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No charges for person who killed man walking his dog in a Kirkland crosswalk

Kyle Warnick. Photo from his Twitter account.
Kyle Warnick. Photo from his Twitter account.

Prosecutors for the City of Kirkland will not pursue any charges against the woman who struck and killed Kyle Warnick while he walked his dog in a city crosswalk September 15. He was 43.

On a YouCaring page, family members describe Warnick as a story teller:

Kyle was one of a kind.  His love for life was . . . well simply amazing! He embraced all aspects of life.  Kyle loved to weave a good story.  He was a true “Story Teller” and used his story telling talent in most everything he did from presentations at Microsoft to sitting around a campfire at a boys scout outing.

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Kyle always had a smile as wide as the sky and when he laughed, it was truly contagious so we all joined in.  He was one that didn’t mind putting himself out there just to make others smile and laugh.  We shall miss Kyle dearly and will remember him always.  We will see his essence in many things that we say and do.  We ask for continuous prayers for all who have been touched by Kyle.

Our deepest condolences to his friends and family.

Even though the woman driving, who was 57 at the time, failed to yield to Warnick while he was walking his dog in a crosswalk, prosecutors declined to pursue the Negligent Driving charges created by the state’s Vulnerable User Law because “while a very tragic accident occurred, the City does not believe that we can prove Ms. [REDACTED] failed to exercise ordinary care or acted in a manner that a reasonably careful person would not have under the same or similar circumstances,” according to a letter to investigators by Blakeley Warbinton, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney.

The reason the prosecutor couldn’t possibly prove negligence?

“She indicated she never saw the pedestrian.”

Diagram from the police report.
Collision diagram from the police report.

Of course, it is her responsibility to see other road users before running into them and killing them, and failure to do so seems like cut-and-dry negligence. If she had seen him in the crosswalk and chose to kill him anyway, we would be talking about felony Vehicular Homicide charges right now.

Investigators say she was making a left turn from NE 144th St to 119th Pl NE when “something unknown hit her windshield.” She stopped, throwing Warnick 15 or 20 feet to the pavement. This does not appear to be a particularly confusing or unusual three-way stop intersection (this post on the blog A View From The Crosswalk has a good on-the-ground look at the intersection and how the collision happened). But if people can be so easily killed without anyone being legally at fault, something is terribly wrong.

Investigators reenacted the circumstances using a similar Toyota Prius at a similar time of day and determined that “it was difficult to see the pedestrian due to the “A” pillar of the Toyota.” Even though we all learn in driver’s ed class that it is our responsibility to check our blind spots, the prosecutor used this vehicle blind spot as further reason to believe that there was not enough evidence to pursue Negligent Driving charges.

Remember, Negligent Driving in the Second Degree is not a felony crime. It was designed for situations exactly like this one, where someone makes a traffic error that has a horrendous impact on a more vulnerable road user. The penalties could be fines or a suspended license or driver education or community service, and the mix is essentially up to the sentencing judge. The law was designed to make sure there is at least some consequence for killing or seriously injuring someone on the roads, even if the person responsible did not commit a much more serious crime like Vehicular Homicide or Assault.

But the prosecutor is basically saying that any reasonably careful person would have killed Kyle if they were in her driver’s seat, or at least that the prosecutor does not have enough proof to pursue a charge alleging otherwise. Here’s how the prosecutor outlines the issue in a letter to investigating officers:

RCW 46.61.525(2) defines “negligent” as “failure to exercise ordinary care, and is the doing of some act that a reasonably careful person would not do under the same or similar circumstances…” Based on the police reports and our conversations regarding the investigation completed by you and the Kirkland Police Department, we would not be able to prove that Ms. [REDACTED] failed to exercise ordinary care.

So in this prosecutor’s eyes, breaking the law requiring people to yield to crosswalk users is not itself proof of negligence. This implies that reasonably careful people are allowed to break this vital traffic safety law, which protects the exact “vulnerable users” the Negligent Driving charge is intended to address. This is a disturbing reading of the law, but one we have sadly seen before.

