Tag Archive for lax hit-and-run laws

Morning Links: LA cyclist killed in Arizona; Santa Ana hit-and-run driver has long record and suspended license

Let’s start with the bad news.

LA cyclist Jesse A. Simon was killed while riding in Arizona last Thursday.

The driver who hit Simon to police he attempted to swerve at the last second when the 65-year old rider entered the roadway — apparently from the shoulder of the highway — but still clipped him with the pickup’s mirror.

Of course, in real life, that usually means the driver wasn’t paying attention and didn’t see the cyclist until it was too late, and simply didn’t react in time. Unfortunately, unless another witness is found, police will only have the driver’s statement to go by, since the victim is unable to give his side of the story.

I’m told Simon worked for LA Metro, though I don’t know what position he held with the county transit agency.

An earlier version of the story said he was riding through Arizona as part of a national bike tour; however, that has since been removed for some reason.

My prayers and condolences for Jesse Simon, and all his family, friends and co-workers.

Thanks to Alan and Vanessa for the link.

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Police make an arrest in the hit-and-run deaths of three trick-or-treating teenage girls who were killed in Santa Ana Halloween night.

Thirty-one year old Jaquin Ramone Bell was arrested on Sunday, and booked on felony hit-and-run causing death; he also had two outstanding warrants for domestic violence charges.

Unbelievably, Bell had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of child abuse and endangerment, DUI and hit-and-run with property damage for an August 1st collision in Anaheim. And was sentenced to a whopping 10 days in jail and three years probation on the child abuse count, and eight days — eight — for the traffic charges.

We should all thank the judge who set him loose to kill someone the next time.

Granted, he was driving on a suspended license when he killed the three girls. Although clearly that didn’t stop him.

Then again, that’s probably to be expected since he had violated probation seven times before.

And we can only guess whether he was drunk behind the wheel on Halloween, despite a three-month court ordered substance abuse program. Fleeing the scene gave him plenty of time to sober up before he was busted two days later.

If he had been drinking or using drugs, that is.

And did I mention that he had his own teenage children in the car with him when he fled the scene like the heartless coward he allegedly is, leaving three innocent children to die in the street?

Nice parenting lesson there, dude.

If you’re not disgusted, maybe you should be. Because once again, our courts failed to take traffic crime seriously, despite being given every possible warning that the suspect couldn’t be trusted.

But once again, they gave him yet another second chance.

And once again, an innocent victim died as a result. Or three, in this case.

Yes, they should charge the jerk with three counts of felony murder, lock him up and drop the key in the deepest pits of hell.

But maybe the people who let him off the hook over and over should do some of that time with him.

Meanwhile, Santa Ana officials vow to slow speeds and improve pedestrian safety, which is sadly lacking in the city.

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Santa Barbara’s Noozhawk offers a detailed report on the death of triathlete Gary Holmes, two-and-a-half years after he was run down by a DUI driver near Los Olivos.

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Local

Mayor Garcetti wants LA to experiment with pedestrian scrambles, already proven in Beverly Hills, Pasadena and yes, Westwood — as well as countless cities around the world. Yet the Times worries drivers will freak out over having to wait at red lights a few more seconds.

Groundbreaking took place on Saturday for the Greenway Trail, extending the LA River bike path another five miles through the San Fernando Valley.

LA erases DIY street safety efforts in Silver Lake, but lets gang symbols remain on South LA streets.

A suspected drunk driver hits a seven-year old Burbank bike rider; fortunately, the boy is expected to recover. So don’t expect the courts to take it seriously or anything.

Pasadena gets $172,000 to conduct a year-long bike safety program for children and their families.

 

State

Cyclelicious offers a statewide guide to today’s election.

Huntington Beach sees a jump in bike thefts. Evidently, you’re not safe on your bike in HB, and your bike’s not safe when you’re off it.

Bike share is finally getting ready to roll in San Diego, where the first stations were installed Monday.

A reminder that the end of Daylight Savings increases the risk for riders; make sure you leave home with the lights you’ll need later.

The Sacramento Bee says the recent governor’s report on bike deaths misses the chance to focus on real problems.

 

National

A new warning system alerts drivers to the presence of bikes, but only of they both have the same system installed. Or drivers could, you know, just pay attention.

