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Too many hit and runs

I try not to report too often on cycling deaths because I hate to dwell on the negative. However, when a local cyclist died in the early hours of last Friday morning, it hit home personally because it happened in almost the exact same spot where I was hit in 2006. Savannah Highway (17) and White Oak Drive, Charleston, South Carolina.

Gerard Nieto was riding his bicycle when he was struck from behind and left to die by the roadside by a driver who did not stop. The driver, 32 year old Jason Frank Marion, did later come forward and surrender to the police on Tuesday.

As the collision happened at 1:45am one is left to wonder whether alcohol was involved. Hwy. 17 a wide road two lanes in either direction, with a center turn lane; the road is dead straight at this point and brightly lit. The lanes are of ample width, with plenty of room to pass a cyclist safely. (See picture above.)

So if a cyclist is hit, I have to wonder why; was the driver distracted, sleeping, or drunk? Had Marion done the right thing and stopped, and he had been drinking he would now be facing at least vehicular manslaughter charges and a possible lengthy jail term.

By killing someone on Friday and giving himself up on Tuesday, Marion is now charged with hit and run, and failure to exercise due care. If drink was involved it can never be proved; it is an incentive not to stop if you hit someone. Which is probably why I am seeing so many of these cases.

Marion’s bail has been set at $101,092 so the court is taking this somewhat seriously. But until the penalty for hit and run resulting in death is an automatic vehicular manslaughter charge, the same as DUI; these hit and runs will continue.

It should also be a murder charge if it can be proved a victim would have lived had he/she had immediate medical attention.


Update January 9th 2013

Jason Marion plead guilty in a Charleston Court to Reckless Homicide and was sentenced to 6 years in prison, followed by 3 years probation.



Reader Comments (6)

It's a shame that people who hit a cyclist face little to no punishment. You are correct, in my opinion, about facing a mandatory manslaughter charge. But we'll never see that happen.


May 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaul S

Yesterday I was cut off by an idiot who abruptly turned to the right in the middle of a block, without signaling, because he had found a parking space. Luckily my brakes are always well tuned and I was paying close attention because I had noticed he was driving somewhat erratically. Today, another idiot crossing the street perpendicularly on his SUV saw me coming, but kept going, even though I had 100% the right of way (and I was on a bike lane). He missed me by a couple of inches, and even though I am a very defensive and experienced rider I didn´t see it coming. Who would have thought someone´s going to go right at you that way, at 4 in the afternoon, in a very busy avenue of the bike heavy, and relatively bike friendly Boston? Sometimes a year goes without having a close call, now I´ve had two in two days. I´ve learned to expect that people will always open the door mindlessly on you, that people will cut to their rights and lefts right in front of you at any time, and now I´ll add to my mental list the fact that someone can come from a side street and cross in front of you just because they can. It´s a tough word sometimes for us commuters and for cyclists in general. And all it would take to make it better would be a little bit of education and less sheer arrogance on the part of some drivers.

May 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterahsere

Two things spring to mind.
I would NEVER ride a bike at I 45 am. It wont be well rceived but there it is.
A similar incidet happened here where the cyclidt was on a dual carrigeway at Midnight in poor vis. dressedin black with no lights or reflectors. Im sorry but its asking for trouble.
Secondly can US tv stop showing people using phones whilst driving and may stop the five secind eye contact shots of driver passenger conversations. Monkey see:Monkey do.
regards Jim

May 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames

The recent hit and run case of Amy Senser in Minneapolis further illustrates your point. Ms Senser struck and killed a pedestrian last August. She did not stop at the scene, but rather went home and went to bed. The next morning, after she & her husband examined the damage to her SUV, the Sensers consulted their attorney and later that day their counsel turned the damaged vehicle over to the authorities. Several days later Ms Senser acknowledged to the police that she was in fact the driver. Her defense revolved around a recent Minnesota State Supreme Court ruling that requires the prosecution to prove not only that the defendant was operating the lethal vehicle, but additionally to prove that the driver knew that they had hit someone. The Senser defense went like this "I didn't know I hit a person...I felt something and thought it was a traffic cone".
Senser was convicted on two felony vehicular charges, plus an additional minor charge. She awaits sentencing and has indicated she will appeal the conviction.
All cyclists should be aware of the "I didn't know I hit someone, so there is no crime" dodge and how cases similar to Sensers are treated in their State.

May 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterScott Cahow

It always amazes me, if you fired a gun recklessly you couldn't use the "I didn't know I hit someone" defense.

May 16, 2012 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

Agree entirely with the sentiments. Same issues DownUnder here as well, of course. But, 0145 hrs., my first thought was whether the cyclist had lighting in place. Just a hunch, but I think the invention, and improvement, of the LED must have saved many cyclists lives, regardless of drivers' intoxication, texting, whatever. They catch the eye in a way that the sad old torch-repurposed-to-bike-light never could. I shudder at the night rides I did when younger, using a double D cell device, with a tiny bulb.
Not to imply for a moment that the driver was not to blame; it was just my first thought, that's all.

June 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaul
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