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Two fatal car crashes within blocks renew calls for safer streets [Correction]

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Driver who rented Tesla illegally arrested for vehicular manslaughter

Taylor and O’Farrell, near Union Square’s many hotels.
Taylor and O’Farrell, near Union Square’s many hotels.
Photo via Google Maps

A hit-and-run Thursday morning that left one man dead was followed by another fatal crash on Sunday just blocks away, reigniting demands for safer street design in a year where the city’s pedestrian and cyclist deaths have increased dramatically.

The two incidents occurred within a few blocks of each other in the Tenderloin, a part of the city where all streets have been designated high-injury corridors.

“That area is very confusing and dangerous,” Supervisor Matt Haney said via Twitter following Thursday’s death. “With lots of fast moving traffic and one way streets. We need changes across the [Tenderloin], we’ve been working on them, but it needs to happen faster.”

With the year only halfway over, 19 people have died on San Francisco’s streets so far in 2019, compared to a total of 23 people who died in traffic deaths 2018.

In Sunday’s incident, which happened at O’Farrell and Taylor around 2 p.m., a 21-year-old reportedly ran a red light, which caused the multi-vehicle fatal crash that killed a male pedestrian. The driver was arrested shortly after the crash and charged with vehicular manslaughter.

SF Weekly reports that the unidentified female driver was driving a Tesla rented from carshare company Getaround: “According to the company’s eligibility guidelines, drivers must have had a license for two years before being allowed to rent a car—and you must be 25 years old to rent a ‘specialty’ car,” like the Tesla in the crash.

The male victim who was walking with his wife was identified as 39-year-old Benjamin Dean of Clovis, California. His wife survived.

Just days before, Oscar Matus, 65, of Lathrop, California, was arrested for allegedly hitting an unidentified victim at the intersection of Mason and Eddy at 5:42 a.m. on Thursday. Matus reportedly dragged the victim for two blocks.

Haney said he will push SFMTA and SFPD to reduce traffic speeds with speed bumps, narrow lanes, and install red light cameras and traffic lights timed for safety.

“We have a crisis on our streets with traffic safety, and the huge influx of not just cars, but also service and delivery trucks, put all of us as pedestrians at greater risk every day.”

Jodie Medeiros, executive director of Walk San Francisco, released a statement following Thursday’s fatality, saying, “We have a crisis on our streets with traffic safety, and the huge influx of not just cars, but also service and delivery trucks, put all of us as pedestrians at greater risk every day.”

On Monday, she said the city “needs to declare a state of emergency for traffic safety,” stating, “Are we as a city going to let this go on? Or will this be the moment we come together to make the kinds of changes on our streets that will prevent these tragic unnecessary deaths?”

In March, the city renewed its vow to eliminate traffic-related deaths within five years via its Vision Zero plan. So far this year, 19 people have been killed on SF streets, with 11 of them pedestrians. SF saw 23 traffic deaths in 2018, with 15 of them pedestrians and three of them cyclists. The plan’s current status reads, in bold red and in all caps, “not meeting target.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that the driver in Sunday’s crash did not have a driver’s license. That information was later discovered to be incorrect.