Do an online search for “Cycling” news and invariably there will be a story of a cyclist killed somewhere.
I could post such a story every day, but I won’t; it is too depressing and it gives a false view of cycling.
Less than two cyclists a day die on American streets and highways, and when compared with the total of around 90 deaths a day from all traffic related collisions the number is small.
What you seldom see is any follow up article; whether there were any charges brought, or if anyone held accountable.
In May of last year I wrote a piece called, “Too many Hit and Runs.” I told about a local Charleston cyclist who was hit from the rear and killed; the driver failed to stop.
The collision occurred late Friday evening, or rather the early hour of Saturday morning and I speculated as to whether alcohol was involved. The driver surrendered to the police the following Tuesday, so if he was drunk at the time of the crash it could never be proved.
Earlier this week Jason Marion aged 32 plead guilty to Reckless Homicide and was sentenced to six years in prison, to be followed by three years probation. There was a plea deal involved and the family of the dead man, Gerry Nietos were in agreement with this deal. Their attorney issued the following statement after the trial:
“Gerry Nieto’s loss is felt by his friends and family every day, but they see no sense in destroying two families. The Nietos believe that the sentence was appropriate as it punishes Mr. Marion with prison time for harming Gerry, yet it leaves room for Marion to be rehabilitated and reunited with his own family before his young daughter is all grown up.”
Reported in this way it throws a sympathetic light on Jason Marion (Pictured above.) It portrays him as a young man who screwed up, but was remorseful afterwards and gave himself up, plead guilty and accepted his punishment.
It is true that had he not given himself up, he may never have been found. On the other hand, had Jason Marion done the right thing in the first place, which would have been to stop render assistance and call paramedics; if he was drunk he would have possibly received a prison sentence that was double the six years he received; maybe as much as 25 years.
There would also be little public sympathy for Marion no matter how remorseful he was after the fact. People found guilty of killing someone while drunk are dealt with harshly not just as a punishment but as a deterrent to others who may consider driving drunk.
As it stands now if a person is driving drunk and they hit a cyclist or pedestrian they stand a better chance of getting off with a lighter penalty if they just keep driving and surrender later.
Until hit and runs receive the same penalties and public stigma as drunk driving they will continue. Driving drunk is bad enough, but how callous is it to hit someone and leave them to die like a dog at the side of the road.