Uber Passenger Killed in Goleta Accident

[Update] The young woman killed in the auto accident was Justine Van Ginderachter. She was a student of the Education First Program and had come to Santa Barbara from Belgium.

[Original Story] A 19-year-old woman was killed early this morning when she was flung from an automobile in a two-car collision at the Hollister Avenue and Storke Road intersection. The SUV she was in, a blue Hyundai Tucson, was headed west on Hollister at around 1:30 a.m. on March 30; the other car, a white Toyota Camry, was northbound on Storke. Sheriff’s Office investigators are working to determine which driver ran the red light.

The young woman, whose name has not been released, was a foreign-exchange student, riding without a seatbelt in an Uber vehicle driven by a 33-year-old Ventura resident. Her fellow passenger was an 18-year-old man, who also was not wearing a seatbelt. She was taken to the hospital with fatal injuries; the young man was treated at the scene for minor injuries.

The Toyota, driven by a 24-year-old woman from Riverside, had two passengers, a 16-year-old young woman and a 19-year-old young man. In that car, the driver and one passenger were injured slightly.

The law regarding Uber drivers, passengers, and seatbelts is unclear; Uber has yet to be classified in the U.S. as a taxi service. Area Uber representatives did not reply to the question of whether drivers must tell passengers to use a seatbelt, directing reporters to Uber’s website, which urges riders to buckle up. Kayla Whaling of Uber’s media relations stated, “We are saddened to hear of this horrible tragedy” and that they would cooperate with the police investigation.

Officer Jon Gutierrez of the California Highway Patrol pointed to Vehicle Code Section 27315 as the state’s seatbelt law. The mandatory seatbelt law directs that vehicles on a highway “shall not operate” unless drivers and all passengers over the age of 16 wear a seatbelt. However, one section of that code exempts taxicabs and its fares on city streets, while another section instructs that limousines, ambulances, and taxicabs “shall not operate” if anyone in the front seat over the age of 8 is not seat-belted.

Investigators with the Sheriff’s Major Accident Response Team ask witnesses to the collision or anyone with information to call (805) 961-7514.


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