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And here I thought AAA had nothing good to say....

OK, so how do we get started this time around and change the law in MD? Last year a bill to increase the penalty for these kind of deaths failed to pass. What went wrong? What should we be doing this year to make the change? Glad to see AAA is still in favor of this. They were last year.

Is the fact that a political candidate was killed a way to make politicians realize something has to be done?

PG county will have a new state's attorney in Nov. What will they do?

I think this effort needs to start now!

Drivers need to be held responsible for negligence, and they also need to feel a sense of responsibility.

The day after Ms. Pettigrew died, I was riding my regular commute (near Rhode Island @ North Capitol) when a car deliberately and aggressively passed me within inches, the driver shouting "get off the f%*&ing road!"

Nothing new there.

But as I pulled up next to the car at a stoplight, the woman continued to yell at me, saying that bikes had no business on the road: "don't you read the paper? a woman died! get off the road!"
Unfortunately, the message this driver got from this tragedy was not that she shouldn't drive aggressively around bikes, but that bikes should get off the road.

Notice he only said "on the highways"... still, it's good to see AAA MA and WABA on the same side for once.

This is a very good first step. Glenn Ivey will be missed.

I am confused by both the Maryland statute and the public statements suggesting that it be fixed. Manslaughter has always required a showing of reckless conduct resulting in death, while traditionally, gross negligence resulting in death was called negligent homicide (sometimes a misdemeanor). Maryland seems to conflate the two, but defining manslaughter as only requiring gross negligence---but then defining gross negligence to be reckless. And then it doesn't seem to even have the crime of negligent homicide.

So why is everyone talking about how hard it is to prove that someone was grossly negligent, rather than pushing to create a crime of negligent homicide? That is:

reckless driving + death = manslaughter
negligent driving + death = negligent homicide

At least that would give us a crime for when people's conduct is less egregious but still criminal

Now a separate question is whether we need to lower the bar for manslaughter. Maybe we do. It seems that if you are legally drunk, or slightly drunk in a truck, or have almost fallen a sleep and your co-passengers ask you to please let someone else drive, or drive 80 mph around Georgia Avenue and Emory, that will be manslaughter. But if you drive off the road for no apparent reason and hit children on the sidewalk, that is not manslaughter (though if there were more evidence about why you did it, maybe it would be, but there often is not with a solo driver). If a cyclist runs a stop sign and in so doing prompts a car to swerve killing a pedestrian, that would not be manslaughter; but if the same cyclist did so while drunk, it probably would be.

So in what way does the definition of manslaughter need to be changed? What were the objections to the proposal (other than a resistance to legislative tinkering with the judicial branch).

Given that no matter how the statute is changed, it will not include people who drive with a foggy windshield in the morning, or veer to the right for no reason that is ever demonstrated, why the focus on manslaughter. This is negligent driving and negligent driving + death needs to be negligent homicide, rather than just negligent driving.

Negligent homicide needs to equal more then a $320 ticket.

In St. Mary's county a cyclist was killed by a driver who was not paying attention. The fine was ~$320. In contrast, the penalty for stealing "yield to pedestrian" signs along the WOD is $2500 and up to five years prison. I know this is mixing jurisdictions. But the contrast is striking. It says property is way more valuable than life.

I have noticed in my local paper how DUI drivers are treated. They are routinely given probation and given their keys. Even repeat offenders with BAC of 0.2! So it is systemic, and not just a cyclist thing.

Since drivers are not being held responsible by the current system, then the only recourse seems to be to change the laws. Lower the bar perhaps. Or maybe mandatory sentencing. Let's not keep putting them back on the road.

I've plenty of time in other countries, where the cops will conduct random breath tests for DUI (and DUI is typically lower, like 0.05), you know that there is a good chance that you will be caught. In the USA, most DUIs either have to be drunk enough to show it in your driving, of drive so often DUI that the police will catch you. Given those facts, it amazes me that the penalties are so low.

John Townshend seems to have a more moderate line than Lon Anderson. What happened to Lon?

We do need to think a little bit about appropriate penalties. I think prison is inappropriate in many cases (though it is appropriate with DUI), as it can have a devastating impact on families and communities. Heavy-duty community service, long-term revocation of licences, seizure of vehicles--these would all make sense.

Guez, I agree we need to think about appropriate penalties. Prison seems inappropriate, IMO, but withdrawal of driving privileges etc seems to closely match the punishment with the crime.

I must admit that the "devastating impact on families" argument gets my goat when used to defend DUI drivers from serious punishment, as if killing another person doesn't affect families.

