Driver acquitted in Castro Muni death
A former San Francisco Municipal Railway bus driver who was facing charges of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter for fatally striking a pedestrian in The City’s Castro District in August 2011 was found not guilty Friday.
Almost four years after the fatal crash, a San Francisco jury acquitted former Muni driver, Wallace Loggins, 40, in connection with the death of 23-year-old Emily Dunn, San Francisco District Attorney’s Office spokesman Alex Bastian said Monday.
Dunn was struck while walking in a crosswalk at 18th and Hartford streets on Aug. 19, 2011. Loggins was turning left onto Hartford Street when his bus fatally struck Dunn, according to the police investigation. Muni spokesman Paul Rose said that Loggins is no longer employed by the SFMTA.
Stuart Hanlon, Loggins’ attorney, said the collision was an accident and that jurors he spoke with felt the transit agency could have done more to prevent Dunn’s death. Hanlon said an accident reconstruction expert, who testified at the trial, explained that Dunn was in a blind spot when she was struck.
According to Hanlon, a federal report that was published in 2008 outlining specific safety suggestions for transit agencies nationwide encouraged bus companies to move the side mirrors up and train drivers on frontal blind spots, but Hanlon said Muni did not implement those changes.
The report, sponsored by the Federal Transit Administration and entitled Guidebook for Mitigating Fixed-Route Bus-and-Pedestrian Collisions, was prepared to help large transit agencies avoid future pedestrian collisions.
The federal report’s foreword states the aim of the report is “to better understand these collisions and how to determine preventative or remedial strategies for reducing the frequency and severity of these types of collisions.”
According to the author’s acknowledgements in the report, Muni assisted in the report by either providing data and/or participating in focus groups, workshops and interviews. Hanlon said the accident might have been avoided if Muni changed the construction of its buses, moving up the side mirrors and making see-through walls at the front corners of the bus.
“Muni is responsible. They knew they needed to change the construction of the bus and train their drivers.”
Hanlon said Muni driver’s manuals did not include information about ways drivers can see around the frontal blind spot. However, he said that following the collision, Muni made an instructional video at that very intersection where Dunn was struck to make drivers aware of the hazard.
Hanlon said he feels the transit agency needs to do more to prevent similar tragedies:
“How many people do you have to kill before you change the construction of your bus?”
Hanlon asked. Attorney Michael A. Kelly, who was one of the lawyers in a civil lawsuit filed against the city on behalf of Dunn’s parents, said the lawsuit was settled in 2014 and that Dunn’s family was awarded $2.85 million.
Hanlon said it’s not too late for Muni to take steps toward increasing pedestrian safety. He suggested an advertising campaign to remind pedestrians to be aware of their surroundings when crossing city streets.