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Bay Area Drivers Rarely Charged for Pedestrian Accidents, Report Finds

Drivers who strike pedestrians in the Bay Area rarely face criminal charges, even when they are at fault, according to a recent report. An analysis conducted by the non-profit Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that less than half of all drivers who hit pedestrians in the Bay Area are ever charged with a crime. Furthermore, CIR found, those who are charged rarely face serious penalties if convicted.

Few Charged, Fewer Punished

In its analysis, CIR examined thousands of Bay Area police and court records spanning a five-year period. Of 238 drivers found to be at fault or suspected of a crime in relation to traffic accidents, only 40 percent faced criminal charges. Among those who did face charges, the punishments they received were often minor.

According to the CIR analysis, less than 60 percent of drivers facing criminal charges for pedestrian accidents had their driver’s licenses revoked or suspended – even for a single day. In contrast, drivers arrested for DUI in California face automatic suspension of driving privileges. And while people convicted of accidental shootings in California often face lengthy prison sentences, only 13 drivers in the study were sentenced to more than a year in jail. Forty percent of convicted drivers spent no more than one day in jail.

One in Four Traffic Deaths is a Pedestrian

According to a 2011 report by Transportation for America, pedestrian fatalities made up more than 25 percent of all Bay Area traffic fatalities over the past decade. Only New York and Los Angeles had higher rates of pedestrian deaths in the United States. Approximately one in three pedestrians killed in the Bay Area between 2007 and 2011 were in a crosswalk at the time of the collision, according to another CIR analysis – a rate three times higher than the national average. Furthermore, Bay Area fatalities increased nearly 40 percent from 2010 to 2011.

Speed is one of the biggest factors affecting pedestrian accidents and the severity of any injuries that may result. According to a study conducted in 2010 by the London Department for Transport, a pedestrian’s chances of being killed by a vehicle traveling at 40 miles per hour are five times higher than if he or she were struck by a car traveling at 30 miles per hour. Correspondingly, a majority of traffic deaths in the U.S. occur on roads with posted speed limits of 40 miles per hour or above, according to TFA.

Compensation for Injured Pedestrians

California law provides that drivers who negligently injure or kill pedestrians can be held liable in civil court for the damage they cause, even if no criminal charges result from the crash. People who have been injured or lost a family member in a California pedestrian accident should speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer to learn about the possibility of seeking compensation for their lost income, medical expenses and other harm resulting from the crash.

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