A Tucson cyclist is killed by an unmarked patrol car.

A Minneapolis cyclist has his bike stolen after an alleycat race, but the thief returns it the same night.

An Illinois cyclist is killed by a driver who crossed onto the wrong side of the road; somehow, the state police still blame the victim.

New distracted driving laws took effect in New York state on Saturday.

A columnist for the New York Daily News claims New York’s new 25 mph speed limit, intended to save lives as part of the city’s Vision Zero, will just mean more lives lost to road raging drivers. Because, you know, it’s impossible to be patient or control your temper behind the wheel; then again, maybe he’s right.

 

International

Biking Cuba’s Bay of Pigs, which you are still officially prohibited from visiting if you carry a US passport.

Olympic cycling champ Chris Boardman offers 12 tips for urban cycling in a BBC video report. But Brits freak out over why he didn’t wear a helmet.

A British statistician looks at how safe cycling really is in the UK.

London police back two proposed bike superhighways. Which is what they called the city’s previous bikeways, which weren’t.

A Yorkshire paper says golf is out as middle-aged men in Lycra get on their bikes.

My favorite Scottish bike advocate and blogger explains why covered bikeways won’t work.

Pro cycling’s governing body may shorten two of the three Grand Tours.

Singapore has some way to go to become a cycling nation.

 

Finally…

Caught on video: A driving instructor and bike trainer explains why those damn cyclists ride in the middle of the road. A new study confirms that San Francisco’s streets are decidedly auto-centric, unlike every other city in North America, evidently.

And meet the bike for people who don’t ride bikes. But does it have a seat that turns into a lock — or wheels made of ice, for that matter?

 

Daughter of LAPD Sgt. accepts plea in death of Gardena cyclist Jesse Dotson

Despite her best efforts, the killer of a Gardena bike rider was unable to avoid justice after all.

Although her semi-successfult attempt to flee the scene may have spared her from a more severe penalty.

Twenty-three-year old Vanessa Marie Yanez was reportedly driving home when she collided with 60-year old postal worker Jesse Dotson as he was riding into work on Gardena’s El Segundo Blvd in June of last year. Yanez fled the scene, leaving Dotson bleeding in the street; he died in a local hospital a few days later.

The daughter of a veteran LAPD sergeant, Yanez reported the car stolen to the Huntington Park police the next day. However, an alert HPPD officer put two-and-two together after seeing news reports of the collision, and contacted Gardena police to report Yanez as a suspect.

Her car was found, complete with shattered windshield, still at the home she shared with her father, less than a mile from the scene of the collision. KNBC-4 later reported she told police she had been drinking before the wreck; if true, fleeing the scene would have given her time to sober up before her arrest.

She was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter, perjury, filing a false police report and felony hit-and-run.

Gardena police initially said her father, Sgt. Arturo Yanez, could face charges if it was shown that he had knowledge of his daughter’s actions or was involved in the attempted cover-up. No such charges were ever filed, though, even though it’s hard to understand how such an experienced officer would be unaware of what was happening under his own roof.

There were also reports that he could face an internal investigation with the LAPD; however, such investigations are considered personnel matters, and the results are unlikely to ever be made public.

Today, the LA District Attorney’s office announced (pdf) that Vanessa Yanez had changed her plea to no contest on three counts — a felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident, felony perjury, and misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter. She is expected to be sentenced to two years in state prison on September 25th.

The sentence seems light under the circumstances, suggesting she accepted a plea deal in exchange for a lighter sentence, as usually happens in traffic cases.

However, light sentences do little to stem the epidemic of hit-and-runs. And her sentence would have undoubtedly been much stiffer if it could have been shown that she was under the influence when she hit Dotson.

Which is just one more reason why the penalty for hit-and-run should be stiffened to match the penalties for drunk driving and remove the incentive for intoxicated drivers to flee the scene.

Correction: This story initially said Yanez had pled guilty; it has been amended to reflect her actual plea of no contest.

 

Update: Gatto bill suspends licenses for hit-and-run; hit-and-run victim Damian Kevitt to finish his ride in April

Now we’re getting somewhere.

Last year, Glendale-area state Assembly Member Mike Gatto sponsored successful legislation to extend the statute of limitations in hit-and-run cases from three to six years.

