(Courtesy SFPD)

SFPD finds drivers to blame for majority of pedestrian deaths in 2019

Police found that drivers were at fault for two-thirds of the 18 pedestrian deaths in San Francisco last year, according to a newly released report.

The report, which is scheduled to be presented to the Police Commission late Wednesday, shows that drivers allegedly caused 12 pedestrian fatalities as well as the death of a bicyclist in 2019.

In all but one of those 12 cases, which is still pending, police concluded that the involved driver violated a section of the vehicle code.

“There are simply too many vehicles operating with too little regard for our pedestrians and cyclists,” said Police Commissioner John Hamasaki. “We must do better.”

Hamasaki noted that 29 people died in traffic fatalities in 2019, while in the same year The City experienced a record low of 41 homicides.

“As violent crime has fallen to record lows, we need to look at reallocating resources to address the danger on our streets,” Hamasaki said.

The total count of traffic deaths for 2019 included seven drivers, two passengers and one motorcyclist in addition to 18 pedestrians and one bicyclist.

Police concluded that drivers caused 72 percent of the total fatalities, while six pedestrians were found to be at fault for their own deaths.

Of the 12 drivers found to be at fault for pedestrian deaths, eight allegedly failed to yield to a pedestrian at a crosswalk or intersection.

One driver, who fatally struck an 84-year-old woman in the Haight on Jan. 1, 2019, allegedly failed to yield the right of way — possibly while exiting an alley.

And in the March 2019 death of a 58-year-old in the Tenderloin, police found the driver failed to exercise due care for the pedestrian despite her being outside of a crosswalk.

Lastly, police concluded the alleged hit-and-run driver who struck a 59-year-old man near the Alice Griffith housing project last August failed to stop at a red light while speeding.

As for the pedestrians at fault, some were found to have crossed against a red light or a “don’t walk” sign.

One pedestrian, a popular skateboarder killed by a dump truck in South of Market last April, is believed to have been holding onto a vehicle in the roadway in violation of the vehicle code.

And the driver who fatally doored a woman riding a bicycle in South of Market last March was found to be at fault for the incident.

Police did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday seeking details on which cases resulted in citations.

But Alex Bastian, a spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office, said prosecutors filed vehicular homicide cases in connection with 11 pedestrian deaths last year.

In a 12th case involving a pedestrian death, the office filed a motion to revoke probation but no additional charges against the driver.

Vehicular homicide could include a range of possible charges from misdemeanor manslaughter to murder.

Some traffic cases, in particular those charged as misdemeanors, are known to be hard to prove at trial.

Last week, a jury acquitted a woman of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter for fatally striking a woman who was using a poorly positioned crosswalk in the Excelsior in March 2017.

The Public Defender’s Office has called the collision a “tragic accident.”

San Francisco has a Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic fatalities by 2024.

The program calls for police to focus on issuing five types of citations for the leading causes of collisions, including for speeding, failing to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk and running red lights.

The report shows that police met that goal in 2019, with 50 percent of all 42,971 citations issued last year being for “Focus on the Five” violations.

However, police issue significantly fewer citations in all of last year than the 50,895 issued in 2018, when the department fell short of its goal.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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