In my view, if we had a crime of negligent vehicular homicide, one option for the maximum sentence would be six months, because the sixth amendment guarantees a right to a jury trial for a longer sentence and maybe we just want the sentence to be issued by the district court judge who hears the traffic case. Alternatively, perhaps the sentence should be 1 year because that is the standard for a misdemeanor. Personally, however, I would prefer to have a 2 year sentence for negligent homicide but provide district court's with concurrent jurisdiction where the maximum would be 6 months. The effect would be similar to trying someone as an adult or juvenile. A 6-month sentence is small for the death of a human being, but these are cases where there would not be a manslaughter conviction. One might reasonably expect plea bargains if there was a lesser offense to plead.

I also agree that community service and very-long-term suspension of a drivers license would be good options to have, especially if failure to meet condition meant jail. Making these miscreants into bike-safetty instructors might accomplish something.

I must admit that the "devastating impact on families" argument gets my goat when used to defend DUI drivers from serious punishment, as if killing another person doesn't affect families.

Agreed with respect to DUI. As a footnote, it should be noted that one intended consequence of increasing the severity of penalties can be that it often makes it less likely that a jury will convict.


At a minimum loss of driving privileges seems to be in order. Maybe vehicle impoundment to help insure they don't get behind the wheel. After all there are many folks on the road with suspended licenses.

There needs to be some sliding scale based on the circumstances or degree of neglect to ensure a conviction.

In regards to changing the law in Maryland, the head of the House Judiciary Committee Rep Vallario is a noted drunk driving/manslaughter defense attorney....bills making those laws stricter seem to die in committee for some reason.....


My friend bikes all the time in North Carolina with a large silver .357 on is back and is rarely hassled by drivers....of course we dont have that constitutional right here

I'm pretty sure we do in Virginia...you just don't in Maryland (or DC).

Guez: I agree, an excessive punishment makes conviction less likely, increases hit and runs, and makes drivers the victims of cyclists. A serious ban on driving would better match the crime, and signals that driving comes with certain responsibilites.

@ Froggie-
You do in VA, but if you try it in the Arl/Alex/FFX area you're gonna get stopped after some soccer mom freaks out....Once you're south of the Occaquan its much better

But packing heat really nullifies all the weight you saved with that new carbon fork and seatpost! LOL

Seriously, though, even if Pettigrew had been carrying a .357, she still would have been hit by this driver who [air-quotes] thought she hit a dog [/air-quotes].

I agree with others who have suggested that stronger penalties are needed for those negligent drivers who endanger, hurt and/or kill other road users. Even AAA is with us on this one, or so it seems. Shouldn't some change to the law be a slam dunk? At least the legal negligence standards should be changed.

A little off topic:
Denver woman deliberately hits man with car. Man is arrested.

Blind Pilot: you make a good point. A .357 isnt going to help you if you are crushed from behind. Perhaps we should ride with a backpack full of explosives.

Do I get 72 virgins if I go out that way?

The handgun will not help against the negligent driver, but it does shut down the bully pretty quickly, which would cut about 20-30% of my near misses right off the bat.

I'm going to punt on questions of religion on this blog.

So in MD I can run a cyclist down, kill her, drive home 4 miles away with a flat tire and the bike dragging under my SUV, then all I have to say is "I thought it was a deer." and I'm Scott free? No hit and run? No manslaughter? Not even innatentive driving?

Just to clarify a few things. First, the idea of having a crime of negligent homicide that is less serious than manslaughter is from the Model Penal Code, not common law which I may have conveyed. Being in the model code means that smart people who understand the criminal law like the idea--but not that it is politically feasible.

twk: We need to distinguish negligent driving from negligent homicide, just as we distingish reckless driving from manslaugher. In the case you mentioned, the prosecutors didn't think they could get a conviction for even reckless driving. But there is not such crime as negligent homicide in MD. Therefore, the death meant nothing; had she merely injured him or--for that matter--just run into a cow--she would have been guilty of the same thing. My proposal is that when someone dies, it needs to be negligent homicide you can't prove it was wreckless driving.

SJE: I'd give Townsend a break for being moderate. It's too soon to call for anyone's scalp. We don't even have the accident report yet.

jaquesmock: Do you ever wish you had a little card to hand people that addressed their complaint? They fall into such a small number of categories I almost think that some color-coded business cards with FAQ would do the trick. But the answers need to be pulled straight from a government web site so it doesn't like like cyclist propaganda.

Brad, Brad, Brad...

We just don't know all the facts yet, don't you see? Indeed, it would be anti-rationalist to assume at this point that the driver did anything wrong or was inattentive, because there hasn't yet been a chance to develop and digest all the relevant information.