Prosecutors also declined to pursue Negligent Driving charges against the person responsible for striking and killing Caleb Shoop in a Kenmore crosswalk in March 2014. Attorney (and Seattle Bike Blog sponsor) John Duggan wrote a letter to the City of Kenmore arguing, “While Mr. Tucker may claim that he did not see Caleb, he should have seen Caleb…”

What needs to change in order for the intent of the Vulnerable User Law to go into effect? It seems clear to me and attorneys like Duggan that a road violation like “Failure to Yield” is itself evidence of negligence, yet two prosecutors in neighboring cities have declined to pursue such cases. Do cities just need more training on how to use it, or do we need to adjust the wording of the law? Because this process only makes a terrifyingly painful situation worse for victims or, in the worst cases, their surviving family and friends.

I cannot imagine how terrible and unjust it must feel to lose a loved one, then be told that the person responsible won’t even have their license suspended or have to go to traffic school or do community service or pay a fine. Nothing.

We’re not talking about jail time here or requiring people to reveal felony convictions to employers or anything that tough. We’re just talking about some consequence and a chance for the person responsible to begin to pay their debt to society. I think many responsible people, traumatized by what they did, might even welcome a chance to start paying that back. I don’t imagine it feels very good to “get away” with killing someone.

A broken Vulnerable User Law system — whether it’s the fault of the prosecutors or the law wording itself — is not helping anyone.

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58 responses to “No charges for person who killed man walking his dog in a Kirkland crosswalk”

  1. Joseph Singer

    So, what this means is that the vulnerable user law will not be enforced. Are we going to blame the “unfortunate” victim now?

    1. Cheif

      Not only that but we’re apparently going to protect poor “Ms. [REDACTED]” for the sad circumstance that she just happened to be a part of. Aka murder.

  2. Josh

    What’s needed is an amendment to the law, explicitly removing the prosecutors’ excuses here. Put the onus on the driver to prove that they exercised due care and hit the pedestrian anyway. Was the pedestrian wearing a ninja suit at night? Did the pedestrian run into the roadway too close for the driver to stop? For example,

    RCW 46.61.235

    (1) The operator of an approaching vehicle shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian or bicycle to cross the roadway within an unmarked or marked crosswalk when the pedestrian or bicycle is upon or within one lane of the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or onto which it is turning. For purposes of this section “half of the roadway” means all traffic lanes carrying traffic in one direction of travel, and includes the entire width of a one-way roadway. Any collision between a vehicle and a pedestrian legally within a crosswalk shall create a rebuttable presumption that the operator of the vehicle failed to comply with this section.

    1. Josh

      Ooops, didn’t realize seattlebikeblog disabled underlining… Proposed addition in italics since underlining doesn’t work:

      RCW 46.61.235

      (1) The operator of an approaching vehicle shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian or bicycle to cross the roadway within an unmarked or marked crosswalk when the pedestrian or bicycle is upon or within one lane of the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or onto which it is turning. For purposes of this section “half of the roadway” means all traffic lanes carrying traffic in one direction of travel, and includes the entire width of a one-way roadway. Any collision between a vehicle and a pedestrian legally within a crosswalk shall create a rebuttable presumption that the operator of the vehicle failed to comply with this section.

    2. Joseph Singer

      As a bicyclist I’ve only had a handful of drivers stop for me when crossing an intersection either riding or walking my bike. I dare say that a good number of motorists in Seattle do not know traffic regulations. I see lots of cars who want to make a right turn *park* in the crosswalk blocking the crosswalk and the curb ramp. Police *never* enforce this. For that matter police do not seem to enforce lots of traffic laws. Lots of motorists make a turn signal as they are making the turn!

      1. Kirk

        Police don’t enforce ANY traffic laws, as far as I can see. Last fall, I was on my bike and pulled up behind a car fully over the stop line and fully blocking the crosswalk, so pedestrians were walking around it in traffic. A police car pulled up next to me and behind the car in the crosswalk. It was a nice day and the policeman had his windows down. I took this opportunity to point out to the policeman the car that was blocking the crosswalk. The policeman said to me “so what?” The police don’t care. What I wonder is, how do they have the authority to observe people breaking the law and not enforce it? Do individual policemen just have the ability to only enforce the laws they want to enforce? Or is there a directive to not enforce certain laws?

