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Unlicensed driver at wheel in crash that killed 3, authorities say

February 7, 2012 | 12:29 pm
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Three women have died following a car crash in South Los Angeles last week involving an unlicensed driver, authorities said Tuesday.

Tenina M. Calhoun of Moreno Valley was driving in the 1400 block of West Florence Avenue with five other women around 2:45 a.m. Friday when she slammed into a tree, critically injuring everyone in the vehicle, five of whom of whom were ejected.

Three women -- Enisha Marie Davis, 21, Jeshai Chanae Jones, 19, and Tiesha Jermaine Turner, 28 -- died between Friday and Monday from their injuries, Asst. Chief L.A. County Coroner Ed Winter said.

Calhoun, who remains in critical condition, has not been arrested. But Los Angeles police are continuing to investigate and said they recovered alcohol from the car.

Law enforcement sources familiar with the case said Calhoun was cited Jan. 3 by the California Highway Patrol for driving without a license. Her vehicle was not impounded.

The triple fatality is among the latest in a string of recent accidents involving unlicensed drivers that resulted in death or injury. In December in Panorama City, a motorist driving without a license struck and killed a 60-year-old woman.

Two Los Angeles police officers were hospitalized last week after their patrol car was struck by an unlicensed driver in Jefferson Park.

The incidents come amid a fierce debate about a proposed change in the LAPD's vehicle-impound procedures, which would allow some unlicensed drivers to avoid having to wait the usual 30-day period to recover their vehicles.

Proponents of the change say impound policies unfairly target illegal immigrants, who cannot obtain a California driver's license.

But those opposed to altering the impound rules, including the Los Angeles Police Protective League, cite safety statistics showing that unlicensed drivers are involved in many times more accidents than are licensed drivers. They also say the change would fly in the face of state law.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck sought to clarify the proposed changes last week, saying that to avoid the lengthy impound, unlicensed drivers must not have been stopped in connection with a serious accident and will have to show identification and proof of insurance, as well as not have any previous convictions for driving without a license.

Because the impound rules are defined as LAPD procedures rather than a policy, Beck does not need approval from the Los Angeles Police Commission or the City Council. Nonetheless, the police commission is scheduled to hear debate on the issue Feb. 14.

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-- Andrew Blankstein
Twitter.com/anblanx

Image: Map shows location of where a car crashed in South L.A. on Friday. Source: Google Maps

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