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The administrative penalty for negligence while driving resulting in serious injury or death should be immediate revocation of one's driver's license. Let an administrative panel composed of pedestrians, cyclists, drivers and other stakeholders sort it out within a year or so.

This won't happen because, as a society, we've effectively conferred an "inalienable right" to operate a motor vehicle on public roads.

Doesn't matter how many children and puppies you run over on the way to work, the focus will always be on the poor driver, and how we can't possibly be so cruel as to consign them to the bus stop.

Oboe, we already have argued about that.

Criminal misconduct = knowing your abilities are getting worse? Or knowing they fail to meet some absolute minimum standard?

The new law does not apply. First, the victim is not dead. Second, as the prosecutor said, there is no finding of gross negligence here.

Good luck getting a jury to send a 83 year old women to jail. Really. Great use of our society's criminal laws.

charlie, at what age does killing become legal? Why isn't upholding the law a "great use" of the law?

1. Deterrence -- are criminal penalties going to stop drivers from "gross negligence"

2. Age: How much does it cost to house and treat a prisioner? 50K a year? 100K. That's why we compassionate release for old people -- not sending them to jail.

3. As the prosecutor said, even under the new law there is no gross negligence here. And no homicide.

Clearly, the answer is the biking lobby to ask for a new law.

@oboe: What? Are you suggesting that killing someone warrants an administrative penalty as severe as refusing to take a breath test for alchohol!!??

@charlie & washcycle In 2010 the General Assembly created a process for revoking drivers licenses when a death results from an infraction. If the driver pleads or is found guilty, and if Mr. Krasnopoler dies, then MVA has the discretion to hold a hearing for revoking the driver's license.

@Washcycle. Delegate Malone of Baltimore has suggested that MVA also should place an insert into driver renewal packets explaining how to share the roadway with bicycles. Alot of drivers (and many cyclists) think that the right-hook turn is the correct way to make a right turn when there is a bike lane. Although the right-hook turn is required in Oregon and New York City, the law in MD and DC requires a car to sfely merge right into the bike lane before initiating a turn. The lady probably would have known better than to make a right turn from the left lane just after passing a car, but probably did not view the bike as essentially the same thing.

We have built alot of bike lanes without teaching people how to use them.

OK, sorry. My bad. Prosector is saying no gross negligence, which is the old standard.

New standard has "“substantial deviation from the standard of care"

Still doubtful the driver's behavior here met that standard.

@JimT; yes. Actually, your about the right hand "hook" is very good. I have no idea what to do in that situation as a driver. Going east on Q, with bike lane, then trying to make a right on 16th can be a mess. Actually saw a fender bender happen there last week as a result of a car trying to avoid a bike.

However, if it widespread, very hard to show that lack of knowledge as deviation from standard of care.

I am uncertain as to the usefulness of severely punishing drivers who unintentionally kill or injure.

Wouldn't the goal of better safety be better served if we all took the responsibilities of driving more seriously before accidents such as the one described above happened?

Towards that end I'd like to see much more stringent and vigorous enforcement. Zero tolerance for even the most minor infractions.

Run a red light - get used to walking. Speed - get used to walking.
Talk on the phone - get used to walking.

I bet the driver in this incident probably violated dozens of laws in the years leading up to this accident. If we had just taken the time then to ascertain whether she had become a risk then this might never have happened.

no evidence of gross negligence? isn't the 20-year old cyclist in a coma with brain damage evidence of gross negligence?

JeffB: I agree that serious punishment is unlikely to be as productive as actual suspension more often. Perhaps 1 week suspensions for running a red light.



The administrative penalty for negligence while driving resulting in serious injury or death should be immediate revocation of one's driver's license. Let an administrative panel composed of pedestrians, cyclists, drivers and other stakeholders sort it out within a year or so.


Good luck getting a jury to send a 83 year old women to jail.


Um, what now?

I agree with Oboe

The choices are not no punishment versus grandma in an orange prison jumpsuit. There is a whole range of measures that can be taken.

As many with elderly family members know, it's really hard to persuade them to give up the drivers license. The thought of my grandfather (age 92) driving terrifies me, but he hasn't been pulled over recently to my knowledge, and definitely won't give up driving by himself. Family can only do so much.

In a case like this - where I'm fairly confident the woman didn't TRY to hit the cyclist, and wasn't doing something ridiculous while driving - jail time may not be the best option. Taking away her license seems like a "no duh" type of option - beyond that, perhaps fines/community service?

On the "don't put the elderly in jail" note... doesn't fly with me. If someone commits a crime, they should face the consequences. There have been several murderers who have tried to get out of punishment by the "I'm old and dying anyway" line - it mostly hasn't worked.

So we're identified six strategies.

1. Regular retesting
2. Regular passive education in the form of mailers
3. More frequent enforcement and penalties
4. Harsher administrative penalties/loss of license
5. Harsher criminal penalties
6. Status quo

I think the best solution is all of 1-3 (though instead of passive education, maybe more active education. Every year I go through online sexual harassment, environemtal, IT , etc... education through work. Certainly something like that can be set up - a one-hour, online refresher course that you take once a year).

