Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Nothing Ever Happens

Nothing ever happens, nothing happens at all
The needle returns to the start of the song
And we all sing along like before
--Del Amitri

Del Amitri was making a commentary on the boring state of our everyday lives, but sadly, those words come to mind as I wonder about the apparent lack of accountability for drivers who kill or seriously injure others, especially cyclists. I didn’t know Jeff Littmann. I don’t know Lauren Jensen. But I do know what it is like to fear for my life while on the road. That fear is often the result of drivers who are either too busy doing anything but actually driving or too selfish to actually watch out for others on the road.

Very often those drivers terrorize, maim, or kill with impunity. When a driver hits a cyclist, unless they flee the scene or are drunk, there is often no penalty. In rare instances the driver might get a traffic citation with a small fine. Those are rare instances. The possibility of criminal charges are almost non existent. In many cases the prosecutor claims that the burden of proof is too high, that they would have to prove negligence to get a conviction.

If you are driving while drunk, texting, putting on makeup or doing anything other than devoting your full attention to driving, is that not negligent? If you were violating one or more traffic laws and that causes the death or serious injury of another is that not negligent? Isn’t driving 40 mph into a blinding sun where the driver admittedly couldn’t see “oncoming traffic or anything much more but (estimate) 10 ft in front of me” negligent?
The legal definition of negligence is, “conduct that the actor should realize creates a substantial
and unreasonable risk of death or great bodily harm to another”
Shouldn’t every driver realize that driving 40 mph with only 10 feet of visibility creates a substantial risk of harm to another? Shouldn’t every driver realize that when we disobey any number of other traffic laws we cause a substantial risk of harm? Isn’t that why we have these laws in the first place, because violating them causes a risk to others?

I understand “accidents” do happen. A traffic sign is obscured by a branch, you have a sneezing fit, you lose a contact, and cause a crash, any number of true “accidents” can occur. Violating traffic laws and causing a serious crash is no accident. If we keep treating these situations as accidents aren’t we just asking for more deaths and injuries. Perhaps we need some penalty between a 10-year felony and a slap on the wrist traffic fine for killing someone with a car. I understand no charging decision has been made in the Littmann/Jensen case yet. Maybe sometime soon something will happen. Maybe that something will be justice for those injured or killed by negligent drivers.


Anonymous said...

Well said Jeff! Well said. My optimism tells me that if more people take words like yours to heart then this horrible problem we fight will subside.

Keep up the great work on your blog!

salty said...

A few more sad cases from this summer in the Pittsburgh, PA area:

Don Parker, struck and killed from behind by a driver who admitted he was not watching the road so he could adjust his shoe. No charges filed.

Albert Varacallo, struck and killed by a driver turning left in front of him who claimed the sun was in his eyes.

Res ipsa loquitur, I say. If the two ton hunk of metal you're supposed to be in control of runs someone over, you're negligent by definition. I don't understand how anyone can argue otherwise - yet the reality is that people are not held accountable.