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Lack of police action over pedestrian injury poses a major concern

Posted on Friday, February 24th, 2012

An incident last week in which a man using a crosswalk was hospitalized after being hit by a shuttle bus only served to exacerbate feelings that when it comes to pedestrians getting hit, police are reluctant to take action against drivers…even when the driver is clearly at fault.

Video footage of the collision shows that the victim was using the crosswalk—with the walk signal illuminated—when a transit van making a right turn ran him over. However, because the driver stayed at the scene and was “cooperative,” an SFPD spokesperson said police determined it was just, “an unfortunate traffic collision.”

While you can hardly dispute that it was indeed unfortunate, trying to spin this collision as an unavoidable accident is ridiculous and irresponsible. According to one eye witness, the driver of the van was impatiently blowing the horn “trying to rush the next car” to turn right despite pedestrian traffic. As soon as the vehicle in front made their turn, the shuttle van followed suit, trying to “squeeze through the same space as the Ford Escort. Unsuccessfully.”

Thanks to efforts from the pedestrian advocacy group Walk SF, including emails to the police department, the Mayor, the District Attorney, and the Municipal Transportation Agency, the driver is now being cited for failing to yield to a pedestrian in the crosswalk. Ultimately, it will be up to the DA to determine how the driver will be charged.

Elizabeth Stampe, Executive Director of Walk SF highlighted the importance of enforcing laws on behalf of pedestrian safety, saying “This video is shocking. You can see how dangerous a driver’s impatience really is. Everyone I know has stories of cars that fail to yield when they’re crossing the street. Here we see how deadly that can be. Dangerous driving has been tolerated for too long. There has got to be a penalty.”

The incident in San Francisco seems somewhat reminiscent of a pedestrian accident in Seattle last year where a jogger who’d been hit by a semi truck was mocked by police officers and told, “That’s why you drive a car!” while laying injured at the scene. Obviously the SFPD didn’t respond in quite so callous a fashion, but the lack of even a citation for the driver still highlights a disturbing trend of emphasizing vehicles over pedestrians.

As a pedestrian, there’s a reasonable expectation that if you’re in a crosswalk with the walk sign illuminated you’re going to be safe. When a driver insists on endangering the lives of others so they can shave a few seconds off their drive time, it’s up to the police to enforce the law. You can call it “an unfortunate traffic collision” all you want, but that doesn’t change the fact that this was the result of criminally dangerous driving and the person responsible needs to be held accountable.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nathaninsandiego/3896034137/


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