The problem in this case is that it is too late for 1-3. 6 seems too light to me. Does taking away her license seem like enough? Jail time might not be in order, that's what a judge is for, but traffic citations are not quite enough. I guess there's the civil case.

Anyway, Krasnopoler's family is suing Walke for $10 million, and these two traffic citations - if admissible - are not going to help her defense.

Unless she is one of the 1%'ers in life there probably isn't a meaningful amount of money the family can recover.

The minimum required BI in MD is just $30,000 (some states have less or even NONE).

Unless you have a policy with the maximum liability limits AND an umbrella policy for several million dollars on top of that you are driving around underinsured.

That's just ANOTHER cost of driving that is externalized to the general public.

@kt no evidence of gross negligence? isn't the 20-year old cyclist in a coma with brain damage evidence of gross negligence?

Not even close. WABA's testimony in the Maryland House Judiciary Committee on the recently passed HB 363 provide a quick explanation why.

I was riding behind a cyclist on a share bike this morning who almost got right hooked on 4th street southbound in NE DC. I yelled out to her a couple times because I could see the car's right turn signal and it didn't look like the driver was slowing down. (Ended up cutting off the bike by a couple feet -- not even sure if the driver ever knew she was there.

Bike lanes certainly have their hazards, including getting too close to door zones, alley and driveway entrances, double parked vehicles etc.

Weighing the hazards on my route toward Capitol Hill, I still use the bike laned streets most of the time. (2nd streets and 1st street NE alternatives can be pretty chaotic in rush hour these days.) But certainly worthwhile I think to continue to alert especially the more casual riders of the danger of lanes sometimes, especially those between traffic and parked cars. Some riders might have a false sense of security?

A lot of the push for new laws comes from prosecutors. Why? prosecutors LOVE a 99% conviction rate. And as anyone who watched law and order, they love a plea even more.

Prosecutors are afraid of ruining that rate with marginal cases. So they want a new law with slighly less standards. And also by having a new law gives me a lot of latitude in pleas.

It also provides full employment for traffic attorneys, but I'm not even going there today.

@Oboe; as I said we argued about this yesterday. Banning the license might be fine, but there can be consequences a DMV hearing would not examine. Is it justice in any meaningful sense - no. Will it prevent another accident -- maybe.

Feel free to shoot this down, but I'm pretty sure I read a report a few years on aging drivers. The conclusion was they might get more accidents, but less likely to be deadly accidents -- far far more than say drivers under 30. That is all memory, but the point is going after old drivers may not be going after any low hanging fruit.

Heres what Id do:

Make the woman take eye and reaction tests.

She will probably fail them.

Sue the state for gross negligence in giving a license to someone who cannot safely drive.

Maybe a huge payout by the state will persuade them to do stricter testing.

If you cannot recover from the driver and the insurance policy, you go further. Is she in a nursing home or some such, and were they aware of her disabilities but nevertheless let her drive? Is there a doctor or relative who is negligent?

Why not also harsher punishments including loss of license?

JJJ: the state is pretty much immune from prosecution under sovereign immunity. You have to show either
(1) that a local govt or MD agency violated another MD law
(2) a violation of Federal statutory or constitutional law

that there is a monetary penalty.

SJE, my thought is it would be redundant. If every point included a 3 day suspension of driving privileges and if people were ticketed more often, bad drivers would lose their license more. But I'm open to 4 being a part of it as well.

Another possibility would be to downgrade licenses to low-speed vehicles in some circumstances. With a maximum speed of 23mph, a driver would be far more likely to patiently wait behind the bike taking the lane or in a bike lane, just by instinct alone.

Unlike drunk drivers, who are often undeterred by the loss of license, I suspect that most people over 80 would comply and buy the low-speed vehicle. This might even cause some relearning of basic driving skills.


You write:

I am uncertain as to the usefulness of severely punishing drivers who unintentionally kill or injure.

The usefulness is that if people knew there were severe penalties for killing and injuring, intentionally or not, then presumably they would drive much more carefully.

This is the same as having the Dutch law where motor vehicle operators are presumed to be at fault for accidents involving pedestrians and bicycles.

I would expect that knowing this, the impact on the cost of insurance, licensing, etc., that Dutch drivers drive much more carefully wrt pedestrians and bicyclists.

It's fair to say that for the most part, many motor vehicle operators in the US don't pay nearly as much attention.


Similarly, I agree with that if people knew that they'd lose their licenses for such transgressions, including during the period of review, again, they would probably exhibit much greater care while driving.

JimT: completely agree. Maybe not a low speed vehicle, but one with less protection, like motorbike with a maximum 150cc displacement. More powerful than a tiny scooter, but still a lot less dangerous than a car.

Wash: I would like to see more license suspension or serious punishment for lower level offenses. Not jail, but something that makes people think and take driving more responsibly.

More generally, every single option suggested here underdeters.

