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More traffic deaths, yet few consequences

 February 21, 2022 at 5:00 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Monday, February 21st


Reckless driver’s face few serious consequences

More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….######

A winter storm is on its way to San Diego County this week.

A winter storm watch for the county’s mountain areas goes into effect Tuesday afternoon and will last until Wednesday evening. There's a chance of white out conditions on the roads and caution is advised. Areas above 6,000 feet may see up to 8 inches of snow.

For today, a high wind watch is in effect for the county’s mountains and deserts. That’s in effect through Tuesday night. Winds up to 35 miles per hour are expected, with gusts over 50 miles per hour, or even over 75 miles per hour along desert mountain slopes.


Hospitalizations related to covid-19 continue to decline in San Diego county. It’s down by 39 from Friday, for a total of 589. That’s according to the latest state figures. On Friday, San Diego county public health officials reported more than 1,400 new covid-19 cases and 16 additional deaths. The county does not update covid data on weekends.


Today is president’s day, and San Diego County offices, libraries, and animal shelters will be closed in observance. County-operated covid-19 testing and vaccination sites will still be open. Most county parks and campgrounds will be open, but the community centers in Fallbrook, Lakeside, and Spring Valley will be closed. The teen centers in Lakeside and Spring valley will also be closed.


From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

San Diego and the nation are seeing an alarming rise in traffic deaths. KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen says even in cases of recklessness or negligence, drivers who kill often don't face any serious consequences.

LK: His bike group got these flowers. And those have been there from almost the beginning.

AB: Laura Keenan shows me around the roadside memorial she and others created for her husband Matt. Last September, he was struck and killed by a wrong-way driver while biking in Mission Valley. Keenan is now the single mother of one-year-old Evan.

LK: I miss waking up in the morning and seeing him cutting fruit for Evan and eating and smiling and making happy food noises, and I miss him being able to find humor in the most mundane or awful situations. And I miss how he makes me feel.

AB: The death toll on city streets last year was 67 — the deadliest year since San Diego adopted its "Vision Zero" goal of ending all traffic deaths. Some experts attribute the trend to more reckless driving during the pandemic. The driver who killed Matt said she thought she was on a one-way street, and that she never saw Matt coming. Keenan doesn't buy it.

LK: Something had to make her extremely distracted. And really, what that is shouldn’t be the issue. She was so distracted that she did not see my husband and his extremely bright lights. She never hit the brakes. You hit the brakes for a box in the road, and she did not hit the brakes for my husband.

AB: Keenan was devastated — infuriated — when the District Attorney's Office told her last month they didn't see enough evidence to charge the driver with a felony. Instead, they referred the case to the City Attorney's Office as a misdemeanor.

LK: He lost his life. And I hoped that I would at least find some peace in our justice system.

AB: Instead, Keenan found a whole new level of pain and suffering.

MS: Vehicular manslaughter looks at the negligence of the driver who's at fault.

AB: Mark Skeels is a civil attorney who previously prosecuted vehicular manslaughter cases in both the DA and City Attorney's offices. He says felony charges have to involve gross negligence. The term is imprecise, but in practice it usually means if the driver was intoxicated or showed recklessness far beyond the norm.

MS: In cases where it's simple negligence — maybe just you pull up to a stop sign and you look to your left but you don't look back to your right before going and you didn't realize a pedestrian had walked out in front of your car — stuff like that is going to be more characterized as simple negligence. And in those cases, the charge will be filed as a misdemeanor.

AB: San Diego County has seen nearly 300 prosecutions of vehicular manslaughter in the last seven years, and roughly two-thirds were felonies. That number does not include traffic deaths where no criminal charges are filed. Skeels says prosecutors may also be reluctant to file felony charges because of jury bias. Most jurors in San Diego drive every day and are likely to put themselves in the defendant's shoes.

MS: They generally think that they are themselves safe drivers, and so when they've been in incidents which were near misses or other collisions, I think they think it wasn't their fault. And so that permeates their mindset when they're sitting as jurors.

AM: Too often people use the word accountability as a proxy for punishment.

AB: Amanda Berman works for the Center for Court Innovation in New York City. She's heard from countless families like Keenan's who say the legal system has failed them. So the center is developing a program that will bring drivers face to face with the loved ones of the victims they killed.

AM: And hear from them firsthand who that person was, and what the impact is of your actions, how it has destroyed lives. And having to confront that and reckon with that is much more powerful and much more likely to change behavior.