The bill was stronger as originally written, though, providing an additional year from the date a suspect was identified. Still, the final version that passed the legislature on a unanimous vote of both houses was signed by Governor Brown — which is not always a sure thing — and went into effect on the first of the year.

Now Gatto is taking the next step in ending the epidemic of hit-and-and run.

According to a press release from his office, which does not appear to be online yet, Gatto has introduced legislation calling for automatic license revocation for any motorist who leaves the scene of a collision involving another person — even if the injuries are minor.

That’s revocation, not suspension.

(Update: Actually, it’s not. See below.) 

As such, it goes beyond the 2010 Life Before License campaign sponsored by the apparently dormant Bikeside LA, which called for license suspensions of varying length depending on the severity of the victim’s injuries. Because too often, drivers are allowed to keep their licenses after fleeing the scene, even in cases where the victim has been seriously injured.

And it corrects, in part at least, a loophole in California law that only allows serious consequences in cases resulting in death or serious bodily injury.

Even then, hit-and-run drivers too often walk off with a slap on the wrist. And their license.

“The only way to know if you hurt someone is to stop. The only way to get someone medical help is to stop,” said Assemblyman Gatto. “Allowing drivers who don’t stop to keep their license, adds insult to their victim’s injuries.” …

“AB 1532 will give victims of hit-and-runs solace, knowing that cowards who drive recklessly, and purposefully avoid responsibility for their actions, are no longer driving the streets,” said Assemblyman Gatto. “This is a sensible fix to the law that will lead people to think twice before leaving the scene of an accident.”

It’s not the full solution to hit-and-run.

But it’s something I’ve long called for to discourage drivers from fleeing the scene, and get drivers who’ve shown they can’t obey the most basic requirements for driving — let alone human decency — off the road.

We still need to address the fact that current law actually encourages drivers who have been drinking to flee the scene until they have time to sober up. As well as the fact that unless their vehicle is taken away, many motorists will continue to drive after their licenses have been taken away.

And again, with little or no consequences in far too many cases.

But Gatto’s bill is a vital step to control, if not end, the epidemic. And get some of the state’s most dangerous and heartless drivers off the road.

As Eric Bruins, Planning and Policy Director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, noted,

“Stopping and rendering aid after a collision is the most basic duty of a motorist. … Failing to do so can be the difference between scrapes and bruises and a serious injury or fatality. Anyone who flees the scene of an accident has demonstrated in the most cowardly way possible that they do not have the judgment necessary to keep their driving privileges.”

Update: Now that the bill has been posted online, it’s clear that the press release was misleading, at best. Rather than calling for revocation, as the press release stated, it would merely require that drivers who leave the scene have their licenses suspended for 6 months.

As such, it’s still a step forward, if a relatively small one. It’s not as strong as what was called for under Life Before License, and a lot weaker than what I’ve been calling for; whoever wrote Gatto’s press release should know there’s a big difference between suspension and revocation.

The bill would also amend current law to require that drivers who hit a person would be required to stop at the scene, rather than at the nearest location that would not impede traffic. 

The current provision has been abused by drivers who would leave the scene, then turn themselves in hours later with no penalty.

Thanks to Alex H for the correction

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The press release also notes that Damian Kevitt — the cyclist critically injured in a hit-and-run when a minivan driver dragged him onto the 5 Freeway after running him over near Griffith Park nearly a year ago — is planning to finish the ride that took his leg.

And nearly, his life.

Other hit-and-run victims are continuing the healing process.  Damian Kevitt was struck by a mini-van while on his bicycle and dragged more than a quarter-mile down the Interstate 5 Freeway in Los Angeles last February.  The collision resulted in dozens of broken bones and the amputation of one of Kevitt’s legs. Kevitt recently announced that he will be finishing the ride he started last year at an event on April 27, 2014 to raise awareness for hit-and-run victims and challenged athletes.

The suspect who hit him remains at large, despite a $25,000 reward. You can contribute to Damian’s efforts to raise $10,000 for the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

Seriously, I’m in awe of that guy.

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In a somewhat related, and horrifying, story, a Wisconsin driver faces charges for allegedly running down an adult tricycle rider, then fleeing the scene with his victim still lodged in his windshield. Fortunately, the rider wasn’t seriously injured, and managed to free himself after the driver arrived home, reports the StarTribune.

