Bay Area drivers face few consequences in pedestrian deaths

May 23, 2013

Most drivers who kill pedestrians in the Bay Area are never charged, even when they are found to be at fault, an analysis by the Center for Investigative Reporting reveals. And the drivers who are charged face light punishments at best.

Over the last five years, 434 pedestrians have been killed by cars in the five major Bay Area counties. Two hundred thirty eight drivers were found to be at fault in the accidents. But the majority of those drivers never faced any charges. And for those charged and convicted, punishments were usually light. Over half never had their licenses revoked, even for a day, which is standard in DUI cases.

An article in The Bay Citizen states that possible causes for this low rate of charging and conviction include early legal efforts by the automobile industry to pass jaywalking laws and reduce punishments in the 1930s, and the fact that unlike autos or even bicyclists, pedestrians don’t have a strong lobbying group.

But perhaps the biggest obstacle preventing a punishment in a pedestrian death is the jury. The Bay Area district attorneys interviewed for the Bay Citizen article said that often, they won’t press charges because they know a jury would never convict. San Mateo District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe told The Bay Citizen that jurors picture themselves as the drivers. “They’re all thinking, ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’ ”

To read more on the analysis of the consequences for pedestrian deaths in the Bay Area, go to the article from The Bay Citizen here.