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Old 09-20-06, 05:26 PM   #1
randya
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No criminal charges for Oregon drivers who killed 3 cyclists

No criminal charges for drivers who killed 3 cyclists
Deaths - A county prosecutor calls the cases the "intersection of events that just end in tragedy."

Wednesday, September 13, 2006
HOLLY DANKS The Oregonian
http://www.oregonlive.com/search/ind...nian?wn&coll=7

HILLSBORO -- Three bicyclists were doing nothing wrong when they were killed in recent months by Washington County motorists, but under Oregon law, the drivers did nothing criminal.

The Washington County district attorney's office announced Tuesday that a grand jury declined to indict Patricia Louise Suhrbier, 58, of Hillsboro in the May 29 deaths of Sheryl and Darrel McDaniel. The longtime cyclists, both wearing helmets and bright yellow jerseys, were struck while riding on the shoulder of Oregon 47 south of Forest Grove.

Prosecutors said the case involving the Aug. 5 death of bicyclist Michael J. Wilberding, 58, of Tigard was more clearcut and will not be presented to a grand jury. Wilberding, who was in a bike lane and wearing a helmet, died four days after being hit by a car driven by Aaron M. Hessel, 25, of Beaverton.

Suhrbier will be cited for careless driving, and Hessel will be cited for failing to yield the right-of-way to a bicyclist in a bike lane.

"Criminal prosecution in Oregon requires more than ordinary negligence," said Chris Quinn, the senior deputy district attorney who took the McDaniel case to the grand jury. "Simply because a death occurs does not in and of itself establish a higher level of culpability."

In California and Idaho, vehicular manslaughter is a misdemeanor involving simple negligence. Oregon has no vehicular homicide law, and a person must be found reckless or grossly negligent for a criminal conviction in a traffic death.

Bicycle groups are using the recent deaths as a rallying point and have lobbied for criminal charges.

"I think the laws are not strict enough for drivers who claim inattentiveness while driving," said Barbara Chapnick, an organizer with the Washington County Bicycle Transportation Coalition. "I think people ought to be charged more, not just given a small citation."

But Quinn called the cases the "intersection of events that just end in tragedy."

Police reports say Sheryl McDaniel, 61, was riding slightly behind and to the left of her husband, Darrel McDaniel, 65, northbound on the paved shoulder of Oregon 47 just north of Southwest Anderson Road. About 11:45 a.m. on a sunny day, Suhrbier's 2002 Saab, also northbound on the two-lane road, drifted 21 inches over the fog line and hit the two Hillsboro cyclists.

Suhrbier told police she did not know why she went off the highway.

Two months of investigation by the county's Crash Analysis Reconstruction Team determined that Suhrbier was going about 40 mph in a 55-mph zone, did not have a cell phone in her car and was not impaired by alcohol or drugs. She had no criminal history and had never received a traffic ticket.

"It appears to be a matter of momentary inattention," Quinn said.

But because visibility was good, the road was mostly straight, two people died and Suhrbier could not explain what happened, Quinn went to the grand jury on Friday.

"We thought the conduct was concerning enough that it was appropriate for a panel of citizens to listen to the evidence," he said.

Janelle Factora Wipper, deputy district attorney, said Tuesday that she decided against taking Hessel's case to a grand jury because the facts showed no criminal liability and the victim's family did not want the driver charged.

According to police reports, Hessel was traveling at a crawl and appropriately signaled his left turn off westbound Southwest Fifth Street onto Washington Avenue at 6:22 p.m. on Aug. 1. He was not impaired by alcohol or drugs -- but said he was blinded by the sun and didn't see Wilberding eastbound on Fifth.

