4 lanes of traffic eating up half the green cycle. Both of these happen at least weekly to me.

  • Dave Moore

    I can’t say it happened this time, but this happens frequently:

    – Driver comes to legal stop at red light, not blocking a crosswalk
    – Drive wants to turn right
    – Driver looks, determines no one is in crosswalk, starts to turn
    – Pedestrian enters crosswalk with a green
    – Driver sees pedestrian, stops

    – Driver is now blocking crosswalk, which by your definition is illegal. But no one did anything wrong. Driver was right, pedestrian was right.

    Of course there are plenty of cases where the driver is blocking the crosswalk because of things done incorrectly, but it’s possible (and common) that things like this happen without drive fault. You simply can’t see all pedestrians who might enter the crosswalk before you enter it. They can be running. They can suddenly decide to start walking. They can be most of the way across the street and turn around.

    You could take away right turn on red. You could prevent pedestrians from crossing at certain times, and give all walk at other times. New York used to physically block off certain pedestrian routes with barricades at certain times of day. But as long as you have right turn on red and pedestrian crossing at the same time, situations like this will happen.

  • coolbabybookworm

    Was the truck driving turning? It doesn’t sound like it from anything I’ve read. If they were blocking the intersection/crosswalk after they crossed then they should have waited for the intersection to clear before crossing, even if that means missing the light cycle. I don’t know the code number, but I do remember that from CA drivers education. That’s the responsibility that we should be demanding from all drivers, but especially the drivers of multi-ton construction vehicles with potentially limited sight lines.

    As for right on red, car drivers can only turn right on red when it is safe to do so and that includes reducing conflicts with pedestrians trying to cross. When I drive in the city I never turn right on red unless there’s absolutely no pedestrians or drivers out, a rare occurrence. I think the city should work with the state to have a citywide ban on right on red because it’s too dangerous with all of the pedestrian conflicts like in the hypothetical situation you mentioned.

  • Dave Moore

    I wasn’t trying to say that it applied in this case, just that the approach that “if the driver is stopped in the crosswalk they are necessarily doing something illegal” isn’t a reasonable one. Things can happen to leave a driver in that situation even crossing a street. Everything can’t be anticipated or no one could ever move. So it’s a question of what’s reasonable to anticipate and there’s plenty of room for argument about that.

    A city wide ban on right on red seems too extreme to me. There are plenty of times where the danger is no higher than than incurred just by driving. Focusing on certain times of day and locations would likely eliminate the vast majority of conflicts.

  • coolbabybookworm

    We wouldn’t necessarily need a ban on right on red if drivers could safely and legally turn right on red, but that’s not the case in my experience as a SoMa resident. Many lights with important turns are timed to give pedestrians and turners some separate time to go (Montgomery, Folsom and 5th, 5th and Market and several others). Bike boxes are another nice way of reducing that conflict through engineering on routes with lots of modal mixing, such as on market, however, I don’t think a bunch of signs with changing rules are going to help much. Maybe if there was a congestion pricing zone you could tie right on red to congestion pricing times/places, but that seems like it wouldn’t be as effective. Intersections are already very full of signs which is why I favor a blanket ban of right on red (used in several states already) or an intense enforcement of unsafe right on red enforcement.

    I see a lot of drivers making unsafe and illegal right on red turns, so maybe a few tickets would help them reconsider what they think of as “safe” may end up blocking the intersection or crosswalk. For me as a driver I don’t turn right on red if I anticipate any kind of conflict with a pedestrian, even if I don’t see anyone looking like they are going to cross. For example, in order to safely see oncoming traffic, car drivers have to pull into
    the crosswalk to see past other autos blocking the line of sight.

  • murphstahoe

    “What is a pedestrian supposed to do when a vehicle is blocking the
    intersection? You do the same thing that drivers are supposed to do,
    wait to enter an intersection until your path is clear and it’s safe to
    do so.”

    Given the number of drivers who double park in the crosswalk in Noe Valley, it’s surprising I ever made it across the street.

  • Guest

    I’ve made a resolution to not use the word “extreme”. Do the same.

  • PRE

    This site is quickly becoming one to skip. A woman says meh to the crosswalk, walks in front of a huge truck and is hit and killed and this site wants its pound of flesh. There are so many examples of bad driver behavior in SF but this doesn’t seem like one of them. Of course, the point of this blog is to castigate all drivers in whatever situation. Y’know, sometimes I walk or ride my bike, sometimes I ride BART, MUNI or the bus, and sometimes I even drive. Putting people in one category or another deemed more pure is turning this site into a real drag.

