A recently released report from the Tempe Police Department details their findings on the fatal car crash between a self-driving Uber vehicle and a woman crossing the street earlier this year. According to the report, Rafaela Vasquez was behind the wheel of the Uber vehicle, and was tasked with the job of watching the road as a “safety driver.” Ms. Vasquez was supposed to intervene if the autonomous system failed or a tricky driving situation presented itself.
At 9:59 pm, Elaine Herzberg, 49, began crossing the street as a pedestrian. Ms. Herzberg was not in the crosswalk. The Uber car hit Ms. Herzberg, which resulted in her death. At the time, Ms. Vasquez indicated she was not using her personal or business cell phone. A review of Ms. Vasquez’ cell phone and Hulu accounts, however, tell a different story. For 42 minutes, while the car was traveling at 44 miles per hour, the television show, “The Voice” was playing on Ms. Vasquez’s account. It appears, based on video surveillance, Ms. Vasquez was looking down for 5.3 seconds prior to the fatal crash. She lifted her head just 0.5 seconds before the crash occurred.
DISTRACTED DRIVING KILLS
This case is just one of many instances where a distracted driver has caused a fatal accident. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report nine people are killed in the United States each day due to distracted driving. Of these, more than 15 % of the victims were non-occupants of the car, including pedestrians and bicyclists. What’s more, over 1,000 people are injured daily in crashes that involve a distracted driver.
Pedestrian safety is, of course, paramount. The Tempe Police Department report on Ms. Herzberg’s death included a finding she was “unlawfully crossing the road at a location other than a marked crosswalk.” Pedestrians should always use a crosswalk where one is available. Drivers must also be vigilant, however, since a pedestrian may appear in the roadway at any time.
STEPS TO TAKE IF YOU FEEL THREATENED
When driving with a rideshare company, the driver may take their eyes off the road occasionally to consult with their phone for directions. It is reasonable to expect drivers to use a phone holder to assist in this process. If a passenger feels they are in danger due to the driver’s conduct, they may ask the driver to slow down or ask the driver to stop and let them out of the car. In extreme circumstances, the passenger should call 911.
INJURED IN A CAR ACCIDENT?
At Miller Kory Rowe LLP, we help victims of car crashes every day. From pedestrians who suffer injuries to drivers and passengers who are hit by distracted drivers, our car accident attorneys can help. We go after careless and reckless drivers to make sure they are held responsible for their choices. Contact us today at (602) 648-4045 for a no obligation meeting to discuss your situation.