  3. Rob

    Typical East Side pro-car culture b.s. What a shame that it’s still okay to murder people in Kirkland as long as you do it with that most American weapon of all weapons, your car. Smh.

    1. Kirk

      And yet, if she had hit another CAR in that intersection, horrors! She would have been facing a bevy of citations and liability.

      1. Often not citations, but certainly liability, which she may also face here.

  4. Peri Hartman

    Not only is the driver negligent but the auto manufacturers are, too. As structural requirements have improved, the manufacturers have been making bulkier and bulkier A pillars. These pillars – and I can attest with my vehicle – severely block visibility to the front left and to a lesser degree front right.

    We will see more and more of these “accidents” in the future as more people get new cars unless the manufacturers figure out a better solution.

    The problem occurs because, with thicker A pillars and more sloping windshields, the blind spot is moved further forward. This means that instead of being blind at, say, a 45 degree angle off your left, you’re blind at a 20 degree angle. That can obscure an entire crosswalk!

    One solution is to bring the A pillars back. This would require a significant esthetic change and some additional engineering, I’m sure. To keep he highly sloped windshield, it would have to curve around at the ends to meet the pillars instead of being the relatively flat shape currently used.

    Maybe a class action lawsuit would help encourage them to get started?

    1. Lionel

      I agree with Peri. When purchasing a new car, I always look for the thinnest A pillar possible precisely out of concern for dead angles at intersections. Very few cars allow for good angle visibility.
      The problem is acute in city driving. Small light cars designed for slow speed driving in cities should afford better visibility.

    2. jt

      I agree about the need to change car designs, though of course this should do nothing to absolve the killer of guilt for at least negligence here. I drive an ’08 Honda Civic and it also has a giant “A” pillar blocking my view about 30 degrees left of forward. Which is exactly why I always proceed more slowly and lean forward to check around the pillar when I’m making a left turn like that. It’s just common sense to check blind spots, as Tom said.

  5. Wes

    I ride through this intersection many days on my commute home. The way people treat that intersection and bikes/pedestrians in that general area is quite poor but that’s a discussion for a different time.

    I will say that I’ve never seen police enforcing speed or stop sign laws in that area when I ride and the only time I’ve seen a police presence in that area at all was the day that Kyle was killed (I rode by the scene about 30 min after it happened).

    So very sad. :(

  6. don

    what are the full names and the address of the Kirkland DA. perhaps we should write letters of our unhappiness. Seems like they just don’t care.


  7. Jeffrey J. Early

    I’m of two minds on this: on the one hand, we do need to start holding people responsible for correctly operating a motor vehicle, but on the other hand, prosecuting only when there’s a consequence is a very asymmetric application of the law.

    What I mean by this is that drivers talk on the phone, speed, run red lights, fail to yield for pedestrians, and drive in the shoulder every day–and yet 99.999…..% of those cases have no legal or physical consequence simply because police officers either ignore/didn’t witness the infraction or nobody got hurt (for one reason or another). This is a very clear message to drivers that this kind of behavior is acceptable. But what’s worse, is that it actually trains drivers to behave in that manner, whether is cutting the shoulder on a corner or racing to beat a red light.

    What feels so asymmetric about this is that we (as a society) spend so long implicitly training people to be bad drivers, but then when something does go wrong we get righteous about their driving.

    Don’t take this to mean that I don’t think the driver shouldn’t haven’t been prosecuted—she should have. I just wish that we start applying the laws/rules BEFORE someone dies. Like start ticketing every jerk who runs a red light–forever changing that behavior would save several thousand lives each year.

    1. Jeff

      For red lights, we tried to train people by installing cameras that ticketed everyone who ran the red light. Sure it was mainly to increase revenue but it was an easy fee to avoid: just don’t run any red lights. In short order most city governments heard from drivers who didn’t like having to obey the law and they removed the cameras. Listening to my coworkers’ excuses about why they should be able to get away with running reds was pretty entertaining. Now they don’t have to worry, the city removed the cameras.

      The point Peri made about the design of the pillars in current cars is accurate. Windshields sloping far forward are bad for visibility. My car suffers the same problem and I have been surprised by pedestrians hiding behind the pillar. I have trained myself to look around the pillar carefully when turning across a crosswalk. You might call that “exercising ordinary care.”