"I'm not excusing him for not seeing the bicyclist, but in our society we are trained to look for other cars," said Officer Mark Hyde, spokesman for the Beaverton Police Department. "It would have been harder for him to explain not seeing a car than not seeing a bicyclist."
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Old 09-20-06, 05:52 PM   #2
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Wow. Don't ride a bike in Oregon. That quote from Officer Mark Hyde "In our society we are trained to look for other cars" has just been carved in gold and placed on the wall of every defense attorney's office in the state

That 58 year old lady who didn't get charged, but couldn't remember leaving her lane should submit to an MRI to see if she had a 'microstroke'. Maybe she wasn't guilty of negligence, but if there's a medical reason that she's having 'lapses' behind the wheel, she really ought to lose her license.
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Old 09-20-06, 09:56 PM   #3
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"Just"? "JUST"?!? WTF is wrong with these people?
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Old 09-20-06, 10:01 PM   #4
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As long as there is no real accountability for motorists, we will continue to kill more than 40,000 citizens per year on American roadways.
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Old 09-20-06, 10:37 PM   #5
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I wonder if that defense would work with firearms?

"Well, officer, I was just pumping off a few rounds, but my attention wandered a bit. I don't know how it happened that I shot and killed someone. I guess I just wasn't paying attention."
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Old 09-21-06, 12:21 AM   #6
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Whats matter with you guys?

The usual charge for anyone who kill someone in a traffic accident is dangerous driving, rather than 1st or 2nd degree murder, not even manslaughter nor criminal negliance. For someone who get injured, the "at fault" driver will be usually charged with careless driving. Sometimes if the driver get caught driving under the influence of alcohol, than the charge will carry a criminal record of drinking and driving, accident or no accident.

RCMP may not be very competent in catching terrorists, but is quite good at issuing traffic tickets.

Usually, the real punishment comes from the insurance industry, which will surely raise the offenders' premium to an astronomical figure. Look forward to several thousand dollars raise in premium. Or, if the offender had a previous accident record, (do you really think that he or she killing someone in an accident will have a clean driving record?), most insurance company wil simply refuse to insure his or her policy. I have a close friend who injured a cyclist in an accident - State Farm renewed her policy at $4,000 a year. Two years later, she rear ended another car and this time State Farm asked for a whopping $7,000 a year premium. Needless to say, she had to give up driving!!

And then there is of course civil liability. In Ontario, traffic accident victims can start civil proceedings within two years of an accident, asking for things like pain and suffering, loss wages, support of dependents, etc.
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Old 09-21-06, 12:27 AM   #7
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Well, all this just goes to confirm that the automobille is the single best murder weapon available to the average citizen. It' the one weapon you won't be held accountable for brandishing.
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Old 09-21-06, 06:50 AM   #8
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So drifting off the road and killing two people isn't gross negligence?
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Old 09-21-06, 06:50 AM   #9
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I guess you have to kill 12 cyclists for it to be gross negligence.
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Old 09-21-06, 07:03 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Falkon
I guess you have to kill 12 cyclists for it to be gross negligence.

1)As stated by the prosecutor, you have to look at the culpability of the conduct, not just the result. And the nature of the conduct doesn't change if the result is 0, 1, 10 or 100 people killed.

"Criminal prosecution in Oregon requires more than ordinary negligence," said Chris Quinn, the senior deputy district attorney who took the McDaniel case to the grand jury. "Simply because a death occurs does not in and of itself establish a higher level of culpability."
2) If weaving 2 feet off the road for a second is criminal misconduct, then virtually everyone who has ever driven a car is guilty.

3) Calling this "Murder" as another poster above did, is pure hyperbole, and shows a lack of understanding of criminal law.

4) The prosecutor submitted it to a grand jury. Ordinary folks like you, looked at the evidence, and chose not to indict.

5) The bikecentric bias in these threads is amazing. People die in auto acccidents daily. The at fault driver is almost never prosecuted (and doesn't even have to answer to a grand jury). No one gets worked up when an automobile driver dies in an accident and no one goes to jail. The fact is vehicular homicide is rarely if ever prosecuted absent aggravating circumstances such as drugs, alcohol, grossly excessive speed. And when you realize that but for the grace of god, go all of us, you might think twice about changing that.

