No criminal charges for Uber in fatality


Yesterday, it was announced the state attorney in Arizona will not press criminal charges against Uber around the fatality a year ago in Tempe. It is still not decided if charges will apply to the safety driver.

I have a piece on the nature of fault in the Uber crash:

No criminal charges for Uber means we learn little


"No criminal chargers"

I don't think it's fair to say that the fault was the pedestrian's under the traffic code. That's not really how the traffic code works. The traffic code states what is illegal, the pedestrian and the driver both violated it, and each violation was a but-for cause of the crash.

Arizona is a comparative negligence case, so it's likely that both sides would have been found partially at fault for that crash. What's much less clear is how much the damages on each side would be.

Perhaps you may say it's not fair for me to declare fault here, but it is the job of the police, and this is how they ruled.

There are several types of fault here:

  • Traffic code violation fault -- no ticket to the Uber or driver. Pedestrian deceased so I don't know if they even bother figuring her state
  • Criminal action -- Uber not charged, driver still pending
  • Tort action (wrongful death) -- settled, no fault admitted to.

For the first one, generally police will decide who failed to yield right of way. In this case I believe it was the pedestrian. Failure to yield is different from the failure to do you general duty to avoid hitting things that are in your ROW.

I should have used the word "correct" instead of fair.

The police ruled on who was at fault? Do you have a link for that? I vaguely remember the police releasing an initial statement that later was shown to be incorrect. Something about the pedestrian popping out of nowhere. Some googling says that they later issued a more than 300 page report that "indicate police are seeking manslaughter charges against Vasquez."

"Traffic code violation fault -- no ticket to the Uber or driver." I don't see any reason why Uber would get a ticket. The driver should get a ticket, and probably will. It will likely be a criminal traffic code violation. (Arizona has both civil traffic violations and criminal traffic violations, with the more serious ones being criminal.) Reckless driving (a criminal misdemeanor) seems to make sense, though it wouldn't be an easy case, because of the "self-driving" aspect. I don't believe Arizona had a distracted driving statute at the time of the crash. That would have been easier to prosecute.

"For the first one, generally police will decide who failed to yield right of way." Are you sure about that? That's not necessarily true here; especially when there's a fatality. And the decision is certainly not made at the scene of the homicide. I fully expect the driver of the Uber vehicle to be issued a citation.


"'This crash would not have occurred if Vasquez would have been monitoring the vehicle and roadway conditions and was not distracted,' the [police] report stated." That doesn't sound like "not at fault" to me.

That cases around the failure to not hit somebody unlawfully in your ROW are quite rare. Do the police plan anything more? I thought the only thing left was the state attorney considering criminal charges for the driver. (This would be over the video watching which would be reckless, not over the vehicle code.)

I'm not sure what "the failure to not hit somebody unlawfully in your ROW" is referring to.

One traffic code (vehicle code) violation that the driver committed was reckless driving. It is a criminal charge - a criminal traffic code violation.

You seem to be implying that there's something called "the vehicle code" that deals solely with who has the right of way. I don't think that's true anywhere. It's not true anywhere that I'm familiar with. Rather, there are certain statutes, usually codified under a single title of the state's laws, that are commonly referred to as "the vehicle code." These statutes generally say what you're not allowed to do (don't text and drive, don't drink and drive, don't disobey traffic signs, don't drive recklessly, yield to vehicles when crossing outside of a crosswalk, etc.). In this case, the pedestrian and the driver both violated the vehicle code, and the combination of both violations is what caused the fatal crash.

When you have a thing which is commonly referred to by a name, then there is a thing with that name. It may not be written anywhere that "Arizona code sections x through Y shall hereby be known as the vehicle code" but one would not expect it to be, and there would still be a vehicle code. Likewise the criminal code. They can overlap, but when we refer to the criminal code, we refer to those offenses that are crimes.

I referred to the section in posts last year, I don't recall the exact section, but it places a duty to avoid jaywalkers if you can. They still must yield to you.

And yes, that's all independent from rules that make it reckless to do what the safety driver did.

I'm really not sure what you're saying. Yes, there's a thing commonly referred to as the vehicle code. It prohibits a bunch of things. One of those things is reckless driving. Right?

Looking at your prior posts I found the other part of the vehicle code you seem to be referring to. A driver must exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian in the roadway. So, that's a section of the vehicle code that was pretty obviously violated by the driver, right?

What if the pedestrian was crossing at a don't-walk signal and the driver went through a red light? Who would be "at fault according to the vehicle code"? Is there a reason why reckless driving and not exercising due care don't count as part of the vehicle code?

In tort law there's something called the last clear chance doctrine. It used to be that a person would not be liable for a tort if the other party was at all at fault - the contributory negligence rule). The last clear chance doctrine relaxed this harsh rule if the tortfeasor had the last clear chance to avoid the injury. So in this case, yes, the pedestrian was jaywalking, but the driver had a clear chance to still avoid the crash by braking. However, Arizona, like most states, has abolished the harsh contributory negligence rule. They've replaced it with pure comparative negligence. Each party would be assigned a percentage fault. It might be 50/50; it might be 80/20. It could be 100/0, though that's unlikely in this case.

Of course, that's not "the vehicle code." But as far I can tell, the vehicle code doesn't assign fault. The vehicle code prohibits things, and violating it in a way that causes a crash implies fault. But multiple parties can be in violation, and therefore be at fault.

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