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Responsibility for Houston Fatal Pedestrian Accidents: Part II

This post is part two in a series on fatal pedestrian accidents in Houston.

Absent specific proof of speeding or distracted driving, such as cell phone use, it can be very difficult to establish that a driver’s actions in a fatal auto-pedestrian accident were criminally negligent.

The story of one Houston mother is a good illustration of the difficulty of proving criminal negligence in fatal accidents. On a cool October morning in 2008, she was walking her son to school. They were crossing in a designated school crosswalk near the Galleria when they were both hit by a car. Her 6-year-old son died on the way to the hospital.

According to a statement taken by police, the 24-year-old driver who hit the mother and son stopped at the stop sign on the corner, but was blinded by the sun as he drove into the crosswalk, not seeing the two. He was not tested for drug or alcohol use and police weren’t able to determine that he had been talking on a cell phone or breaking any laws.

If the driver cannot be found at fault and the pedestrian is not at fault, then is there any one to blame for fatal auto-pedestrian accidents? Could the city of Houston be held liable for inadequate traffic safety measures?

According to the Houston Chronicle, city officials have worked across Houston to improve intersections for pedestrians — over 80 percent of Houston’s traffic-signaled intersections have indicators for pedestrians — but the responsibility for fatal accident still remains largely on the shoulders of the pedestrians and drivers themselves.

A representative from Houston’s Public Works and Engineering department noted, “There is not a way to make a pedestrian crossway foolproof.”

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.

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