A Wisconsin man who became lodged in the windshield of a car that struck him said he turned to the driver and said, “Hello, I’m the guy you hit on the bicycle.” …

The man finally noticed Gove when he stopped the car outside his home.

“He looked at me and said ‘Who are you? What are you doing in the car?'” Gove said. “He started freaking out: ‘I’m going to jail, I’m going to jail.'”

Thanks to Michael McVerry for the heads-up.

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A 79-year old Glendora cyclist is critically injured when he’s left-crossed by an 86-year old driver.

Meanwhile, a 19-year old Temecula man faces nine years in prison after reaching a plea bargain on charges that he fled the scene after hitting a stopped car, then ran a red light to strike another car and a bike rider in a crosswalk; the cyclist survived, but the other driver died several days later.

And if you can get past the paywall, the OC Register’s David Whiting asks if the death of his friend means we should give up sharing the road.

That would be no.

For all the bad news — and yes, there’s been far too much lately — your risk of dying on a bike is an infinitesimal one in 6.3 million. You also face twice as much risk inside a car as you do on a bike, on an hourly basis. And research shows the health benefits of bicycling far outweigh any risks.

I write about the bad things that happen because every fallen rider deserves to be remembered, and even one victim is one too many. And because someone has to wake up our civic leaders to the need for greater safety for everyone on our streets.

Don’t let that scare you off your bike, though.

Because bad things may happen. But they’re highly unlikely to happen to you.

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LADOT unveils the next round of planned bike lanes throughout the city. Assuming anti-bike city councilmembers don’t block them, that is.

Meanwhile, the city officially unveiled new bike lanes on Virgil Ave. And LADOT introduces People St to help rebuild our city on a more human scale.

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Bike share programs around the US and Canada have been called into question, as the company behind many of the leading programs has filed bankruptcy. Hopefully, Bixi’s financial problems will be just a bump in the road for cities like New York and Chicago, though Time Magazine isn’t very hopeful.

Thanks to Michael Eisenberg for the tip.

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Flying Pigeon looks at last weekend’s successful Tweed Ride.

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Finally, the National Business Review asks what you’d do if you knew how to stop bicycling deaths; evidently, the answer is not much, based on experience in Auckland. And Tennessee sheriff’s deputies threaten a bike rider with arrest after he’s assaulted by teenagers, even though they confessed to the crime; thanks to Charles Hudak for the link.

Monday morning meditations from a muddled mind — hit-and-runs, Bob Filner and podium girls

Sometimes there’s just too much swirling around my head to focus on any one thing. And not enough coffee in all the Starbucks in all of LA to clarify things.

Which is exactly where I am this morning.

A day when I can breath a sign of relief that my morning search for bike news didn’t turn up any major bad news for SoCal cyclists. Although the word from other places near and far isn’t nearly as good.

And you’d think that an old man using a walker would be able to cross a damn LA street without getting run down by some jackass who doesn’t have the basic human decency to stop his or her goddamn car after killing another human being.

Drivers continue to flee the scene of collisions because current law means even if they do get caught, they’re better off getting charged for hit-and-run than DUI, or may not have a valid license and insurance for whatever reason.

Then again, some drivers just bet that they can get away with it.

And usually do.

Not to mention we seem to live in a society that has lost sight of the value of human life.

And all of those things have to change before anything else will.

Then again, it would help if the press took the matter more seriously. Or at least cared enough to dig a little deeper and get the story right.

As for insurance, there was a proposal several years back to include basic state-run liability coverage for every motorist in the cost of gas. Whenever you paid at the pump, a fee would be added to ensure that every victim of every collision would be protected from every driver.

Which means you’d never again have to worry how you’re going to pay your mounting medical bills after some driver ran you into the ground.

Needless to say, it didn’t go anywhere, for any number of reasons, valid and otherwise. Not the least of which was that bad drivers would pay the same rate as good ones, even though they could receive supplemental billing to make up for a lack of driving ability. Never mind that the state should be focused on getting bad drivers off the streets.

Plus some provision would have to be made for electric and hybrid vehicles. And state run auto insurance sounded a lot like communism to some people.

Then there’s the news from our neighbor to the south that scumbag Mayor Bob Filner is stepping down at the end of this week.

