An 81 year-old woman who was hit by a vehicle at 17th and Guerrero on Tuesday afternoon was still in critical condition with life-threatening injuries this morning, according to police.
The driver was making a left turn on a green light and hit the pedestrian, who was in the crosswalk.
Witnesses to the aftermath of the accident said they saw an elderly woman lying motionless in the street across from Hom’s Grocery and Liquor around 3:30 p.m. The driver who appeared to have struck her immediately got out of his construction truck to look at the victim and then got on his cell phone.
“I heard the boom,” said Gim Gee, an employee at Guerrero Launderette, across the street from the accident. “It wasn’t a very loud boom, but it was still a bad hit.”
Gee, 62, stepped outside and saw the woman on the ground, dressed in what looked like red pajamas. “It shouldn’t have happened, especially when the person is in red,” he said. “If you can’t see that, you’re not qualified to drive.”
An ambulance arrived on the scene within minutes, Gee said.
The driver was not arrested, according to the police report.
Residents and employees in the area were concerned, but not surprised by the accident. While they recalled seeing cars hit each other and have close calls with bicyclists at 17th and Guerrero, most could not remember a pedestrian being hit there.
But pedestrian safety issues are not new to San Francisco or the Mission District, according to data from the Police Department and the Department of Public Health. Citywide, in 2009, 195 pedestrians were taken to San Francisco General Hospital after being struck by automobiles, according to the hospital’s trauma center. That year, 17 pedestrians died from injuries caused by automobiles. The Mission had nine pedestrian deaths between 2004 and 2008, more than any other neighborhood in the city.
Yesterday’s accident was particularly unnerving. “She was thrown out of her shoes,” a local business owner said, describing how she saw the woman on the road. One shoe was under the truck. “That was pretty disturbing.”
Walt Stonum, 82, has lived in the apartment building on the northwest corner of 17th and Guerrero since 1971. Although he wasn’t home at the time of the accident yesterday, he said there have been about two or three accidents per year at the intersection. “Fender benders mostly, people going through red lights,” he said.
Other locals agreed, citing speed as the main issue.
At the 500 Club on the southwest corner of 17th and Guerrero, bartender Jeff said he’s seen about three accidents at the intersection per year, including a recent motorcycle accident and an automobile collision involving a friend’s wife. He blames speeding, as well as low pedestrian visibility due to cars parked along the sidewalks. “I once saw some homeless guy get knocked like 50 feet. He wasn’t moving too fast to begin with.”
On Wednesday, it was clear how well-used the crosswalks at 17th and Guerrero are. Just before noon, a class of 35 elementary school children crossed the street on a field trip from Mission Dolores. They were the second large group of children to cross the intersection since 11 a.m.
Gee hopes this incident will serve as a reminder to pedestrians that drivers are not always paying attention, and that motorists face steeper consequences for inattentive driving or “trying to make the light.”