Thursday, June 4, 2009

Conviction Overturned In Killing of Three Motorcyclists

I’ve tried to put aside this bit of news I read in our local paper. The more I tried, the more it tried my mind. So here I am once again with fingers to keyboard in an attempt to make sense of things that don’t. In doing so, it is my hope that we, as motorcyclists, will do more to raise public awareness, support organizations that work toward motorcyclists’ rights, and in general promote good will between riders and non-riders.

In 2006 a group of motorcyclist on their way to bike week in Laconia, were run down by a motorist on his way to work. Witnesses under sworn testimony told of following this driver and observing him drift over the center line repeatedly, until finally he traveled halfway into the next lane. Heading in the opposite direction was a motorist, the bikers, and another motorist. The first car noticed the commuter traveling into his lane and turned the wheel sharply right to avoid collision. The commuter then slammed into the first biker, causing the second to crash into the downed rider. As a result three people were killed with a fourth seriously injured.

Never at anytime did the commuter attempt to take evasive action, nor did he apply the brakes. A jury of his peers found him guilty of three negligent homicide charges for which he was serving up to 12 years in prison. However, at his appeal, the State Supreme Court overturned the verdict. In the statement prepared by the judge, he said “the majority is simply incorrect when it characterizes this case as ‘only the defendant’s violation of a traffic law due to momentary inattention’ and its fear that affirming the jury’s verdict will result in ‘criminal liability as a mater of law whenever a person dies in an accident caused by a driver who crosses the centerline, regardless of the circumstances’ is unfounded.”

The judge also made a comment about a “two second” rule which confused me to no end. Nowhere can I find documentation about a two-second rule that applies to crossing a center line, but only in reference to following distances. That is mute however as when you read the judges statement it appears he is more concerned with setting a precedent. In effect, if a person sneezes causing them to cross the line, the judge does not want to see them convicted of a criminal offense. I feel too that it is understood that the commuter is in no way protected from any civil suit.

In reading the article on line, I also continued down to section where readers can leave comments. It was distressing to me, and it seems not an uncommon assumption, that the motorcyclists were in some way to blame. In fact the reader wrote “do motorcyclists get a pass on laws?” In reading the court transcript, which this reader clearly didn’t, it was stated that the motorcyclists were traveling in staggered formation, at safe distances from the car ahead and from each other.

I will be watching this case to see how it continues to unfold. After all three people lost their lives. We need to be aware of proceedings like this and to comments made by the general public that perceives riders as scofflaws. This is where supporting our local chapters that protect our rights is so valuable. Many states have also begun campaigns on motorcycle awareness. Encourage your legislators to support these efforts at budget time. After all, what is a life worth?


Baron's Life said...

This is so very tragic...!
no words can adequately describe how it makes me feel.

mq01 said...

two second rule? seems like bullshit (pardon the lang) to me. this upsets me. lives were lost, families and friends have been effected. and the public can have such strange reactions sometimes when motorcycles are involved...
thank you for the post.

Sheila D said...

I remeber this tragic accident well. Thank you for updating us as to the outcome. Unbelievable! I'm outraged. You are right...please support your local chapters, write to your representatives or anything else that comes along to raise public awareness and promote motorcyclists rights.