Political leaders have long felt entitled to do anything they damn well pleased when it came to sexual behavior. Mostly because no one held them accountable for much of American history.

Though you’d think the long line of embarrassed elected leaders stretching from Gary Hart through Bill Clinton and onto New York’s Anthony Weiner would convince them to keep their damn zippers closed in inappropriate situations.

All of which would appear to have little to do with bicycling.

Except Weiner had tried, with varying success, to reposition himself as a bike-friendly candidate after earlier threatening to tear out New York’s bike lanes. And appeared to be winning some support before the latest round of sexting revelations.

And San Diego has been making great strides under Filner’s leadership to reverse decades of benign — and sometimes, not so benign — neglect of bicyclists.

Which may, or may not, continue under the next administration that replaces him.

Thanks, Bob.

No, really.

At least there’s better news from my home state, where a new generation of bike racers took center stage. Colorado’s Tejay van Garderen took first place and Peter Sagan won four of the seven stages, while Christian Vande Velde called it a career at yet another successful USA Pro Challenge.

Even though the race continues to allow women just token participation, while demonstrating that the best way for a woman to get on a racing podium is to put on a tight dress and kiss the winner when the race is over.

And if any local bike shops are thinking about using podium girls at any races you might sponsor, don’t.

Just don’t.

And yes, I’m talking to you.

Think of the message you send women riders — and your potential customers — when you treat them like trophies instead of handing them one.

And the mixed message you send more than counteracts any good will you might earn by sponsoring women’s races.

Keep sponsoring competitions for both sexes. But drop the podium girls, already.

After all, it’s hard enough for women riders to get the respect they deserve — let alone compete on equal terms with male riders — when you treat them with as much respect as Bob Filner might.

Don’t get me wrong.

I enjoy looking at an attractive woman as much as any man.

But what really makes a woman attractive, to me at least, is knowing she could drop me on a steep uphill ride anytime she damn well feels like it.

Now that’s hot.

Almost as hot as watching a woman receive a hard-earned prize for outracing the world’s best riders, instead of just being one.

Christine Dahab sentencing Friday, LA City Council takes up hit-and-run reform, Gardena police sued

Just a couple quick notes to wrap up a busy and exhausting day.

First up, a comment from Renee Andreassen sends word that Christine Dahab, the allegedly drunk and distracted driver who plowed into 13 bicyclists on a late night ride in Culver City in 2011, will be sentenced on Friday.

Christine Dahab, who hit 13 bicyclists June 2011 will be sentenced Friday July 26, 2013 at 
West District
Airport Courthouse,
 11701 South La Cienega Blvd.
 Los Angeles, CA 90045
 Dept D

I hope all of the victims will come to give their victim impact statements. 
I would appreciate any assistance this website can get out to those impacted by this horrible event

Dahab pleaded no contest to all charges last April, apparently including DUI causing injury and DWI with a BAC over .08 causing injury.

She was sentenced to a 90-day evaluation period in state prison pending final sentencing. So she’s already spent more time behind bars than most drivers do even in fatal collisions. And could face a lot more.

I have other obligations Friday, so if anyone attends the sentencing, please let us know how it turns out.

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Hit-and-run rears its ugly head once again in L.A. But this time, they may actually do something about it.

From the blog of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition:

The Public Safety Committee will hear the LAPD report on Friday, July 26th at 8:30 AM in City Hall Room 1010.  Please join LACBC in requesting that the City take a leadership role to fix state law to increase penalties for hit-and-run.  You can also write the committee members at councilmember.englander@lacity.org, councildistrict15@lacity.org, councilmember.bonin@lacity.org, and councilmember.ofarrell@lacity.org.

No matter how you parse the numbers — and the LAPD has been roundly criticized for attempting to put the best face on a dismal record — the city ranks at or near the top among major cities for cowardly drivers refusing to take responsibility for their actions behind the wheel.

Fortunately, the department appears to be taking the problem seriously. And they seem to have been listening to me, with recommendations including:

  • Automatic license consequences — hopefully including revocation
  • Possible hold or forfeiture of the vehicle used in the crime
  • More significant consequences, including tougher penalty enhancements
  • Limit civil compromises
  • Extend the statute of limitations for hit-and-runs that result in death or serious injury

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Not surprisingly, Gardena police are being sued for civil rights violations and excessive force in the shooting death of Ricardo Diaz-Zeferino, who was killed by police while trying to help recover his brother’s stolen bicycle.

