The study recommended "the use of countermeasures, including vehicle impoundment," to save lives.
That's a problem for San Francisco. In 2009, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom said police would allow unlicensed drivers to avoid a 30-day impound if they could find someone with a license to drive away their car in 20 minutes.
Then-police Chief (current District Attorney) George Gascon told the San Francisco Chronicle the city wanted to be sensitive to those who "can't get a driver's license because of their immigration status." He later told me that the city also wanted to accommodate others who could not afford driver training -- that is, people who might or might not know how to drive safely.
That policy seemed reckless and wrong to me. As the Los Angeles Police Protective League blogged in opposition to a similar LA policy, "there are two fundamental reasons ... vehicle impounding of unlicensed drivers is smart law enforcement. First, an unlicensed driver willing to ignore the law is, at least temporarily, less likely to further violate this law because he or she will not have access to the impounded vehicle. Second, the cost and inconvenience of recovering an impounded vehicle discourages people without licenses from driving. That is precisely why the state (Legislature) enacted the 30-day hold law."
Don Rosenberg blames San Francisco's lax attitude for his son Drew's death. In November 2010, an unlicensed driver made a left turn and hit Drew and his motorcycle. Drew Rosenberg died after Roberto Galo backed up over his body.
Five months earlier, San Francisco police had stopped Galo for driving the wrong way on a one-way street and driving without a license. The city impounded Galo's car but released it to a licensed driver the next day. Galo was driving that car in the fatal crash.
"In no circumstance does the Police Department allow either a person without a driver's license or a person with a suspended license to maintain control of a vehicle," Chief Greg Suhr told me. Technically true, but City Hall policy invites them to get their cars back.
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