  • neroden

    I’d get rid of right-on-red. But I’ve seen the same scenario happen with right-on-green…. pedestrians in the second sidewalk move at the same time as the car turning right, remember?

  • Of course, it’s not “fishing” to blame the 91-year-old woman for her own death, while ignoring the violations and responsibilities of the professional operator of a cement truck, by focusing on an unrealistic ban on crossing the street outside of a crosswalk — which doesn’t even exist in most countries. (Where’s a bicyclist to blame when you need them?)

  • MadlyBranning

    Maybe we could link right on red to congestion pricing. So that you could take a right on red but you’d have to pay a dollar. That way each driver would make an instant calculation of the importance of taking that right turn v. the difficulty v. the cost…. a perfect market solution….

    Really I think the right on red is just not workable in the city. I think it was designed for an entirely different roadscape, i.e., LA. (there’s a reason that they didn’t invent it bank East). After living in SF and driving here for over 30 years, I’ve concluded it’s easier just to wait for the light. All the straining to see around parked cars, trying to gauge the speed of the oncoming cars (and bikes), while also trying to monitor the crosswalk for pedestrians, is such a stress-inducer that it’s easier just to imagine a “no right on red sign” (which I actually sort of welcome because then the driver behind you doesn’t pressure you to turn right….). If you can’t relax and wait for the green light…you need to think about what driving is doing to your psyche.

  • Andy Chow

    Your issue is about the system – That crossing at an undesignated location is illegal, which itself is a topic worthy of discussion, but you make it seem like as if the driver is somehow being completely careless or even intentional.

  • Dave Moore

    You’re totally right. Cars can get stuck for a long time and can result in drivers making bad choices out of anger. I don’t know if it’s possible to go to having every intersection having an extra cycle so one can block some pedestrians and one can block all cars. I like those better (you get to walk diagonally). I think that’s why they did those barricades in NY (no idea if they still have them).

  • murphstahoe

    Question: If the problem is that drivers make bad choices out of anger…. we have a choice. Eliminate their ability to make bad choices, or insulate everyone else from the fact that they are prone to making bad choices. I choose the former, but that’s just me.

  • murphstahoe

    The driver blocked the crosswalk by proceeding into the intersection before he could clear it. You make it seem like that is not careless.

    Do you blame the trains when they hit cars that get stuck on the tracks by starting to cross before it’s clear?

  • Greg

    This is what we need in SF is MORE peds running across the street everywhere – the 2,567/day crossing Mission mid-block isn’t enough. Let’s encourage more by removing the (totally unenforced) law entirely. That will reduce ped deaths.

  • Dave Moore

    Eliminate their ability to make bad choices

    See: Precrime (Minority Report)
    See: Thoughtcrime (1984)

  • murphstahoe

    I see – “No Right on Red” = totalitarianism.

    Godwin would be pleased.

  • Eliza

    Drivers in san francisco frequently do not wait until there is enough room to clear the intersection including both crosswalks. As a result, they often get stuck in the middle of the intersection causing gridlock and the anger and weaving of cars coming from the cross street. Or, the driver blocks all or part of the crosswalk causing cars and pedestrians to weave around each other. Drivers who wait for the crossswalks to clear are honked at routinely.

    Pedestrians start to cross when there is only a second or two left on the countdown and most drivers to their credit do wait, but. I always wonder why the pedestrian wants to tempt fate. It is dangerous enough crossing the street even if you are following all the rules and watching in all directions.

    I would like to see traffic engineers design a more effective intersection. In the meantime, sfpd could put a traffic cop on foot at the most dangerous intersections. Isn ‘t blocking an intersection including the crosswalks a traffic violation?

  • Greg

    Or you wait for space to clear in your car (like you’re suppose to), space becomes available for you, you go and then cars switch lanes in the middle of the intersection in front of you and take the space, now your space is gone and you’re in the middle of the intersection when the light turns red.

  • jonobate

    All trucks in Europe have flat-faced cabs like the one above, rather than than the pointy-nosed cabs common in the US. It’s only just occured to me that this is probably due to safety legislation to ensure pedestrian visibility.

  • Dave Moore

    Godwin would be pleased
    You made the final jump, not me.

    As mentioned elsewhere, getting rid of right on red doesn’t deal with right on green, which has all the same problems. It might even make it worse as people pile up to make the right with fewer safe opportunities. There are a couple of intersections (Montgomery & Bush for example) that hold the no pedestrian cross for the routes that have a right on red and then give a full pedestrian walk as a separate cycle. Those seem to work pretty well, although I see pedestrians violate the no walk if cars are at a stop.