Last edited by merlinextraligh; 09-21-06 at 08:16 AM.
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Old 09-21-06, 07:16 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveE
I wonder if that defense would work with firearms?

"Well, officer, I was just pumping off a few rounds, but my attention wandered a bit. I don't know how it happened that I shot and killed someone. I guess I just wasn't paying attention."

It worked for Mr. Cheney! ( he didn't kill the guy, though)
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Old 09-21-06, 08:19 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Falkon
I guess you have to kill 12 cyclists for it to be gross negligence.
No, 144
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Old 09-21-06, 10:19 AM   #13
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In common law countries, criminal negliance is usually for professional people who must meet certain work standards, such as electricians, doctors, nurses, pharmacists or airline pilots. Thus a bus driver full of passengers crashing into a tanker full of dangerous chemicals may be subject to charges of gross negliance, but for ordinary drivers, offenses such as dangerous driving, impaired driving, and to a lesser degree, careless driving, etc, usually apply.

To charge someone a more serious crime such as 1st degree or 2nd degree murder or manslaughter, the police has to prove beyond doubt the intention of the fellow who commit the crime. That is to say, the act is planned ahead. For example, I saw my wife in the cyclist's arm at the bar and once he was on a bike trying to run away, I jumped into my SUV and run over him (I am not a very good TV soap opera script writer!). Anyone who had been in a jury duties here?

BUT, the "at fault" driver is liability for a civil law suit which requires less stringent evidence.

Therefore, I strongly recommend everybody here to:

1) Review your insurance policy as a motorist, to have enough liability coverage, in case you run over a cyclist who turn out to be a doctor or a Olympic athlete.

2) Review your life insurance (as well as medical, disability, accident benefit, etc.) policy as a cyclist. Several weeks off work after an accident can strain your finance really badly. And if you die in an accident, a life insurance policy will really helps your love ones who may be financially dependent on you.

3) Power of Attorney, in case you are hospitalized for a while after an accident. Sometimes called "living will", it gives authorization to someone you trust to look after your affairs, such as tax returns, rental lease or mortgage of your house, banking, paying bills, collecting benefits, etc., while you are unable to do so yourself. Make sure the person you authorize is some you really trust, otherwise he or she may run away with your money.

4) Update your will, if any. If you do not have one, consider writing one, because if you are run over and die intestate, your love ones may not be getting what you wish. Give some careful thought on this, especially if you have young ones. Ask yourself who are your beneficiaries of your estate and who will administer it? Who will be fighting for your survivors on your behave (things such as sueing the other driver)? Who will be filing your tax return (up to the date of your death)? Who will be running you business, if you have one?

You may want to get professional advice on the above matters.
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Old 09-21-06, 12:07 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by merlinextralight
2) If weaving 2 feet off the road for a second is criminal misconduct, then virtually everyone who has ever driven a car is guilty.
+1

Why do so many cyclists seem to not understand this and appreciate the implications?

Motorists drift all the time. 99.99% of the time it inconsequential. I do what I can to give them a reason to pay attention and not drift while they are overtaking me. So what I do is counter-intuitive, but it works very well for me. I move left into their path (!!!) as they are approaching from behind. That gets their attention! Good! Then, out of courtesy (not safety!), before they reach me, I move aside to let them pass (assuming it is wide enough, safe and reasonable to let them do that).
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Old 09-21-06, 01:51 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yuhoo
In common law countries, criminal negliance is usually for professional people who must meet certain work standards, such as electricians, doctors, nurses, pharmacists or airline pilots. Thus a bus driver full of passengers crashing into a tanker full of dangerous chemicals may be subject to charges of gross negliance, but for ordinary drivers, offenses such as dangerous driving, impaired driving, and to a lesser degree, careless driving, etc, usually apply.
Do you agree with this though? I mean why shouldn't an 'ordinary' driver be held up to the same professional standards? imo there are no ordinary drivers.
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Old 09-21-06, 02:21 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by yuhoo In common law countries, criminal negliance is usually for professional people who must meet certain work standards, such as electricians, doctors, nurses, pharmacists or airline pilots. Thus a bus driver full of passengers crashing into a tanker full of dangerous chemicals may be subject to charges of gross negliance, but for ordinary drivers, offenses such as dangerous driving, impaired driving, and to a lesser degree, careless driving, etc, usually apply.