      1. Jeffrey J. Early

        Yeah, I agree with the pillar issue for sure—it’s a problem in our current car as well.

        I’ve often thought cars should be rated with a ‘visibility index’ of some sort, where you measure what percentage of the surface of the surrounding sphere is visible to the driver. I ended up with a Dodge ¿Charger? once that had such poor driver visibility I’m convinced it shouldn’t have been street legal.

    2. Kirk

      This is my thought too. I am completely fed up with the complete lack of enforcement of any traffic laws. I would love to see a traffic enforcement division of the Seattle Police Department (and other jurisdictions) set up to solely enforce traffic laws. This division could easily be self funded by the traffic tickets it writes. There are certainly plenty of volunteers…

      1. Josh

        Unfortunately, the way citation revenues are distributed under Washington law, it can be quite difficult to make traffic enforcement self-sustaining. The state gets a large share of ticket revenue, other moneys are funneled to address the impact of driving offenses, there are local court costs, etc.

        To some extent, that’s intentional — we don’t want local police agencies to become the sort of corrupt revenue-driven speed-traps that make news in other states. Too much focus on revenue drives quotas that force officers to write the easiest tickets quickly, rather than focus on the highest risks.

        You can see stories of that with red light cameras, too — while it’s prohibited under Washington law, in other states, some cities have shortened the yellow interval of traffic lights with cameras to increase revenue.

        I have no doubt stronger traffic enforcement is a net public good, but as things stand now, it’s a public good that city council members have to pay for by cutting spending elsewhere. That’s the message they need to hear — that safety is a high enough priority to deserve that level of funding.

  8. Tom

    Just remember kids: If you want to murder someone and get away with it, just run them over with your car!

    Pro tip: Close your eyes at the last second so you can honestly say “I didn’t see ’em!”

    1. Southeasterner

      Unless you’re black and live in LA…


      Suge Knight – arrested and thrown in jail

      “Blatt told ABC News that Knight did not realize he had hit anyone. He added that authorities are looking for witnesses and video of the incident.”

      Unknown Kirkland Woman – free to go

      “She indicated she never saw the pedestrian.”

  9. SGG

    When you operate a motor vehicle, it is your main responsibility to “see” what is around you. This includes other traffic, and pedestrians in the crosswalk. Operating a motor vehicle, and “not seeing” hazards around you is negligence of this responsibility, and is not example of behavior that we should expect of all other drivers.

    If I choose to discharge a firearm, it is my responsibility to do so in a safe place, and in a safe manner. “Not seeing” someone who may be harmed is similarly negligence in my opinion.

    When will people operating a motor vehicle be held to a reasonable standard of responsibility? The problem seems to be that “not seeing” people has no consequences, therefore, people develop habits that don’t emphasize the importance of “seeing” everything around.

  10. Greg

    I’m going to take what may be an unpopular stance, given the prevailing anti driver sentiment. I have this model of car, and in my opinion the investigators likely made the proper call and if fault is assigned in this individual’s death, it is Toyota’s. The “A” pillar in the Prius is so massive that it can completely block a pedestrian from view, and unfortunately our sophisticated ocular system fills in the space so we don’t read it as a blind spot (the A pillar is the one that goes between the windshield and the front window). What I’m saying is that it is not a conscious blind spot, it is an unconscious blind spot, and thus incredibly dangerous. If everything lines up just right (or wrong, actually), i.e. the pedestrian starts out in the line of the A pillar while the motorist is turning and the pedestrian is walking, the pedestrian remains essentially invisible. This happened to me, thankfully in a low speed intersection in Seattle. I slammed on the brakes and got a hateful stare from the pedestrian (literally at my fender) who obviously believed I was an inattentive driver, but the fact is I had just spotted her at that moment for the first time.
    I have spoken with other Prius drivers who have complained about this issue and everyone agrees it is a huge negative. Now that I know about it I’m usually able to override the instinct, but not always. The fact is Toyota has implemented a design feature that is a hazard.

    1. Cheif

      If you’re driving around in a car you know limits your ability to see the world around you, you should be in jail too.

