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.