Never mind that the system by which the facts and information are supposed to come out is structurally biased -- i.e., that the driver has every opportunity and every incentive to concoct an implausible but non-refutable story that exonerates her, while the cyclist is dead and therefore has no opportunity to proffer a competing version of events. And the cyclist's proxies -- the police and the prosecutors -- face resource constraints and have a relatively weak incentive to get at the truth, as compared to the incentives the driver has to come up with a self-exonerating story. (This is because the costs of inadequate investigation by police/prosecutors are borne by society as a whole, while costs of "inadequate storytelling" by driver are borne by driver alone.)

But we don't need to worry about that structural bias because, well ..., because, erm ... oh yeah, it would be anti-rationalist and might even seem a little angry!

I'm sure the system will reach the right conclusion once all the facts come out, though.


Jim: I was PLEASED to see someone from the AAA being moderate. I was just noticing the contrast with Lon Anderson. I hope this signals a shift in the AAA's approach.

I'm certainly not calling for the driver's scalp. In fact, I give her more benefit of the doubt than many here...mostly in that people who hit a deer or some other shocking event are not always going to behave as reasonably as we would like them to, under the stress of the situation.


I'm at a loss at how to respond to this (in fact, I fear that there is no way to respond to this), so I'll just refer you to my last response in the previous thread.


Good strategy -- don't engage where you don't have an answer. (Deft withdrawal from any substantive discussion of Sheppard the other day, btw.)

I do not think it is rational to believe a structurally biased method of truth-seeking will lead reliably to the discovery of the truth. Do you? Do you acknowledge the structural bias I mentioned in my last post?

I would say a police investigation that focused on if the dead cyclist was wearing reflective clothing and not on why the driver didn't stop while dragging a mangled bike 4 miles is "structurally biased".

Especially when the police concluded "no reflective clothing" and a TV crew found smashed reflecors, reflective tape and the victims reflective shoe still at the scene.

Apparently if the force of the accident peels your reflective gear off your body on impact, it doesn't count.


It's not that I don't have an answer, it's that frankly I'm exhausted and have moved on to a more productive discussion on how to improve the laws so that we can protect cyclists. And yes I do acknowledge that there is structural bias.

Brad the Bold,

I agree that it is worrisome that the police do not seem to have done a sufficient investigation to find the reflective clothing. It seems to me, however, that whether the cyclist was wearing reflective clothing is highly relevant to the any eventual charges that might be filed against the motorist. As for the hit-and-run angle, I hope and assume that the police are investigating that as well. Do you know otherwise?

I wish more of you had been here tonight, especially those of you who have been using this blog to articulate your suspicions about the driver. I've been spending my volunteer time thinking about what needs to be improved in PG county, with a little bit of time lately on possible changes in the criminal code. This morning I spent about an hour discussing what is substantiveley wrong and what might be done in PG with a Gazetter reporter.

I really was not inclined to introduce myself to reporters at a vigil. Frankly her mother made such a passionate speech about the need to take action that I would have rather let that stand for tonight as the action statement. But when a News Channel 8 reporter approached me to say he needed to interview a cyclist about cycling safety, I figured I should do that.

Then a reporter from a different channel (not sure which) wants to talk to me and I'm just thinking it will be the same issue. Instead, she was just trying to get me to articulate the suspicions we all have as to what happenned. But frankly, I don't think I want to be the one to go there on camera since it could be so easily twisted to have me issuing accusations at a funderal, and it might reflect badly on WABA, MBPAC, etc. So I punted. If any of you are inclined to go on camera and raise these issues in the types of soundpoints that are needed, please let me kow and/or call up the local stations. Otherwise, for the lack of a spokesman they may not raise the obvious.

re packing heat: pretty sure i don't want to ride with a gun, though i do enjoy the thought of showing up at work with 2 sweat stains, one in the shape of a bike seat and another in the shape of a gun.

re cards: i've found that the people who scream obscenities at me from their cars seem least interested in any actual conversations. i actually tried to respond to the woman with extreme courtesy, asking her to please give cyclists more room. that went nowhere at all, unsurprisingly. not sure she wanted a card either.

but many of my friends who drive feel anxious about driving around bikes because they (and often bicyclists) aren't clear on how the road ought to be shared, and those folks are the ones who might be more receptive to education about cyclists rights. the screaming and aggressive drivers have issues beyond the scope of a PSA, i think.

Even if they did lower the standard, there is so much discretion involved in manslaughter sentences that most drivers who do get convicted of it in connection with a cyclist's death do very little time anyway (unless they were drunk). Until these types of crimes are really punished, they'll continue to happen at the alarming rate we're used to seeing.

the screaming and aggressive drivers have issues beyond the scope of a PSA, i think.