1. Optimal deterrence for causing death would be the death penalty (for behavior that does not threaten the driver). If the penalty is anything less, then it under-deters because the the driver does not bear the full cost of her actions.

2. Enforcement under-deters because there is not even a law against many forms of driving that can kill. And no one has found a good way to enforce alot of other types of dangerous driving. How many tickets do you really think will be issued for right-hook turns, violating the 3-foot rule, texting, etc? For the few infractions that are enforced, the penalities are relatively modest.

3. License revocation under-deters because such a penalty is far less than the possible consequences, and the limited enforcement. And many people drive without a license anyway.

4. Education underdeters because some fraction ignores it or does not care.

5. Good engineering helps, but does not prevent all crashes.

Everything together still probably under-deters, but not as much as one option by itself. And different people are motivated by different incentives.

The risk of going to jail for 1-3 years probably does not have a huge deterrent effect for most drivers, who see the likelihood of a fatal accident as very low. But it probably has a large deterrent for those convicted of the offense and those who know the convicts.

@Richard Layman,

While I believe that a much broader enforcement for the behaviors that can lead to these tragic incidents would be more of a deterrent I recognize that is probably not going to happen anytime soon.

For whatever reason society has made a value choice that the benefit of personal motorized transport outweighs the damage done by the occasional death or serious injury.

So we're left with, in my view, a poor second choice of making an example out of the random driver who, perhaps due to a moment's inattention, caused a death.

addendum to my previous comment:

Remember I few years ago when Virginia dramatically increased the fines for many traffic offenses?

That is inline with what I think should be done everywhere now.

Of course the good citizens of Virginia nearly rioted in the streets over this and the increased penalties were quickly rescinded!

Jim T: the optimal level of deterrence is not determined by the harm caused to the victim. Rather, it the amount of deterrence necessary to prevent the perpetrator from causing harm. Any deterrence system must account for probability of enforcement, conviction, and the cognitive biases that prevent people from accurately assessing risk.

Thus, the death penalty for negligent homocide might instead result in a lower conviction rate (no one will convict if they think the law too harsh), and can have perverse incentives. For example, if you injure a cyclist, the incentive is to flee and thus escape any punishment, rather than stay and try to help the victim: if he dies, you get the death penalty.

Hi SJE: Of course one has to make simplifying assumptions. I certainly am not advocating the death penalty for negligent homicide. Rather the point is to show that because each of the responses underdeter greatly, we need to pursue all of the options we have.

My definition of optimal deterrence is that the expected marginal damage to society of the action is equal to the expected marginal cost to the perpetrator. One way of making that happen would be for the perpetrator to bear all of the costs of her action. This is how it works when one's behavior only affects the actor. A rational person driving by herself only takes risk consistent with wanting to live--but might take additional risks regarding someone else's life. (She is "rational" but not necessarily ethical.) Hence we see that some drivers leave a much wider buffer when passing another car than when passing a bike.

An alternative would be (if only we could) to take away 1% of the value of a statistical life if someone does something with a 1% chance of killing someone--assuming 100% enforcement. But if the chance of getting caught is only 1%, then maybe when someone is caught they should be charged for an entire statistical life i convicted. Of course we won't, but anything less is underdeterrence.

Whatever simplifications are implicit in saying "a life for a life", they probably point even more (not less) to the idea that the criminal penalities underdeter. And if criminal penalties themselves cause perversions as you suggest, that points even more toward the system underdeterring. Of course, your hypothetical applies to every type of penalty, not just a death sentence and is presumably the reason that hit-and-run occurs in cases other than murder.

@JeffB. The concern you have about "the random driver who, perhaps due to a moment's inattention, caused a death" might apply to the DC law. But it will not apply to the Maryland law. That table of cases in the WABA Senate Committee testimony went into great detail on that point.

Jim: deterrence must also account for the value of the activity to society. For example, while debtors prisons make people more careful with other people's money, they make people overly conservative in investment which has negative costs in economic activity.

Banning the license might be fine, but there can be consequences a DMV hearing would not examine. Is it justice in any meaningful sense - no. Will it prevent another accident -- maybe.

Do you mean "justice" in the sense of providing some sort of recompense to the victim? Then I agree, no. But the state has a duty to ensure that citizens operating motor vehicles on public roadways meet some bare minimum level of competence. After all, that's why we license drivers, right. So setting aside the question of "justice" or "punishment", temporarily unlicensing all drivers who are deemed at fault (or while fault is determined), and making it easier to revoke the licenses of negligent drivers serves that purpose.

As far as elderly drivers being in more accidents, but in fewer "deadly" accidents, I can easily see that as a function of their lower speeds. In other words, they're less likely to be in high-speed collisions--which would likely kill other drivers or themselves. But more likely to be in low-speed collisions--which would be just as likely to kill pedestrians and other unprotected users, but much safer for themselves and other drivers. It's the old "90 Year Old Woman Drives Through Playground Killing 7" story.

In any case, we wouldn't have to single out older drivers--everyone involved in an accident would be required to retest.

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