Diaz-Zeferino reportedly ran up to police as they held guns on two of his friends, shouting in English that they weren’t the thieves, but were trying to help find the bike.

And that’s when they shot him eight times, including twice in the back. As well as hitting one of his friends, resulting in permanent injuries.

Not that they overreacted or anything.

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Finally, the arraignment for Gonzalo Aranguiz Salazar, the driver accused in the death of Cal Poly Pomona bike rider Ivan Aguilar, has been postponed until September.

Salazar faces a single misdemeanor count of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence. The relatively light charge may reflect the fact that was reportedly Aguilar riding against traffic, as many students do in that location, due to a lack of safe bicycling infrastructure.

Meanwhile, discussions are underway to make much-needed bike and pedestrian safety improvements on campus.

Hopefully before someone else gets killed.

A simple four — or maybe five — point plan to end hit-and-run in California once and for all

The news hit like a bombshell Wednesday night.

After years of ignoring the problem, the Los Angeles press discovered the city’s hit-and-run epidemic when the LA Weekly unveiled an extensive examination of what may be the city’s most common crime.

The article, by writer Simone Wilson, cites the shocking news that 48% of all L.A. collisions are hit-and-runs. Or at least, shocking to anyone who hasn’t been fighting to call attention to the problem, and trying desperately to get city officials to actually do something about it.

Although to be fair, in the meetings I’ve attended, LAPD has consistently said that roughly 33% percent of all collisions are hit-and-runs, based on COMPSTAT data. And unfortunately, the Weekly doesn’t explain where they got the higher figure.

But either way, it’s too damn high.

I won’t recap the article here. If you want the short version, you can get it from LA Streetsblog or The Atlantic Cities; if there’s any justice at all, it will soon be picked up by the larger mainstream press.

Or better yet, click the link in the second paragraph and read the full article yourself. And try to retain the contents of your stomach when you do.

The question is what can we do about it.

Most of the efforts by advocates working to do something about the problem have focused on addressing it after the fact.

Like raising the profile of the crime to put it on equal footing with other violent crimes. And increasing the number of officers assigned to investigate hit-and-run collisions — particularly those involving serious injury. Which won’t be easy given that the department is desperately trying to avoid further budget and staffing cutbacks.

Meanwhile, others, such as the recent Life Before License campaign, have focused on ensuring that drivers who aren’t willing to observe the most basic requirement to remain at the scene of a collision will have their driver’s licenses suspended — something that has failed to happen in a shocking number of cases.

Which sends clear message just how seriously our courts don’t take traffic crimes.

All of these efforts are important, and deserve our support.

On the other hand, I’d rather stop hit-and-runs before they occur by changing state law to remove the incentive to flee. And making the cost for running away so steep that no one in his or her right mind would think it’s worth the risk.

Long-time readers may recall that I’ve advocated a three-point plan to do just that. And recently added a fourth to address the heartless bastards who leave their victims to die on the street.

1. One of the most common reasons people take off following a collision is that they’ve been drinking or are otherwise under the influence of something. Yet current state law actually encourages drivers to flee by making the penalty for hit-and-run less onerous than the penalty for DUI. So we should start by removing that incentive, as Colorado did at the urging of cyclists, by making the penalties for hit-and-run equal to the penalties for DUI.

However, given California’s current prison overcrowding, it’s highly unlikely that anyone convicted under a toughened law would serve their full sentence. So I suggest we take it further.

2. Anyone who leaves the scene of a collision should have their license automatically revoked — not suspended — by the DMV. By committing the crime of hit-and-run, they’ve shown a callous indifference to both the law and the lives and safety of others, and are undeserving of the privilege of driving. By making this an administrative action, it can be taken regardless of whether the driver is ever charged or convicted. The driver would have to go before an administrative judge to request the right to apply for a new license — and should face a higher standard to get it.