And that's the bottom line. 98% of drivers are courteous if occasionally clueless. For them, courtesy. 2% are raging assholes with mommy issues. The idea that being a "goodwill abassador" is going to mitigate this behavior is just silly.

98% of drivers are courteous if occasionally clueless. For them, courtesy. 2% are raging assholes with mommy issues. The idea that being a "goodwill abassador" is going to mitigate this behavior is just silly.

The point of education and goodwill campaigns is not to win over the raging assholes; it is to isolate them. This, in turn, makes more severe penalties more politically palatable to majority.

Guez: WORD

The problem with this law and all other traffic laws in the state of Maryland comes down to two people, Joe Valiro and Mike Miller. Joe is the chairman for the house judicial committee and Mike is the president of the senate. Both are also defense attorneys, and a defense attorney will never create or allow a law to pass that they can't defend. Now some will read this and say, "That's crazy, how could someone get any with that". Well, all you have to do is look at the DWI law changes during the last session, every thing was in place to put the ignition interlock systems on DWI offenders cars, but one man held it back from being voted on, Joe Valiro. Simply put, get him out of office and watch the changes.

I would think a purely selfish defense lawyer would be in favor of tougher laws. It makes his services more valuable. How much more would you pay your lawyer if you were facing five years in prison as opposed to a $300 fine? A lesser offense also opens the door to plea bargains, which again creates opportunities for lawyers.

No Legislator should vote for a law that she can't defend--but I am not sure why you say that these laws can't be defended. The delegate who introduced the law is also a defense lawyer. The problem is that criminal lawyers generally want bad intent for crimes with terms as long as three years. Negligent homicide is an unusual crime in that the result is very bad but the intent is not so bad. Getting people over that hurdle takes sensitive persuasion--an ambassador.

Guez: I'd add that even hotheads can be redirected or antagonized. A person who is angry still picks targets based on whether they are offending his sensibilities. I have been yelled at for taking the lane on skates many times--but never when a child on a bike is to my right. It has to be that the drivers assume I am protecting a child in one case, but being rude in the other case. The R4-11 sign may not make him any less mad that there is a bike in the way, but instead of being mad at me, maybe he'll say to himself "What idiot put that sign up telling that cyclist he can ride here?" And maybe a child will grow up assuming that the sign must be right.

Let me put this another way. If we create laws that are tough on traffic offenders then it makes it more diffucult for them to take a plea. If they don't plea then the defense attorny's have to spend more time in court. There is also the thought that if laws get tougher then there will be less offenders, less offenders means less cleints, less cleints means, wait for it, "LESS MONEY". People I'm a cop and see this every day. The court is a joke. I have arrested hundreds of DWI offenders and I'm one of the top DWI enforcement officers in this state. Over the years I have only had "ONE" person go to jail for a DWI offense. ALl the others pled guilty, were granted probation before judgement (PBJ), paid a modest fine, attended a victim impact panel, got there license back and laughed all the way home. Trust me one this one, I have over 20 years experience at this, the courts in this state are a joke. But wait thats not all, even if you did get a good sentence on an offender, chances are it won't last long. In Maryland we have "Reconsideration of Sentence". Thats right, 30 days, 6 months, 6 years later, an "ATTORNEY" can go back to the judge or if that judge is retired or has died, another judge and ask that the sentence be changed. Thats right someone can kill your love one in a DWI related crash, get a sentence and years later without your knowledge hire an attorney to get his sentence changed or reduced. As long as you got the "MONEY", and yes these guys are making the laws in this state. FOX GUARDING THE HEN HOUSE.

Then why wouldn't the proposal help this situation? Right now, we have manslaughter with a potential 10-year sentence or nothing. Adding a lesser included offense of misdemeanor negligent homicide provides something to plead down to.

Do you have any insights on Maryland State Police accident investition office? They seem to repeatedly misconstrue the bicycle portion of the vehicle code, and then repeat their erroneous interpretations. Is this because they do relatively few bicycle cases and don't have any lawyers around with the required expertise, so they just wing it on the law?

Since it is just prior to November elections,I would encourage everyone in Maryland to contact your prospective legislators - delegates and senators - and let them know that you, and your friends and neighbors, are concerned about the disparity in Maryland law -- it is time to pass a bill for criminal negligence (vehicular).

Adiva, we have a misdemeanor negligence vehicular law. It's the same minimal punishment for all the other misdemeanor vehicular laws. :( ($500)

We also have manslaughter by vehicle laws with heavy punishments for gross negligence which basically limits it to DUI and since we already have punishments for that ($1000 + 5 days) why bother with anything else? Killing people has not invoked any extra fines, it may be influential from going to minimum to maximum but no guarantees.

I would love to see something where if it's
just property damage=fines as they are
Serious injury=fines doubled

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