Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Being accountable

Every year there is a huge bicycle race in Arizona called El Tour de Tucson.

For the first time last year, a horrific accident occurred during the race.

A driver on the main road going eastbound made a left turn into a resort driveway. The driver failed to realize that a whole slew of riders were riding westbound. The driver's car ended up colliding with 10 bike riders.

The driver apparently stopped the car and checked out the damage to the vehicle. And then drove off. That's right! The driver LEFT the scene. Didn't check on anyone. Just left.

The authorities were informed who the driver was a couple days later.

Five cyclists ended up getting hurt. One rider suffered a life-threatening brain injury and will never fully recover.

The driver was charged with "leaving the scene of an accident causing serious physical injury" but somehow in May the driver pleaded guilty to a less serious charge of "attempted leaving the scene of an accident causing serious physical injury."

I find this crazy. I don't see how this is right. The lesser charger of "attempted leaving"? I don't understand. The driver didn't ATTEMPT to leave. It wasn't an attempt. The driver LEFT!

The Arizona statute requires motorists involved in accidents to stay at the scene, notify authorities of the crash, and provide their insurance info. Obviously, this driver failed to do any of this.

According to the defense attorney, one reason that the driver left was because the driver became frightened when the cyclists began yelling and surrounding the vehicle. Uh yeah? They're injured. They just got run over. Wouldn't you be angry?

The DA also said that the driver didn't notify any authorities because a sheriff's deputy was already nearby (within visual distance). That the deputy could easily call emergency personnel. That his client's lack of action didn't prevent an ambulance from being called. WTF?

And since the driver left there was no exchange of insurance information.

According to the statute? This driver failed on ALL points.

The DA had the audacity to say that the driver shouldn't be forced to pay any type of restitution because the driver didn't cause the crash. Did. Not. Cause. The. Crash? If the driver didn't run into these people, then what did? A gust of air? If the driver had taken more care turning left into the resort, there wouldn't have been a crash at all.

"The sentence in this case sends a bad message to the community," said the county attorney. "If he walks out the door, he's leaving the scene of the accident just like he did that day."

The judge could have given the driver 2 years in jail. The judge opted to give the driver three years of probation. The judge? He said he based his decision on the fact that driver had a clean criminal history and that there was a deputy right there to call for assistance. Do you agree with this? Based upon the state statute, the driver totally ignored the state requirements.

I think that the judge used his heart on this one. I think the judge was swayed by the fact that the driver who caused this horrific accident is a 91-year-old man. And I guess in his eyes? Why send an elderly and ill senior citizen to jail for two years? Who cares that the driver injured five cyclists? Who cares that the driver caused one healthy cyclist's life to turn on a dime? To suffer with such a severe brain injury that he has now been deemed incompetent?

We try to teach our children to make good decisions. To be accountable for their actions. But this? Even though my heart feels for this senior citizen, I can't help but feel the injustice of the judge's decision. What do you think?


jupiter said...

I do understand how you feel; this seems like a total lack of justice. Maybe the judge could have banned the offender from driving for the rest of his life - that at least would have stopped him causing any further accidents.

If he had been a younger driver, I think he should have been required to do some kind of voluntary service with accident victims, to give him an idea of the damage he had done. But at 91 that obviously isn't really possible.

San Diego Momma said...

Agree with Jupiter. But I find it incomprehensible that our justice system is so obviously biased in favor of certain age and income groups.

If it's wrong, it's wrong.
And this was wrong. The judge clearly took the driver's age into account.