3. Hit-and-run is the only crime where the criminal is allowed to keep the weapon he or she used, even after a conviction; after all, bank robbers aren’t given back the gun they used. Any car used to commit a hit-and-run should be impounded as evidence until a decision is made on whether to file charges or until the trial is concluded. If the driver is convicted, the vehicle should be seized by the state and sold, with the proceeds going to the victim. After all, the state can already seize cars used in drug crimes or to solicit prostitutes; isn’t running away after killing or injuring another human being just a little more serious than trolling for a blowjob?

And I guarantee people will think twice about running away if they have to continue making payments on a car they don’t own anymore.

As I mentioned, I’ve recently added a fourth item to this list, after one too many cases in which a hit-and-run driver has left their victim to die on the streets — yet authorities can’t manage to find anything to charge the driver with that’s in any way commensurate to crime.

4. The greatest tragedy in any fatal hit-and-run is that in many cases, the victim might have been saved with prompt emergency care. But instead of calling for help, the drivers run off, leaving their victims to suffer and die alone, when they might otherwise have been saved. So prosecutors should be encouraged — if not required — to file unpremeditated degree murder charges in any case where there’s even the slightest possibility the victim might have survived if they’d gotten help.

It’s a tough approach. And quite frankly, despite discussions with a few state legislators, I’ve yet to find one willing to take up the fight.

They’d rather pretend the problem doesn’t exist. Or that nothing can be done about it, while countless cyclists, pedestrians and motorists continue to bleed.

Or die.

Then there’s one other element that should be considered.

Every police officer with whom I’ve discussed the problem of hit-and-run, without exception, has said there are two primary reason drivers flee. First, because they may be intoxicated, or second, because the drivers may be undocumented, with no license or insurance.

Of course, there’s also a third, somewhat smaller category. Some people are just gutless assholes who refuse to take responsibility for their actions.

But until we allow all residents of the state — whether or not they are here legally — to apply for a license and buy the insurance required by law for all drivers, we will continue to give them a reason to run away.

It doesn’t mean we are legitimizing their status; the state does not have the power to do that.

It just means that we recognize the problem.

And it’s long past time we did something about it.

A little this, a little that — NBC’s Tracy Morgan doors a cyclist, a killer Santa Cruz driver gets a sore wrist

A few quick notes before I hit the ground rolling on what promises to be a gorgeous day.

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Comedian, please.

Tracy Morgan, star of NBC sitcom 30 Rock, clearly doesn’t get it after dooring a cyclist in New York yesterday.

After flinging open the door of his car in the path of a bike delivery man, Morgan blamed the rider for wearing black. And made it clear that the incident was no big deal.

And in all honesty, it probably wasn’t.

To him.

According to the New York Post, Morgan was quoted as saying “This kind of stuff happens all the time in the city. I grew up in the city. I’ve been dealing with this stuff for years. Brooklyn-born and -raised, Bed-Stuy do or die.”

Unfortunately, he’s right. Whether he’s talking about cyclists getting doored, or celebs who refuse to take responsibility for their actions.

Meanwhile, E Online seems far more concerned about the comedian’s health than the cyclist he sent to the hospital with minor injuries.

At least future Gotham bike riders will face less risk of dooring from the city’s cabs, as the next generation cab design approved by the city will have sliding doors to protect those around them.

Maybe we can get Tracy Morgan to trade his Jaguar for one.

……..

While we’re on the subject of New York, local cyclists are tired of police blaming the victim and demand better protection and investigations from the NYPD. Meanwhile, a bike riding transit official clashes with a cop who tried to stop him from riding in a no-access area, and tries to pull rank by pretending to be a police commissioner.

……..

Pennsylvania cyclists get protection from a new four-foot passing law as of the first of this month; at least one driver can’t grasp the concept that it’s okay to wait until it’s safe to pass.

That seemed to be the rationalization our own governor used in vetoing last year’s three-foot passing bill, assuming that drivers would mindlessly slam on their brakes to slow down to pass cyclists at less than three feet, rather that wait a few seconds to pass safely.

Now he may get another chance to be less of an idiot do the right thing, as a new three-foot passing bill heads to committee — this time without the driver-appeasing clause Gov. Brown objected to last year.

……..

In a bizarre case from Edinburgh, a cyclist is slightly injured after jumping on the hood of a car during a roadway dispute, then holding on for dear life as the driver swerves from side-to-side and brakes repeatedly in an attempt to throw him off.