      1. Greg

        I don’t understand your point, all cars limit our ability to see the world around us to one degree or another. My point was that many Prius drivers don’t realize the A pillar issue exists until the first revealing event. Before that, the human vision system compensates for the impediment in its field of view.

        The problem is that first “event” could be tragic. I definitely think Toyota should be doing outreach on this issue for existing customers and working on new design approaches in the future.

    2. Patrick

      I think it can be true that the car has an unusually large blind spot (and human nature being what it is, one that is difficult for the driver to notice) and still be negligence if you hit someone. My SUV has large blind spots on the side but if I sideswipe someone changing lanes that’s on me.

    3. Kirk

      So you are now aware that your car has a serious design flaw and is not safe. What will you do about it? Destroy your car and get a car that is safe to drive? Or continue to drive your unsafe car knowing that no matter how negligent you are and no matter how many people you kill, you will get off without prosecution, because you can now site this case.

    4. Completely disagree. Just because some investigators make a note that a car has a blind spot and that it’s “hard” to see into it doesn’t mean that drivers doesn’t have a responsibility to look where they’re going. Every car ever built has blind spots. A blind spot in a mostly forward direction that you’re turning in should be painfully obvious to a driver, and charging ahead directly into it, across a crosswalk, at a speed that doesn’t give you time to react to a person that comes out of the blind spot and into view as you turn into him is a really irresponsible thing to do.

      Our state legislature, auto-afflicted body that it is, has yet reaffirmed through the VUL that it intends the law to hold drivers to a standard of caution. Still police and prosecutors ignore them. So we don’t even get to hear a judge rule for the world (or the state at least) whether charging full-steam into an obvious blind spot meets a reasonable person’s standard of responsible behavior.

    5. pete.d

      Even a design defect in the vehicle does not in any way relieve the driver of their duty to drive safely and (as WA State motor vehicle code has always required, even before the vulnerable user law was passed) with regard for the safety of others.

      If you can’t see where your vehicle is going, then stop the vehicle and don’t proceed until you can see where you are going. Period.

      It is a travesty that the driver in this case, and in the case of John Przychodzen (cyclist killed by a motorist in Kirkland a few years earlier), was not charged under our vehicular homicide law. That a driver could strike and kill any person who themselves was exactly where the law and roadway markings indicate they should be, and yet that driver is thought to have still been driving with regard for the safety of others is just plain absurd.

      But not surprising. This is, in fact, the same police department that just a couple of weeks ago put forth to me a vigorous defense in favor of motorists using a bike lane as a travel lane in lieu of the actual, marked motor vehicle lane. I don’t know if these guys are just plain lazy, willing to put in more effort to avoid having to enforce the law than to actually do so, or if they are really just this moronic. But either way, it creates an environment in which motorists get to drive as carelessly as they want (unless of course they are under the influence…that’s too obvious a transgression for even these bums to ignore), kill whomever they want and get away with it.

  11. Thanks for bringing this case some more visibility, Tom. It’s so horrible for so many reasons, and those of us fighting the good fight here on the Eastside are feeling pretty defeated right about now.

    1. Kirk

      Yes, Tom, thank you. I was not aware of this tragedy, but now that I am, I am just really pissed off. It adds to the Caleb Shoop tragedy. These will keep adding up. This bullshit has to stop.

  12. Kirk

    Regarding blind spots in general, truck drivers use this bullshit excuse all the time. If a vehicle has a blind spot, if the operator of a vehicle cannot see sufficiently to operate the vehicle safely, then that vehicle cannot be allowed on the road.

    1. No vehicle lets the driver see out in every direction all the time. Big trucks use mirrors to cover the major ones. There are some problems with overly large trucks that sweep unexpectedly over sidewalks and bike lanes in cities when they turn right. Mostly trucks’ blind spots are predictable and their behavior is pretty predictable, too. You can usually avoid being in a truck’s blind spot — it’s something everyone learns, whether they remember it or not.

