O’Neil, 92 and now living in a retirement home in the eastern United States, will be arraigned on the misdemeanor charge later this month. She was additionally charged with an unlawful backing movement.
The fatality occurred in a busy retail district with diagonal parking on both sides of the street. At about noon, Ratcliff pulled into an open parking spot in front of a bank on the east side of Girard, left her car and walked behind it to its trunk. Meanwhile, O’Neil was backing her car out a diagonal parking space across the street in an apparent attempt to reverse its direction and drive home. O’Neil’s car struck Ratcliff, pinning her against the car next to hers and crushing her.
O’Neil told police she had not been using her rearview mirror.
Ratcliff, 45, was the vice president of marketing and events of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce and was on the Board of the High Tech High Foundation. She was a communications professional who had served in the White House as deputy communications director for Vice President Gore and also served as spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee. She worked as the director of communications at The Broad Education Foundation in Los Angeles and co-founded the nationally recognized LA Diaper Drive while living in Los Angeles.
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said his office is not seeking jail time for O’Neil, but will ask that she surrender her driver license, agree to never drive again and agree to make restitution to her victims.
According to the National Institutes for Health, driving patterns change as people age. Retirement, different schedules and new activities affect when and where they drive. Age-related declines in vision, hearing, and other abilities, as well as certain health conditions and medications, can affect driving skills.