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From Delaware this morning is an article looking at the potential overturn of a death-by-vehicle law. I think a law like this is a good move, but I can't tell if this one really was written overly broadly or if people are just reacting with car-centric attitudes:

Under the law at the time, they could only convict the man of careless driving, an offense that carried a $115 fine and up to 30 days in jail. "Hitting your father was no different than hitting a mailbox," she recalled them saying.


As it is currently written, the law -- a misdemeanor offense -- carries a fine of up to $1,150 and prison time of up to 30 months. But in recent months, defense attorneys questioned its constitutionality. Earlier this summer, a Kent County Superior Court judge agreed, ruling it unconstitutional.


There is no information, in the article that you cite, regarding the cause of the accident, and yet you seem to imply that the motorist is getting off lightly.

It's a tragedy when a cyclist (or a pedestrian, or-gasp-a motorist) dies, but let's be clear: there is a difference between bad judgment (even when it has horrible consequences) and criminal negligence. In this instance, moreover, there does not seem to be any evidence that it is her fault.

I'm also not clear why this is being presented as a motorist vs. cyclist thing. Many, many, motorists are killed by other motorists and most of the latter never do hard time.

I assume you're talking about the Dreama Sodikoff case. It was not my intention to imply anything about her sentence.

I'm guessing there is SOME evidence that it was her fault or she wouldn't be charged with reckless driving. [I know that simply being charged does not mean there is any evidence, but in the absence of any other information I'm going to give the DA some leeway here]. They were both going in the same direction when she hit him with the passenger side of the car. That seems like - an yes this is armchair laywering - inadequate passing distance to me.

I did not intend for this to be a cyclist versus motorist thing. There were two serious accidents and I mentioned those.

There was one accident where the law enforcement officials made a judgement call as to the seriousness of the crime - and I'm unqualified (and short on information) to second guess them on that decision.

The last article is the only one where I feel the law enforcement clearly dropped the ball.

All these articles do involve motorist vs. cyclists. Those are the most deadly types of collisions for cyclists. motorist vs. motorist collisions wouldn't really fit on this blog.

Having said all of that, I feel that accidents involving cyclists are proably under-prosecuted. There is only one side of the story to tell and an underlying sense that the cyclist had no business being on the road in the first place. I think that "failure to give adequate passing distance" should probably qualify as criminal negligence and thus manslaughter, but I'm not a lawyer.

And...there is one more difference between motorist vs motorist crimes and motorist vs cyclist crimes. Car deaths probably don't dissuade people from driving, but cyclist deaths add to the perception that cycling is too dangerous. If the government wants to encourage people to bike (and at almost all levels they claim they do) then they need to show that they're doing something about the safety issue. Cracking down on wreckless driving around cyclists would be one way.

I want to be more clear and just say I cited both the initial legal climate and the one being questioned in Delaware, because I think a range is necessary.

The accidents are not all the same and the punishment should not all be the same. IANAL, so I don't particularly know how well or poorly the laws in Delaware were written.

I think providing options for prosecutors prevents them from having to make a decision between either a minor moving violation or manslaughter--when the outcome may very realistically been something in between.

The excerpt you quote doesn't make it clear that she was being charged, but I see that the linked article does mention a charge. I'm not a lawyer either, but 12 months in prison seems like plenty for a error in judgment, assuming it was not gross negligence (http://www.lectlaw.com/def/g020.htm : "failure to use even the slightest amount of care in a way that shows Recklessness or willful disregard for the safety of others").

I really am torn about this issue. On the one hand I really do feel, as a cyclist, that I am "traffic" and should be afforded the rights and responsibilities as other "traffic" (This is just me voicing my stance, I'm not trying to start a scofflaw debate here). On the other hand, I think the safety of a cyclist on the road is more volatile than a motorist's. This leaves me torn as I don't think there are well-communicated expectations to either side as how to always behave around one another which makes it hard to define what due diligence should be for a driver who sees a cyclist. Certainly, I don't see cars zooming by other cars in the same lane, so there are clear examples of lawful differences between how motorists and cyclists interact and how cars and bikes interact amongst themselves.

I guess I'd be curious from others (especially if anyone can speak to the law) as to what diligence and negligence are in these cases.

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