      The problem in this case with the Prius is a driver problem. If the driver never saw the person in the crosswalk, who would have been moving across her field of vision throughout the process of the turn, then she was doing too much accelerating and not enough scanning, end of story. That’s how these sorts of collisions happen, blind spots or no, and when they do, people find excuses for the driver. And there’s nothing that you can do to avoid being hit this way. You can’t just stay out of the “blind spot”, it’s the whole crosswalk!

      Of course then there are the “Ducks”, which have significant blind spots (mostly right in front of them at short distances) and drivers distracted by their job of being a tour guide. That’s worth banning from the road. Trucks are economically important, conspicuous, and can be handled safely by truckers’ use of mirrors and everyone else following simple rules about avoiding the blind spot. Priuses are mostly normal cars, and can be handled safely if drivers approach intersections safely — and drivers truly ought to be held to this standard!

  13. […] Another case of a innocent pedestrian killed and no action being taken against the driver. Read more on the Seattle Bike Blog. […]

  14. Peri Hartman

    Did I wrongly assume this happened in Kirkland, Wash. or did it happen in Kirkland, Texas. Not that pedestrians shouldn’t have a right to life there, either.

    1. Kirk

      Seeing how the City of Kirkland is in Washington, that the Revised Code of Washington is cited, and that Kirkland Texas is a ghost town, we can safely conclude that this tragedy was in Kirkland Washington.

  15. Dorothy Neville

    She was turning left after a full stop, yes? So I don’t get how she could have been traveling with enough speed to have as much of an impact as she did. What speed would she have had to be going to have thrown someone fifteen feet?

    1. thrig

      Really depends on the launch angle, with lower launch angles requiring higher velocities to cover the 4.5 meters. Something like 9 m/s (20 mph) given a launch angle of 15 degrees, or 16 m/s (close to 36 mph) for a launch angle of 5 degrees. Discounting, of course, air resistance, details of the collision, value of the mostly survivable carhell we’ve created, etc.

  16. jay

    “I think many responsible people, traumatized by what they did, might even welcome a chance to start paying that back. “

    Oh, I think she’ll get her chance at that!

    In a civil lawsuit the burden (preponderance of evidence) is much less than the “prove” the prosecutor didn’t think they could manage.

    Mr. Warnick was 43 (with a good 20 years left in his career), has at least 2 children (the YouCaring page refers to “boys”, plural) and he apparently worked in marketing at Microsoft (so a 6 figure income is plausible). Therefore I’d imagine a 7 figure lawsuit is probable, even with damn good insurance, one will notice a suit like that, and with poor insurance the consequences for the driver could be far worse than anything the vulnerable users law could impose (it’s not like a suspended license stops people from driving after all).

    One might think that a jury of her peers would be tempted to find in the drivers favor, but consider who the victim was, he wasn’t some “freeloading stoner bicyclist who’s too cheap to drive a car” this was a respectable family person (who no doubt owned a car or two) out walking his dog. It is one thing to not want to be held responsible if some reckless bicyclist, dressed in black at night with no lights runs a red light in front of the hypothetical juror, but almost every hypothetical juror has at one time or another has had to use a cross walk because they had to park across the street from their destination (or maybe even to walk their dog).

  17. jay

    Re: “according to a letter to investigators by Blakeley Warbinton, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney.”

    Did you notice the letter head on that letter?

    “Prosecutors also declined to pursue Negligent Driving charges against the person responsible for striking and killing Caleb Shoop in a Kenmore crosswalk in March 2014”

    Pure coincidence I’m sure !

    1. Adam

      Funny that.

      Note to everyone here: Try not to get killed while out walking in Kenmore, Kirkland, Woodinville, or Shoreline. With Moberly and Roberts on the case the murderer will likely get off scot-free.

      The Woodinville City Council approved $104,000 over two years for their services as prosecuting attorneys.

      Shoreline pays them $159,892/yr.

      Kenmore pays them $123,624/yr.

      They serve as prosecuting attorneys for Kirkland (as we see in this case). I came up empty-handed with a cursory search for how much Kirkland pays them to turn a blind eye to people being violently killed.

      These contracts approved by the respective city councils, so if you find it unacceptable for negligent killers to be let off so easily, contact the city councils. Especially if you live within those jurisdictions.

      1. Cheif

        It’s not hard to avoid going into the burbs. What is really unfortunate is that those of us who live in the city pay taxes that go to fund suburban car culture, and that needs to change.

