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Hit and Run

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.



Reader Comments (8)

"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."
That is true, though let's not forget that drunks don't know what they are doing; the alcohol takes over and it's a vicious energy. Violent energies know how to fight or flee, but don't expect compassion from them - that's a virtue of intelligence. Drunks have no intelligence. Of course, this is not an excuse. What I would suggest rather than an imprisonment for J.M. is the loss of drivers licence for life and him having to help paramedics deal with car accidents - so he can see and feel (when he's sober) the consequences of drunk driving.
Unless this guy is a really mean SOB, he must feel awful knowing he killed someone; it also took probably a lot of courage for him to surrender to the police when he sobered up. No prison sentence can be harsher than knowing you killed someone in such a stupid way (well, as long as conscience is present).
I think that people that want to punish others have too much anger bottled up inside them.

January 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMicheal Blue

What a dam shame that another cyclist has to end life this way. Late Friday Eve or early Sat am what is someone doing riding a bike on the roads then? but even so, no reason for this to happen. The more I read about accidents like this, the more I think we need more bike paths to seperate cyclist from motorist. Its bad enough driving a car these days, but to take a chance with riding a bike the odds are against you.

January 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Crump

Agreed. Another angle is that a sober hit-and-run is even more despicable than someone whose judgement is clouded; (I mean moral judgement, as well as every other).
But each in their own way show a reckless culpability. As you say, the penalty should be across the board. Each have similar, though different, degrees of extreme anti-social behaviour, for want of a better term.

January 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

A driver has to be really wasted not to know that something as large as another human being was hit and extremely callous not to do something constructive once it happens.

I like the idea of redemption via community service that requires drivers to work with paramedics in addressing victims of auto "accidents". Taking away driving privileges for an extended period of time should be a federal law.

January 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJack

With the harsh penalties for DUI collisions it makes sense to evade until you are sober and take the smaller hit. In LA there are a huge number of hit and run collisions. Many never solved. You are right. Drivers who leave the scene need to be punished just as harshly as if they stayed at the scene drunk. The only problem with that is drivers then may never turn themselves in. I'm not sure how to deal with that type of scofflaw.

January 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRalph

Tuesday 22 Jan 2013. Just got sad news from a member of the Classic Rendezvous group that a long time member of that group DAVE MARTINEZ was killed whist riding his bike to work in California. Do not have any details yet, BUT Sad Sad Sad news about a fellow cyclist killed doing what we ALL enjoy riding our bikes. John Crump

January 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Crump

That is terrible news John. My thoughts go out to his loved ones.

January 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul (Sydney Australia)

I've been unlucky enough to meet a couple of hard core alcoholics. Community service is not a solution. These guys had many convictions each, and breathalyzers on their steering wheels with 60 second resets. None of that slowed their desire to drive drunk at all.
In 1992 I lost my '87 Fuso because a legally blind disabled veteran hit me from behind at 55 mph on a 6+ mile long straight road in Ventura County. Happily just a broken left leg and sternum, very lucky for a 100 ft impromptu flying lesson. The bike was gone, every frame tube damaged, even the head tube. The impact ripped the uppers off my shoes, cracked the rear plates off both Look pedals, scary stuff. Just about the only bike part that survived was my King headset... Yes, I still have it. I had to use the insurance money from the bike to help cover the med bills, and the driver was functionally indigent (living on his disability), so no recourse financially :(
Also very luckily I was about 1/4 mile from a fire station, so not long in the gravel, but definitely the worst several minutes of my life.
It would be nice to find a replacement. It's still the best bike I've ever owned or ridden by a healthy margin.

March 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Halunen
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