AB: Keenan says she's not all that concerned with how much time the driver spends behind bars. Nor does she want an apology.

LK: I think the only thing that would give me any peace from the driver is that she does something throughout her life to prevent this from happening again.

AB: An outcome she's unlikely to get from the justice system. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news.


San Diego will soon be the first border county to offer free legal services to federal immigration detainees facing deportation. Advocates say the program is a win for due process, but worry that a gap in who it serves threatens to leave out thousands.

Here’s inewsource investigative reporter Sofia Mejias Pascoe, with more.

MEJIAS PASCOE: More than 10,000 immigration cases are pending in San Diego County. For those fighting in court to stay in the U.S. the chances of success without a lawyer are slim.

MEJIAS PASCOE: Immigrant rights advocate Lilian Serrano says a new legal aid program from the county could be “life-saving” for those facing deportation.

SERRANO: When you're facing the system that is already set up against you, you are given no resources, you're given no tools to fight back.

MEJIAS PASCOE: The county has not said exactly who will be eligible, citing ongoing contract negotiations with service providers. For KBPS, I’m inewsource investigative reporter Sofía Mejías Pascoe.

inewsource is an independently funded, nonprofit partner of KPBS.


California lawmakers want to crack down on disinformation about covid-19 and vaccines.

cap radio’s nicole nixon reports.

Two new bills would target mis- and disinformation online and in the doctor’s office.

The first would require social media companies to make their algorithms public. Research has shown false information can spread faster than truth online.

Democratic State Senator Richard Pan says that’s been devastating during the pandemic.

PAN: It should not be left to a handful of essentially very rich tech executives to decide what happens to our society and how we respond to a pandemic. <<:11>>

The bill is sure to get pushback from tech companies who say their algorithms are protected intellectual property.

Lawmakers also introduced a measure that would allow the California Medical Board to investigate and discipline doctors who spread false information about COVID-19.


Coming up.... a San Diego county illustrator has a book on the New York times best sellers list. We’ll have that story and more, after the break.

The city of San Diego's planning department is asking the public for input on "build better S-D."

It’s a plan to create a citywide fund for better, more equitable infrastructure delivery.

That means everything from sidewalk and street improvements.. to new parks and libraries.

Mayor Todd Gloria says the plan will do away with old-inequitable policies that left some communities behind.

“build better sd will combine these 43 community pots of money into one citywide pot allowing us to prioritize projects that are needed the most and get them done faster.”

The city has the plan details online at san diego dot gov slash build better s-d.

A virtual public forum about the plan is set for march 10th.


The tax for cannabis cultivation and production facilities in San Diego has been reduced from 8 percent down to 2 percent. The San Diego City Council approved the new rate in a 6 to 3 vote last week.

The tax reduction does not apply to dispensaries. Miro Copic is an SDSU Marketing Lecturer. He spoke to KPBS about the advantages of reducing the cannabis tax.

“It’ll allow as many of these 21 businesses to open up in the city of San Diego, so it will increase local production, it'll decrease distribution costs for dispensaries, it may increase the amount of taxes that these businesses pay into the city of San Diego.”

He also says that law enforcement is expected to police illegal dispensaries more–And with that it’s expected there’ll be more consumer traffic to licensed cannabis businesses.


A new children’s book celebrating Black History has made it on the New York Times Best Seller list with illustrations from a San Diego County artist.

KPBS Education Reporter M.G. Perez has more.

Reggie Brown is an illustrator who has poured his talent into seven children’s books…some of them published as the COVID pandemic proceeded. He works remotely from his home in Spring Valley and is now visiting local classrooms sharing his drawings of black families and historic heroes featured in the new book WHO ARE YOUR PEOPLE? Released and featured on the New York Times Best Seller’s list just last month.

“black and brown kids can learn resilience and dreaming big and know where they come from. Non-black kids can learn empathy and understanding for people who don’t have their shared history.”

Brown is an illustrator with a mixed Filipino and Black heritage. He collaborated with the author and national commentator Bakari Sellers on WHO ARE YOUR PEOPLE? MGP KPBS News

That’s it for the podcast today. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

2021 saw more fatal car crashes in San Diego than any year since the city adopted its "Vision Zero" goal of ending all traffic deaths. Even in cases of recklessness or negligence, drivers who kill often face few serious consequences. Meanwhile, San Diego will soon be the first border county to offer free legal services to federal immigration detainees facing deportation. Plus, a new children’s book celebrating Black History has made it on the New York Times Best Seller list with illustrations from a San Diego County artist.