  18. khg

    I have a Prius too (I don’t know if it’s the same model as the driver’s) and though the A pillar certainly does obstruct the view, there’s a very easy way to deal with it. All I have to do is MOVE MY HEAD a few inches to one side and then to the other. Problem solved, no pedestrians killed to date.

    All assertions of blind spots seem to assume absolute immobility on the part of the driver–the only areas I truly can’t see are directly above me (no sun roof) and on the ground/low close to the car–everywhere else I can either see through my mirrors, or by the miracle of having a neck.

  19. […] man walking his dog is hit and killed in a Kirkland crosswalk. The driver who hit him isn’t charged with violating Washington’s Vulnerable User […]

  20. Peri Hartman

    Ok, can someone explain, legally, what’s going on here?

    – can the state attorney general override Kirkland’s decision if a state law is being violated?

    – how is this case different from, say, accidentally driving on a sidewalk and hitting someone?

    – assuming no law was violated, doesn’t the victim’s family have the right to sue for damages in civil court?

  21. Ben

    The implication in this decision is that the intersection in question is inherently unsafe. As such, shouldn’t this decision prompt changes to the traffic flow – for instance, leaving the light red when a pedestrian is crossing at the crosswalk? Moreover, if the intersection is left unchanged, shouldn’t that leave the city open to liability for any further accidents at this location?

    If the law essentially becomes “either the city or the driver is at fault” that would definitely increase the use of the law. (I’m not a lawyer, so I have no idea how practicable this would be.)

  22. Bill

    I thought the saying goes, “Guns don’t kill people, people do.” Change the word “guns” for “vehicles,” and the argument goes the other way. She’s negligent by any definition of the word; consequently there ought to be a price to pay. The judge and the prosecutor in there infinite legal and common sense wisdom are patently wrong.

    Back when I took driver’s education in high school (1960), we were taught that the pedestrian ALWAYS has the right-of-way. In the common sense of the word “always,” is that no longer the case? Are other vulnerable users of our right-of-ways in the wrong, then, no matter what?

  23. lawyer

    changing the wording of the law is a tough task. and it excuses the utter irresponsibility of the prosecutor here.

    what should happen is the elected prosecutor who let this happen, should not be reelected.

    what should also happen is a massive civil lawsuit. one reasonably foresees a ped in the crosswalk, indeed, anywhere on a road, and if your car has obstructions move your head slightly, to see around them. this was clearly negligence and what we have here is prosecutorial nullification of the criminal law. If I had this case I would sue and expect to win, a civil judgment, to the limit of insurance then over it and take the drivers’ house and assets and garnish wages for years.

    another way to address this is to jack up the required insurance, too often a driver doesn’t have any or has the minimum. putting a driver in jail for a few months isn’t that much of a deterrent and the burden of proof being higher in criminal cases I think we often need to look more on the civil side, or just treat this the way they’d do in Sweden and yank the license on the first report and make it near impossible to get it back.

    1. Josh

      City prosecutors in Washington generally aren’t elected officials, they’re either appointed city officials or private attorneys/firms contracted by the city. Feedback on the performance of the prosecutor in this case should be directed to the city council who ratifies the contract and pays the bills.

      The failure to prosecute a clear violation of the law does not prevent the victim’s family from pursuing civil damages, and this seems like the sort of case in which the insurance company could well offer to pay the limits of the policy to save legal costs, and send the driver a letter saying, “we’ve done our part, you’d better get your own lawyer to defend against the rest of the claim.”

      Very few drivers carry enough liability insurance to cover the wrongful death of a well-paid mid-career professional with children. If the victim’s family is lucky, the driver has a large enough umbrella liability policy to make meaningful restitution; if not, the family is left with a gaping financial hole while the driver faces loss of unprotected assets and a lifetime of garnished wages.

      That’s one of the huge economic externalities of our current transportation system — tens of thousands killed, millions injured, mostly be people whose insurance covers only a fraction of the damage they’ve done. (Washington’s minimum limits, $25,000 per person for bodily injury, don’t cover even a week of serious ICU care.) If you want a rough approximation of how much that underinsurance really costs, check your own car insurance for the price of your UM/UIM coverage. That’s how much you’re paying personally for the irresponsibility of the average motorist.