Note to cyclists — no matter how smart it may seem at the time, don’t climb onto the vehicle of the driver you’re arguing with.

Never mind getting killed. You could get strip searched.

……..

A Santa Cruz-area driver gets a whopping two years in jail for running down a cyclist and fleeing the scene, leaving his victim to die on the side of the road.

Can someone please explain to me how that isn’t murder?

The collision may have been unintended, but the decision to let his victim bleed out in the street was purely intentional.

Instead, Elliot Dess gets a slap on the wrist, while an innocent bike rider got the death penalty.

If the laws we have now don’t give prosecutors the tools they need to address crimes like this, then we need to change the law so future heartless killers will get the punishment they deserve.

Two lousy years.

Give me a break.

……..

San Diego cyclists are becoming a political force.

That’s something that should soon be happening here, as the LACBC is in the process of forming a political committee to help influence the election of bike-friendly civic leaders; more details soon.

……..

California’s oldest bike racer has another two titles under his belt. In an impressive performance, 93-year old Gordy Shields of El Cajon — soon to be 94 — won the state championship for his age group in both the 20k time trial and the criterium.

Of course, he was the only competitor in his age group.

But still.

……..

Finally, medical science at last discovers the discomfort many women riders have complained about for decades, and realizes that maybe it wasn’t all in their heads after all.

Meanwhile, Gothamist wonders if this, combined with reports of erectile dysfunction among some male riders, means cyclists will soon go extinct.

Uh, no.

Accused killer of Jim Swarzman arraigned in San Diego, currently facing relative slap on the wrist

The accused hit-and-run driver charged with killing Encino cyclist Jim Swarzman has pleaded not guilty in San Diego Superior Court.

According to multiple reports, Joseph Ricardo Fernandez was arraigned Wednesday on a single count of hit-and-run causing death.

That’s it.

No charges for DUI charges or killing another human being, whether carelessly or deliberately. Just running away like a coward and leaving a crumpled body behind.

Fernandez faces up to four years for taking the life of another human being – less than Dr. Christopher Thompson received for attempting to injure two riders in Mandeville Canyon.

Hopefully, the case is still under investigation; it’s always possible that additional charges may be added later.

The description of the collision suggests that the driver was either asleep or extremely drunk when he hit Swarzman, as witnesses reported the truck drifting from lane to lane before swerving over to hit Swarzman’s bike.

Witness descriptions also suggest that the driver was fully aware that he hit something, despite Fernandez’s reported comments when he turned himself into police that he thought he may have hit something over the weekend.

By all accounts, the collision was extremely violent. People on the scene, including Swarzman’s fiancé, say his bike exploded on impact and that he was hurtled through the air before crashing to the roadway; the driver then sped away from the scene.

And yes, Swarzman was riding exactly where he should have been on the roadway, and was lit up like a Christmas tree in the North County San Diego darkness.

It plausible that Fernandez was so drunk — or yes, so tired — that he couldn’t remember it the next day.

But I find it impossible to believe that he did not know, at the moment of impact and the minutes that followed, that he had hit someone or something, and made the decision to run away rather than stop and be held accountable for his actions.

Of course, I have no way of knowing if Fernandez had been drinking. My speculation — and at this point, that’s all it is — is based strictly on the late hour and the witness descriptions of the truck’s actions before and after the collision.

Although if I had to make a bet, I’d lay everything I own on it.

And that shows the failure of our current laws regarding hit and run. As it now stands, California law actually encourages drivers to flee the scene if they’ve been drinking, because the penalties for drunk driving are much stronger than the penalties for hit-and-run.

If he was in fact intoxicated, the smartest decision Fernandez made that night — as least as far as his legal prospects are concerned — was to run away until he could sober up, then turn himself in once the booze and/or drugs were out of his system and a DUI charge was off the table.

And that has to change.

At last report, Fernandez was still being held on $100,000 bond. His next scheduled court appearances are a readiness conference on May 5th, and a preliminary hearing on May 10th in the San Diego Superior Court, North County Regional Center, case number CN290834.

I’m not mad yet. But I’m getting there.

Correction: Originally, I had written that Fernandez had pleaded guilty. That was a typo; the plea was not guilty, as I’ve corrected it above. Thanks to Dj Wheels for the catch.

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