No Justice for Houston Hit-and-Run Accident Victims: Part I

This post is the first in a series on fatal pedestrian accidents in Houston.

In the two-and-a-half years spanning from 2008 to June 2011, over 2,200 pedestrians have been involved in auto-pedestrian accidents in Houston. Not all accidents proved to be fatal; Houston police records revealed that of the almost 200 pedestrians killed only 17 percent of their deaths resulted in criminal charges for the driver that hit them.

According to the head of Houston Police Department’s Vehicular Crimes Division, 45 percent of the pedestrians killed were at fault in their own deaths, after they violated traffic laws placing them in spots where drivers were not able to avoid them.

Another 21 percent of pedestrian deaths involved hit-and-run accidents where police were unable to find the driver involved in the accident.

With 17 percent of drivers being criminally charged, 45 percent of pedestrians at fault and 21 percent involving hit-and-run drivers, that only accounts for 83 percent of the fatalities — what about the other 17 percent?

Just because a driver is involved in a fatal pedestrian accident in Texas it does not mean that criminal charges will always result. Texas has a high evidentiary standard that must be met by prosecutors. In order to prove criminal negligence in a vehicle accident, there must be evidence of speed racing, intoxication or other signs indicating that the driver was not following the ordinary standard of care. And determining whether a driver could be held responsible is a very gray area of the law.

For more on fatal pedestrian accidents in Houston, stay tuned for our next post.

Source: Houston Chronicle, “Houston drivers seldom charged in pedestrian deaths,” 8/1/11.