      1. lawyer

        thanks for the comment.

        everyone, it seems, including insurance companies, would have a stake in raising insurance that is required. I did a case with a TBI victim that got policy limit minus a hair and it was a few million dollars. the tiny amount required won’t even cover four months lost work plus 5 months of therapy or chiro for a person making some good coin. raising the required insurance would help victims and deter bad driving, also, by raising the cost to more approximate the true social cost, it would deter some driving. the guy buying a car for $1000 bucks, no spare tire, gets the minimum insurance.

        and the judges who let the noninsured sail through court month after month are elected. in kent one time on a speeding ticket, my bad, asked for mitigation, the judge let about 40 charged with driving without insurance get deferred and for most it was the 4th or 5th deferral, the judge saying “okay, you say you are trying to find work to be able to afford insurance? we will defer another month.” then dozens went out to the lot and got in their non insured cars and drove off. why does the judge do this? if she just gave them the $500 fine, most goes to the state. if they go into some diversion program, the county gets some $150 fee and the state nothing. and that fee supports the massive and inefficient court system we have that often doesn’t do the right thing.

        I bet every single member of cascade bike club can’t name one district court or muni court judge — or tell what his or her record is on bike related cases, or uninsured driver infractions. the auto hegemony is woven throughout our society; for example, we let cars speed basically at will up to 10 mph over. why? mayors and councils set this policy, and it’s up to us, to make them change.

      2. Josh

        “the auto hegemony is woven throughout our society; for example, we let cars speed basically at will up to 10 mph over. why? mayors and councils set this policy, and it’s up to us, to make them change.”

        Ticketing policy generally doesn’t make it up to Council or Mayor, it’s an internal police department issue unless electeds choose to adopt a policy on the matter.

        Likewise, courts have a large degree of constitutional leeway to set their own policies. Unless there’s a specific standard of evidence established in the law, the court can use its own judgement when deciding to believe a driver who says his speedometer was reading low and he wasn’t intentionally speeding.

        Police tend not to write citations as aggressively if they are likely to get thrown out — it’s a waste of their time and the city’s money.

        Sustained public attention is what it usually takes to change policies and enforcement priorities. (Consider drunk driving before MADD, for example.)

  24. […] – No charges for person who killed man walking his dog in a Kirkland crosswalk […]

  25. JB

    It’s easy to focus anger on an apparently complacent driver and and legal system, but there are underlying causes here that need to be addressed. How about a law that automakers must manufacture cars with virtual-reality “transparent” A pillars based on some kind of imaging technology? I drive a Honda Element with massive pillars (for the airbags inside) and the left one especially is large enough to easily hide a pedestrian until they are very close to the vehicle. In drivers ed, I learned about checking the blind spots outside the mirrors’ view range when merging into an adjacent lane, but not about forward blind spots. This was in a small rural community 20 years ago, maybe it’s different in the big city in the age of side curtain airbags. Really the only safe solution, if cars and pedestrians are going to be mixing at speeds over about 15 mph, is probably self-driving cars. How long until those hit the market?

    1. Peri Hartman

      VR would be great but wouldn’t it cheaper to simply move the A pillars back a bit and curve the windshield around to meet them?

  26. B. Jolly

    Myself and friends who have read about this are all dog people, and we were wondering if the dog is OK? Might seem like a trivial question for some, but it matters to us… does anybody know?

    1. pete.d

      Yes, the dog was found later, in good health.

      Compared to the main issue at hand, it’s a trivial question, but that doesn’t make it a worthless question! :)

  27. Dave

    A few years ago my cousin was visiting from SF. She wanted to do some driving around Portland and had me drive rather than listen to her GPS squawk at her. Her car is an Acura sedan, model I don’t know. The front pillars were a TERRIBLE blind spot until I got used to them. This does not excuse the driver–I’m to the point of believing that car theft and vandalism should not be prosecuted again in Washington state until we have two consecutive years without any pedestrian killings.

  28. […] many news media outlets and even cities still call preventable crashes “accidents.” By doing so, it frames traffic […]

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