On Tuesday, September 15th, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office charged Rafaela Vasquez with one count of negligent homicide for a fatal pedestrian accident in Tempe, Arizona. The defendant was the safety driver in an Uber self-driving car involved in the 2018 occurrence.
A grand jury found Vasquez liable for causing the death of Elaine Herzberg, 49. Accident reports released at the time showed that the self-driving car struck the victim as she crossed the road at night.
According to the county investigators, the defendant failed to apply the brakes to the vehicle until it was too late. The Tempe Police Department said that the accident was avoidable if the woman was not distracted by watching The Voice on her phone.
In 2019, the county attorney’s office said that Uber was not criminally liable for Herzberg’s death. They declined to pursue charges against the company even though the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the company had an inadequate safety culture exhibited by a lack of risk assessment mechanisms, oversight of vehicle operators, and personnel with a safety management background.
The crash is the first pedestrian death involving a self-driving car. It caused the company to pull its autonomous vehicle testing from Arizona altogether.
In a statement, County Attorney Allister Adel said that distracted driving is an issue of great significance. The prosecutor noted that when a driver gets behind the wheel of a car, they have the responsibility to control and operate the vehicle safely and in a law-abiding manner.
Disclaimer: The Safety Watch article you just read includes information obtained from numerous sources. These sources include, but are not limited to, websites and press releases from law enforcement, the county coroner, fire departments, and other news outlets. While we strive to provide readers with the most accurate information, sometimes the information received is not entirely accurate. For complete details, please refer to an official police report.
The articles published contain sensitive subject matter that may be hard to read by some. We understand that losing a loved one is hard and devastating. Safety Watch’s decision to share the stories is to help others who may be facing the same situations by providing appropriate resources to the general public.