    Another approach would be to take away some of the right turns from cars at certain times of day entirely. People not familiar with the rules would break them of course (as would some who know exactly what they’re doing).

  • Andy Chow

    You should know that traffic can suddenly slow to a halt whenever someone finds a parking spot and tries to do parallel parking, double parking, or when a Muni bus is serving a stop and the whole bus has not pulled all the way into the bus stop. You stop wherever you can to prevent hitting the vehicle in front of you.

    As for rail-auto crossings, the gate crossings provide 30 seconds or longer warning and the lights that are next to the tracks give green to clear the crossing.

  • murphstahoe

    Don’t excuse incompetent driving.

  • murphstahoe

    Andy – you know full well that there are numerous examples of cars who made it onto the tracks and were blocked from clearing them long before the gate went down, and were summarily creamed by a train. If you can’t clear the intersection of tracks – you do not enter them. Period

  • murphstahoe

    If our drivers and peds PROVE they cannot handle a shared green because they keep piling into each other, we take that choice away with a dedicated pedestrian cycle. QED. This is not taking away rights a la 1984, this is adjusting to human factors. No different than say, 15 MPH limits in school zones.

  • @Dave Moore – The barricades were another of Giuliani’s dumb ideas. Their overall effect is to encourage motorists to speed. Not all of them were officially removed.

  • Dave Moore

    Do you have something that shows that? All I could find was that they a) didn’t work b) lowered pedestrian usage on some blocks and c) resulted in more jaywalking. Nothing about increased speeding. But maybe there’s another citation about it.

    http://transalt.org/files/news/magazine/041Winter/15barricades.html

  • Eliza

    Shared greens do not seem to working anyplace with a lot of foot traffic aka cities. I have observed the dedicated pedestrian cycle work well and not so well. In holland, the cycles are quick so no one waits for a long time. In boston, pedestrians ignore the lights almost completely. When we visited, it took a while to figure out that there was an all pedestrian go cycle in all directions but you had to wait a very long time for it. As a result pedestrians seemed to cross whenever they felt like it was safe. Often, there would be a long wait even though there were no cars in sight. I suspect that everyone complies with the lights more when they are quick, but that only works when there are pedestrian refuge islands or narrower streets for those who are unable to get across quickly.

  • Andy Chow

    You can’t equate a rail crossing with a crosswalk. The amount of engineering and infrastructure that put in place to reduce train-auto collision risks are far greater than any regular street intersection. Trains can run at a much higher speed than any of the streets in the area and they can’t stop quickly nor steer around obstacles.

    Since you brought it up, why shouldn’t the trains run at a lower speed (trains = car, car = pedestrians) so that if some car driver has decided to enter the crossing for whatever reason and got hit (similar to jaywalking), their injuries would be less severe? Aren’t we blaming the victim by suggesting that cars should never entered a lowered gate crossing? Shouldn’t the rail right of way be open to anyone and allow people to cross anywhere like the street should be?

  • Chris J.

    There are so many examples of bad driver behavior in SF but this doesn’t seem like one of them.

    But in how many of those examples was a woman killed? If we as a city are serious about Vision Zero, then this incident is worth talking about because we are trying to eliminate deaths. With respect to this incident, at least when it comes to cars, I’m having trouble coming up with any scenario in which I could accelerate from a stopped position with my eyes on the road and kill a woman who is walking.

  • iamjared

    We, as a city, aren’t serious about anything. We’re serious about telling everyone they can have whatever they want. Then we do nothing.

  • Greg

    So you think he saw here standing there in front of his truck and just plowed her over?! You can’t come up with a scenario other than that?

  • Chris J.

    No, I’m saying I can’t come up with a scenario where someone driving responsibly would run someone over like that (at least when driving a car where visibility is greater). If someone is distracted (e.g. by texting or looking at the person next to them) while accelerating, then yes, something like this can happen.

  • cherylmeril

    The police are useless in this city with a few exceptions. She was likely so elderly she needed more time to cross and the evil demonic police officers could care less.

  • FL

    Who said these trucks are cheap? Ignorance at its best again. These can cost $100,000+. You think every concrete company can afford to scrap their fleet and buy a new fleet because you say so? Unbelieveable.

    The truck shown above still has blind spots that are just as bad. Driver still can’t see a pedestrian in front of them. Oh wait, let’s ban this too. Then we should ban buses. Ugh.

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