Light sentence received in crosswalk death accident sends questionable message

According to, many Seattleites were outraged when a municipal court judge ordered fines, no driving, and community service for a driver found guilty of hitting and killing a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

Ephraim Schwartz will have his conviction erased from his record in two years, if he avoids driving and completes the community service. He is also avoiding any jail time for the Seattle pedestrian accidents.

“Where is the incentive for people to drive safely and responsibly?” asked Rebecca Deehr, executive director of Feet First, a pedestrian advocacy group.

“Besides the fines and ticketing that may result from not driving safely and responsibly, there is no incentive,” she said.

Deehr also said that the consequences for drivers in situations like this should match “the gravity of their action.” Without consequences, she said, “we can’t expect that drivers will take the extra step to put down the latte, stop looking at their cell phone, or to take the other necessary precautions to avoid hitting a pedestrian.”

The 29 year old victim was walking to catch a bus in November 2006 when he was hit at the crosswalk at 47th Ave SW in West Seattle.

The driver, Schwartz, 37, who lives near the intersection, was talking on his cell phone while driving. He said he never saw the man in the crosswalk prior to the pedestrian accident.

“They need a traffic light out there, said Josh Trass who works a few feet from the crosswalk.” I hear screeching tires all the time. I don’t ever cross there; people driving are not paying attention.” But Trass also thought the sentence seemed too weak.

“It seems that he died in vain,” he said of the victim.

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