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The whole "what is taking a life worth" debate hurts my head. One thing about killing anyone with a car seems clear though. Anyone who kills with a car or truck cannot be trusted to drive again ever. It should mean an immediate and permanent loss of driving privileges. Unless a driver can prove that the victim was largely to blame for their own death due to clearly egregious actions AND that nothing the driver could have would have mitigated the outcome that driver should stop driving. I don't care to hear about the impact of the loss of a drivers license on the drivers livelihood, its got nothing to do with keeping the streets safe. Let them join the chorus advocating for better non-driving transportation alternatives,

So the message from Maryland is that if you're rich enough to afford the fine, it's okay to just run over whoever you want (as long as you don't drive off and aren't drunk or high, presumably).

Is there any other activity besides driving where we say it's okay to kill someone as long as it was an accident?

@DE: The killer was a construction worker who was commuting to DC (area) from the far side of Baltimore, and has chosen not to appear or pay these relatively low fines. And he STILL ran over someone and got away with it.

I would have liked to have know if the driver was possibly distracted at the time of the accident.

Maybe the police don't bother investigating that since even if he was if wouldn't be grounds for a criminal charge.

But if the punishment is only a fine, then as a society we are saying that if you can pay for it, it's okay. (As opposed to a mandatory loss of license or jail time.)

Not really how I worded it, but maybe I was overemotional due to recent near miss.

I'd be willing to guess that the driver was tired, speeding and/or distracted. Driving from the far side of Baltimore to Bethesda for an early start construction job, is draining under regular circumstances.

In 2012 he was found guilty of driving on a suspended license. Earlier this year he faced charges for failing to stop at a stop sign, but was found not guilty.

Why did he swerve? If he's drowsy, that's grounds for gross negligence charges (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/02/AR2009010202083.html).

The point so well made by @washcycle

"Yes, it was an accident (in that it was not intentional) but that does not mean it was not a crime. "

I sincerely doubt there is any consideration being given to the possibility of a crime without the most egregious evidence (e.g. DUI). It is dumbfounding.

I think MoCo flat out screwed up, and it goes all the way back to the citations they issued on 8/28. Once they did that, or at least once Freeman pled guilty, prosecuting him for killing Tim Holden was a longshot with odds against even bringing him to trial.

"Is there any other activity besides driving where we say it's okay to kill someone as long as it was an accident?"

I'm just guessing here, because I don't have time to do the research now, but I'd guess there are accidental poisonings (serving drano to guests instead of a mai tai) and even accidental shootings ("I did think it odd that the deer was wearing a blaze orange jacket') that don't get prosecuted.

Having said that, I do think people who accidentally kill cyclists should have their license suspended for a time (even though that's no assurance they won't drive anyway) - or at least compelled to bike through DC traffic regularly for a period to see what it's like.

Did they ever come put with the details? If I remember correctly, wasn't he on the shoulder when hit?

Was it dark and did the rider have lights?

Are Maryland laws really so weak they a cyclist can get hit while riding legally and the driver only pay around $500 and walk/drive away?

What if a driver rear ends another car, kills a person in the front car, are the penalties just as weak?

We have a guy who is driving probably 90 minutes each way in the early morning, with several recent driving infractions. We know that tiredness can be worse than DUI in terms of driving performance.

About 20 years ago an overly-tired young doctor was involved in a car accident that led to huge changes in the laws regarding working hours.

We could have some sort of tiredness test, or workplace reforms. But the simplest solution is to remove from the road anyone who is negligent.

They've updated the original story - his license is NOT suspended, and he still has time to argue the charges or pay the fines.

He was on the shoulder, but it wasn't dark. Yes. Under maryland law being at fault in a fatal traffic crash can result in nothing more than a <$1000 fine and points (and probably a civil case).

The kicker is that when Rachel Marie Goad killed Danielle Cooper back in 2011 (for which she was fined $190) it became part of the recent to make negligent homicide a crime. But that has been rarely enforced in my experience.

Interesting. His case file online says "Failure to Comply Suspension."

What if it was a bike lane? would the weak penalties have been the same?

You know what really boggles the mind? The fact that this license suspension is for a failure to pay $690 in traffic fines, NOT for negligent homicide.

I have always assumed if you are found at fault for unintentionally killing someone with your car that that was enough to constitute vehicular manslaughter.

After reading through the actual criteria though, that does not appear to be the case. http://statelaws.findlaw.com/maryland-law/maryland-involuntary-manslaughter-law.html

I ride east and west bound on that particular section of road at least once a week. The shoulder is wide, so there is usually no reason to ride in the road, and it doesn't seem like Holden was found to be riding in the road.

How can a vehicle come out of their lane of traffic, hit a cyclist with enough force to end their life and not be found grossly negligent?

I am not lawyer but for those interested, this appears to be MD's decision on what constitutes criminally and grossly negligent homicide with a vehicle: http://www.oag.state.md.us/Opinions/2011/96oag128.pdf

Just to get some perspective, I spent a few minutes reading about accidental shootings. In general, the problem of non-intentional killing seems to be a matter of managing a public hazard rather than a matter of punishing people who are not grossly negligent.

The challenge, I think, is to convince the public that taking away driving privileges is a sensible public safety measure, rather than a punishment. Or, in general, to demand public safety measures that will change, rather than maintain, the status quo. "Vision zero" is supposed to do just that, so that may be a way forward.