Many people here have been charged with murder after killing someone with their car. It usually involves alcohol. Criminal negligence has also been applied when someone has a high speed chase with the cops, or has been racing.
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Old 09-21-06, 02:31 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by merlinextraligh
If weaving 2 feet off the road for a second is criminal misconduct, then virtually everyone who has ever driven a car is guilty.
Whether or not anyone is guilty of anything, drift is a reality and a problem that won't go away by yakking about it on the internet (or any other forum for that matter). In addition to ordinary drift, trailers, oversized loads, etc often go far into even a wide shoulder. This is one reason why mirrors are so useful.

Quote:
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The bikecentric bias in these threads is amazing.
Yeah, who'd guess there'd be such a problem with such a bias on a place called Bike Forums....
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Old 09-21-06, 03:19 PM   #18
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Though I do NOTadvocate for special penalties which single out behavior for different treatment becasue a cyclist is involved, I do suspect there may be some commonality in behavior among those who perform carelessly while on the road. I postulate that inadvertent drifters also:

Toss cigarettes or litter from thier vehicle.
Run stop lights and signs.
Turn without signaling.
Chat on cell phones while driving.
Eat, drink or read while driving.
Speed.
Fail to properly maintain the car (oil changes).
Leave shopping carts anywhere in a parking lot.
Let their kids run loose in the store.
Talk in theaters.
Falsely call in sick to work.
Blame all kids' misadventures and failings on a school or its teachers.
Smoke near the entrance to buildings.
Drive uninsured.
Park in handicapped or other posted no parking zones.
Bring 23 items into the 15 item line.
Call people too late at night or too early in the morning.
Do not vote.
Prefer animated entertainment.
Etc, etc, etc.

And none of it is criminal.
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Old 09-21-06, 03:37 PM   #19
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I postulate that inadvertent drifters also:
I don't think there is a subclass of drivers which would qualify as being labeled "inadvertent drifters".
In other words, ALL drivers are inadvertent drivers (from time to time).

I suppose some inadvertently drift more often than others, but that's a difference in degree, not in kind.
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Old 09-21-06, 03:44 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by webist
I postulate that inadvertent drifters also:

[list of annoying habits deleted for brevity]
Just out of curiosity, how many cyclists here have never drifted from their intended line?
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Old 09-21-06, 03:59 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by banerjek
Just out of curiosity, how many cyclists here have never drifted from their intended line?
And how many have killed a motorist when doing so?
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Old 09-21-06, 04:00 PM   #22
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Quote:
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No, 144
nice...
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Old 09-21-06, 04:06 PM   #23
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This might be useful to read, regarding why people often fail to see what should be obvious. (Apologies if any of you saw it recently an another thread; that's probably where I got it.)
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Old 09-21-06, 04:25 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by randya
And how many have killed a motorist when doing so?
I like the idea of liability for finishing someone off. [soapbox]If alcoholism is a disease that causes people to drink as many people claim, why do the vehicular homicide charges get filed when drinking and driving, but not when you decided to drive when you were dead tired -- and sober enough to realize your reflexes and ability to pay attention were totally shot?[/soapbox]

However, if no criminal charges are filed when you drive your car into another vehicle and kill someone because you aren't paying attention, it doesn't seem insane to apply the same rules when running over cyclists.
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Old 09-21-06, 04:35 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by randya
And how many have killed a motorist when doing so?
Folks around here dont like to talk about that kinda stuff.
Most all of the stats available show that cyclist are at fault more frequently than motorist.

The elderly lady that hit my younger brother when he crossed in front of her , was taken to the hospital in an ambulance, I think she lived but I am not certain now it happened so long ago.
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