- Associated Press - Sunday, May 22, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Most of the drivers who killed pedestrians in the Twin Cities-area between 2010 and 2014 faced no charges, a newspaper reported Sunday.

Ninety-five pedestrians died after being struck by drivers in 3,069 crashes in the seven-county metro area during those years, according to a Minneapolis Star Tribune analysis of crash data, death certificates, police reports and news accounts (https://strib.mn/27Ox154 ).

The deaths involved 92 drivers; 28 were charged and convicted, most often of a misdemeanor ranging from speeding to careless driving. Five drivers in hit-and-run crashes have yet to be found. Of the 28 who were charged, 14 got sentences that included fines, community service or probation. Five got 90 days or less in jail; nine got more than 90 days.

Monica Fortwengler lost her mother, Carol Wiggins, when Wiggins was struck by a car in Watertown in 2011. The driver did not face any charges, even a traffic citation, the Star Tribune said.

“It doesn’t help with trying to get any kind of closure,” Fortwengler said. “You always have that little bit of, ‘why was my mom’s life not deemed worthy of even a flippin’ traffic ticket?”

Prosecutors told the Star Tribune that it’s difficult to prove drivers are negligent. The cases begin by examining the pedestrian’s actions and whether they were crossing the road legally.

“These cases can be very difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal.

Recent changes to state law have given prosecutors more flexibility, however. Since 2014, drivers have been required to stop and investigate any collision, not just after knowingly causing a major injury. And a 2015 law makes it a gross misdemeanor rather than a misdemeanor if someone drives recklessly and causes great bodily harm - although that charge hasn’t yet been applied.

Another proposal to make careless driving a gross misdemeanor met with resistance in the Legislature, however.

“Most of the time when people have an accident, it’s just ordinary negligence,” said Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, who considered the bill on the judiciary committee. “And everybody makes mistakes. But we don’t want to necessarily criminalize ordinary negligence, because all of us would be criminals.”

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Information from: Star Tribune, https://www.startribune.com

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