As it stands, drivers licenses are often taken away in cases where people have unpaid state or local fees. In these cases, taking licenses is being used as leverage and punishment. http://www.sfgate.com/cars/article/4-2-million-have-lost-drivers-license-because-6187538.php

It will be a challenge to convince people that taking away a drivers license is not a punishment, but I think it can be done in the long run, especially for people with good access to other transportation options.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and I think one thing we could do is treat alcohol abuse as a sickness/disability, and one that - like blindness - makes driving unsafe. But, as a disability it would qualify one for disability based transit.

So, if you're busted for driving drunk - or maybe even for any alcohol based crime beyond POCA or PI - you lose your license for a long period and you need a doctor to sign off on your health when that period is up. During the interim, you get access to a suitable, subsidized transit alternative. It can be paid for out of your car insurance (which would also be an incentive for insurers to avoid high-risk clients and thus work as a backdoor ban on bad drivers).

Just being a "bad driver" is a different story, but here again we could help people who lose their license due to points (and the threshold is way too high) find a better home/work combination and explore alternative mobility options through TDM techniques.

Let's get bad drivers off the road. Surely we can build consensus behind that.

The challenge, I think, is to convince the public that taking away driving privileges is a sensible public safety measure, rather than a punishment.

This is a great point. There is little support, even in this community, for lengthy jail terms for these folks. Rather, we merely need to get the worst drivers off the road. Doing this will provide everyone else more incentive to put away their phones and improve their own driving.

I think one thing we could do is treat alcohol abuse as a sickness/disability, and one that - like blindness - makes driving unsafe. But, as a disability it would qualify one for disability based transit.

Hmm... is it too much of a leap then to treat "bad driving" as a disability per se? Then anyone who has demonstrated that they cannot be trusted with a motor vehicle could fall into the same category.

For me it is not too much of a leap, but politically it may be. But if we had some metric by which we could decide who the worst 1% of drivers were each year (crashes + violations + driving test results, etc..) and then we took their license for a year AND provided them with Metro Access-like (but less intensive perhaps) transit, I think the benefits would outweigh the costs.

I've been thinking about it too.

We now have at least four cyclists killed in Maryland this year, by three drivers who had previous encounters with the legal system.

Two were caught DWI, but neither was convicted prior to killing our friends.

The third case (Freeman) is complicated by his youth: in 2012, at 19, he was charged with driving on a suspended license - suspended most likely due to juvenile violations. As a first-time (adult) offender he was given probation, which he failed, but rather than reinstating the original charges and fines his license was suspended. I don't know if that's again or still, but that's a pretty weak response considering the original charges and history. And yet, here we are again. After he killed Tim Holden, he's ignoring the gift of relatively minor fines and has or will have his license suspended - which he'll certainly ignore and keep right on driving. Maryland legally can do little more to stop him.

There's a lot of this system that needs fixing, and we're doing better with DUIs than we are with a lot of other aspects of road safety.

The Maryland Attorney General was the former Chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. While he supported cycling infrastructure, he was fanatical about not extending penalties on crimes like these. It's a problem when you hand those sort of folks a chairmanship because they're not going to allow crackdowns on much.

Like I said the other day, bigamy and several other "crimes" carry far heavier sentencing guidelines than even vehicular manslaughter. It's patently absurd to think that someone sleeping with multiple people or in possession of drugs as a teenager is more dangerous than someone who literally drivers a car while drunk/tired/etc into someone else, but that's how it's written. And unless everyone shows up at places like JPR demanding a change, tons of newspaper editorials come, or it's a legislator himself or herself that's hurt, then there will be no changes. Hate to say that, but it's the truth.

I think one thing we could do is treat alcohol abuse as a sickness/disability, and one that - like blindness - makes driving unsafe. But, as a disability it would qualify one for disability based transit

If we were serious about removing from the roads those who should not be driving then we might finally get serious about a decent and reliable transportation system that does not revolve around cars.

This is very disturbing, but not unexpected.

I see two main factors contributing to this official attitude toward negligent driving in cases such as this. The first is that virtually everyone identifies personally as a driver and only few of us as cyclists or pedestrians. Therefore, the authorities tend to see the event through the driver's eyes, i.e., a moment of inattention on the part of a good person--and boom--rather than a case of the endemic habit of casual lawbreaking and risky behavior behind the wheel leading to catastrophe. In other words, it could "happen" to anyone.

The second is that driving is essential to livelihood for most of the population and to take that away from a man with the gumption to commute from Baltimore to DC is to turn a productive citizen into a potential drag on society. In many minds, this balances the safety risk of letting him continue to drive.

The first factor may be diminishing.

I have also heard many times people identifying with the position of the person who ran the pedestrian/cyclist over and has had to deal with that--as if that were punishment enough, in other words. I don't feel strongly about that either way; I'm not too concerned about punishment as much as I am about stopping it from happening. Punishment can be a part of that, sure, but as we've seen from crimes that are severely punished, it's never enough to stop them from happening.

Bring on the accident-avoidance aspects of self-driving cars, I say. I doubt Americans will ever fully get behind completely self-driving cars, but sensors that can help prevent crashes can't come soon enough.

I have some trouble imagining a society whose "summum bonum" is a gun in every hand giving up any autonomy on the road, but I could sure use a car that made up for my many deficiencies as a driver and I won't even begin to discuss the danger my wife poses to life and property.

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