Drivers have a responsibility to be well-equipped to operate their vehicles. While it's illegal to drive mentally impaired from alcohol or drugs, it's important to address physical impairments, as well. Drivers without full use of their legs use hand controls to accelerate and apply brakes. But what happens when an impairment is temporary and these extra controls aren't available?
A 60-year-old man who caused a crash that killed a pedestrian was in this very situation last fall. He was convicted of vehicular manslaughter July 19 for causing the car accident, which occurred in San Francisco's Castro District.
Having been diagnosed with a stress fracture, the driver was wearing a large cast also known as a walking boot when the accident happened. Because the cast was on his right foot, he used his left foot to operate the gas and brake pedals of his car. He hit the 59-year-old pedestrian in a crosswalk while making a left turn. The driver testified on his own behalf, explaining that he'd been wearing the cast for more than a month and that his method of driving with his left foot played no role in the accident.
Regardless of the man's testimony, driving with the wrong foot is a dangerous practice. Cars aren't designed for left-foot driving and doing so can result in slower response times. The fact that the man had already been driving this way for a month doesn't excuse the behavior; it simply makes him lucky he didn't have an accident sooner.
The man could be sentenced up to a year in county jail in September, but he may also be subject to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the pedestrian's family. It's the responsibility of all drivers to be fully equipped to operate their cars, and by compensating for an impairment by driving improperly, this driver put himself, other drivers and pedestrians at unnecessary risk.
Source: Mercury News, "San Francisco: Man who drove with cast on foot convicted of vehicular manslaughter in fatal crash," July 19, 2012
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