An unlicensed driver with four prior convictions for driving without a license hit and killed a motorcyclist Friday when he pulled out of a Highway 116 mini-mart and into the path of the oncoming rider, authorities said.
The motorcyclist, Glenn Richard Vierra, 58, died of injuries sustained in the 7:09 a.m. crash outside Cotati.
The driver, Jorge Noe Valencia-Figueroa, 33, was jailed Friday on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter, a misdemeanor, and driving without a license.
Vierra may have seen the collision coming and tried to lay down his Harley-Davidson Road King before running into the Honda Accord driven by Valencia-Figueroa, the CHP said.
Vierra was run over at least once before becoming trapped between the Accord's front and back tires with the frame resting on his back, fire and law enforcement personnel said.
Valencia-Figueroa had never been licensed, CHP Officer Jon Sloat said, and was previously convicted of driving without a license in September 2009, as well as in March, August and October 2010, according to the CHP.
He voluntarily submitted to a blood test, though there were no overt signs of intoxication, Sloat said.
Authorities initially suggested he would be held on charges of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. The misdemeanor charge reflects discussions with the Sonoma County District Attorney's Office, the CHP said.
Whether and how he is formally charged could still change, authorities said.
Valencia-Figueroa was held on bail of $25,000. His first court appearance is scheduled for Tuesday.
The issue of unlicensed drivers is a controversial one in Sonoma County and around the state because a large number of illegal immigrants use the state's roadways, though their immigration status prevents them from obtaining a driver's license under California law.
Valencia-Figueroa's immigration status was unclear Friday.
Unlicensed drivers are considered more likely to become involved in collisions because they may lack training in traffic laws and operation of a vehicle, and are unlikely to have auto insurance.
A 1997 DMV study found unlicensed drivers were 4.9 times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes. Recent research indicates a similar rate, Chris Cochran, a spokesman for the state Office of Traffic Safety said last year.
Supporters of immigration rights point to the valuable role undocumented immigrants play in the state's economy and argue that most can't work without transportation.
You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or firstname.lastname@example.org.