AUSTIN (KXAN) - An Austin police officer has been suspended for one day for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk and hitting a woman with his police car.
Officer Carlos Mayfield was stopped at a red light at 11th Street and San Jacinto in Downtown Austin on May 15 when the light turned green and he made a right hand turn. Video from Mayfield's in car camera shows him striking a woman in the crosswalk with his vehicle.
Mayfield immediately calls for EMS and then reports the crash. The woman was treated for minor injuries and Mayfield told officers at the scene he simply did not see the woman.
"He was just sick about it," said APD Assistant Chief Raul Mungia. "He was trying to be safe watching out for the bicycles and he was just- didn't see her."
But Mungia believes the incident could have been avoided, had Mayfield's laptop been closed, instead of open.
"Had it been lowered, it's very possible that it was preventable," said Mungia, who added that the open laptop was one thing that obstructed Mayfield's view of the pedestrian.
After this incident in May, APD commanders sent an email to patrol officers reminding them to drive, when possible, with their laptop screens down in order to avoid any extra distraction or visual obstruction.
Mungia said the department is also preparing to test a pilot program with voice activated computer data in about 20 patrol cars, to keep officer's eyes on the road.
"When the updates come up, it actually just talks to you, just gives them to you verbally. That way the officer is not taking his eye off the road to look at the computer," said Mungia.
Ironically, Austin police are making an effort to curb pedestrian deaths, which are up for the year across the city.
Since January 2012, 19 pedestrians have died in crashes with vehicles in Austin. Part of the initiative to keep pedestrians safe is an undercover sting operation at the city's most dangerous crosswalks.
So far, with about 12 hours and 3 locations under their belts, officers have handed out close to 150 citations for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.
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