Friday, December 19, 2014

I’m conflicted

Short story:  Young woman stops her car in the passing lane of a major highway to help some ducks trying to cross the road. Motorcyclist crashes into the back of her car killing both the rider and passenger. Woman gets 90 days jail time and a 10 year driving ban. [Link]

IDIOT CAGER + DEAD MOTORCYCLISTS (should) = LETHAL INJECTION TIME!

Right?

That was certainly my first thought, that she got away with murder, and I think many motorcyclists would react the same way. But then I dug into it a bit more and found, as with most things, there was more to the story.

Longer story: Young woman stops her car in the passing lane of a major highway to help some ducks trying to cross the road. A camper trailer also in the passing lane swerves at the last minute to avoid the car. A motorcyclist following the camper trailer, driving (it is estimated) between 25 and 40 kilometres per hour over the posted speed limit of 90 kph, doesn’t react in time and crashes into the back of the car killing both the rider and passenger.

So is it still lethal injection time? Some will call me out for blaming the victim, but I can’t help but think about how this was such an avoidable accident.

First, there are many reasons a vehicle might be stopped in any lane of a highway – accident, breakdown, and, yes, stupidity. But the responsibility is with all drivers to be aware of that possibility and drive in such a manner that control can be maintained at all times, even when faced with the unexpected – especially when faced with the unexpected.

Second, it would appear from published reports that the rider was following the camper so closely that he had no, or limited, visibility of the road ahead. When the camper swerved suddenly to avoid the stopped vehicle (which could equally have been a large pothole or debris on the road) he was caught by surprise and had neither the time, nor possibly the training, to react appropriately.

Finally, I have seen no reports of how much other traffic there was on the highway at the time, but excessive speed, and travelling at a speed significantly higher than the traffic around you, always comes at a huge risk – a risk that rests solely with the driver.

Let there be no doubt this woman did something blazingly stupid and negligent. Two people are dead and lives will never be the same, including hers, and she needs to accept responsibility and be punished for that.

But I’m conflicted. I think some jail time is appropriate but, frankly, a long jail term as has been called for by some won’t fix stupid. However, a 10 year driving ban will at least keep her off the road, making it a wee bit safer for all of us no matter how many wheels we are on. So put away the syringe, I think the judge may have got this one right.

15 comments:

  1. Is it stupid to stop on a roadway, to save ducks? Yep! Is is stupid to ride 30-45% faster than the posted limit in traffic? Yep.

    The young woman didn't murder anyone, the bike rider killed himself and his passenger. It was an accident caused by a mutual lack of judgement. Happens regularly and the insurance company will cut the payment to the riders family based on his/her percent of fault found.

    Nobody wins here, rider and passenger are dead, young woman has to live with that fact for the rest of her life. Sad, sad story.

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    1. AZHD - Lots of fault to go around, but still a tragedy for all involved.

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  2. Agree with Arizona HD. As for lethal injection, you have to look at intent. The woman didn't intend to kill anyone (if anything, tried to save the lives of ducks). In cases like these, I don't like to focus on the motorcyclist, even if they were speeding, because none of it would have mattered had the woman not stopped in the middle of the road.

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    1. Steve - Clearly no intent, and clearly she did something she shouldn't have. I suppose if it had been a semi instead of a motorcycle that hit her car we could claim poetic justice, but sadly it wasn't.

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  3. If the woman stopped like that for a legitimate reason other than trying to save ducks, and the same thing had happened, we would never have put any blame on her. In this instance, the motorcyclist, if driving in the manner as reported, bears primary responsibility for this tragedy. The motorcyclist, as with any driver of any vehicle, should have had control of his vehicle such that he could safely stop for any reasonable traffic impediments ahead. The woman should have had enough common sense not to stop as she did. The fact that she apparently displayed no remorse is disturbing as well.

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    1. Gary - You're right. The apparent lack of remorse or any acceptance of her responsibility for what happened is troubling.

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  4. I agree with you and most of the comments, pretty dumb thing to do but there's plenty of blame for everyone...

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    1. Richard - I suppose it's the media's desire for sensationalism but the original stories that came out about this case omitted a lot of the mitigating factors that only came out during the trial. Just shows what can happen when we rush to judgement.

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  5. We have been discussing this in my motorcycle community and there are definitely mixed thoughts on this. I believe she should be punished, but think on the whole the community service would have been appropriate and the lengthy jail sentence is overkill, it's a year and a half of weekends. I am saddened at the loss of the motorcyclist & passenger, but the rider bears a great responsibility for their ultimate outcome because they were speeding & following to close to the camper which in reality means they were not practicing safe riding habits which resulted in a lack of reaction time. If the girl's car had broken down & she couldn't have limped it to the shoulder it would have been stuck in that lane anyway & the rider still would not have had time to react. I also think that she bears the scars & demons of the aftermath, some people when they go through stuff suffer PTSD and it can render them what we think of as emotionless, because it was so horrible her subconscious may not let her express it. I think in this regard there is more to her emotional state than we realize. Can you imagine living with the burden of two dead because she felt compassion & fear for the safety of a duck family, which if you take that into account shows she has a conscience, albeit bad decision making. As for the 10 year ban, it makes me wonder if her prior driving record was bad & if that weighed in on the judges decision.

    We had a case here where a woman who was high on cocaine and booze killed a motorcyclist, had a driving prohibition, probation breaches and was not supposed to use drugs as part of her sentence and numerous driving offences and yet she only got a 1 day jail sentence, refused rehab treatment & was only there because it was court mandated. Was that 1 day sentence justice - nope! So I think there needs to be a better balance in the justice system. I have no sympathy for this woman, but the one who was saving ducks, I do because it wasn't a wanton act of disregard of the law, but a bad case of judgement.

    I think there is more than one person to blame for the outcome here, just my thoughts on the matter.

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    1. Dar - Thanks for your comments. I agree that's the difference in this case, the lack of any sort of wanton disregard for the law - she did something stupid, but not intentionally criminal. That's why I think the judge got the balance right this time. And if she's an otherwise normal human being she will bear the scars of this for the rest of her life. But as for your 1-day-sentence lady - different story altogether.

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  6. These "almosts" are around us every day and so very often, we all "get away with it" with no more than a head shake or a story to tell around the dinner table. This time the things that could go wrong did.

    Be aware, anticipate....hopefully most of the time we'll get by compensating for the mistakes of others.

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    1. Coop - That's very true. We play the odds every time we go out, and most times they work in our favour, but when they don't...

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  7. I don't know the story but if was going at a much higher speed he was probably approaching/gaining on the truck and possibly saw the truck moving aside as to let him pass. It was an unfortunate accident, blame is on him and her, both were doing wrong. Humans tend to do stupid stuff at the wrong time.

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