The person who failed to stop at a Kenmore crosswalk and killed 19-year-old Caleb Shoop in March has been issued a $175 ticket.
“We are shocked at the lack of appropriate consequences for drivers who hit and kill pedestrians/bicyclists while committing traffic infractions,” Caleb’s mother Tammy Shoop wrote in an email to Seattle Bike Blog. She went further in an interview with Bothell/Kenmore Reporter:
“While we recognize that there is nothing that can be done to bring our son back to life, a ticket does not seem to be enough of a penalty to deter a distracted driver from taking another life,” said Tammy Shoop, Caleb’s mother. “We are disappointed that the state considers our son’s life and violent death to be worth only $175.”
A $175 ticket for failure to yield at a crosswalk is the same exact ticket the person driving would have received had he not hit anyone and a police officer pulled him over. Caleb’s family is understandably outraged that the death of their son seems to have little effect on the legal consequences of driving through a crosswalk-in-use.
Caleb, who loved riding his bike, wanted to become a firefighter. An Inglemoor High School graduate, Caleb volunteered for the non-profit Ski For All. Donations were collected for Ski For All in Caleb’s honor after news spread about his passing.
It is not clear why there has not been a citation under Washington’s Vulnerable User Law, which was created for situations almost exactly like this one. Too often, someone’s life is taken or seriously altered due to a non-criminal traffic offense. Indeed, police say there is no evidence of criminal speeding or intoxication in this case.
I have questions out to the King County Sheriff to learn more and will update this story when I hear back.
UPDATE: The Sheriff’s Office said the decision was up to the King County Prosecutor. I also have a question out to them. UPDATE 6/19: I received the following statement from the King County Prosecutor’s Office stating that the decision to pursue a Vulnerable User Charge actually falls to the Kenmore City Attorney: “We reviewed the case for potential felony charges. A charge of vehicular homicide could not be filed because there was no evidence that the truck driver was speeding and there was no evidence of alcohol or drugs. The City of Kenmore would have jurisdiction regarding the filing of an infraction. The case was referred there.” I have a question out to Kenmore and will update when I learn more.
Hopefully it is not too late to pursue the more significant education and financial penalties prescribed by the Vulnerable User Law. There have been issues with pursuing the law since it went into effect.
Caleb’s family at the very least deserves to know that our society does not take Caleb’s death lightly.
Of course, penalties for the person driving are only part of the problem, and the City of Kenmore has taken action to prevent similar collisions in the future. As we reported back in March, the former crosswalk design across 61st Ave NE at NE 190th Street is well known to be dangerous due to the “multiple threat” problem it creates. Basically, this is where one or more cars stop to allow a person to cross a multi-lane street (most commonly in our region it’s a four-lane street), but someone in an adjacent lane does not stop. Here’s an illustration from an SDOT presentation:
To the credit of the the City of Kenmore, they have taken action to address this problem by installing new bike lanes and a new center turn lane on 61st Ave NE. This is a quick and smart response from Kenmore, and what I hope is only the beginning of road safety changes there. That would be a powerful legacy for Caleb to leave.
You can get involved in the Kenmore traffic safety efforts by attending a town hall meeting June 24. From Kenmore:
The Pedestrian & Bicycle Safety Ad Hoc Citizen Committee is holding a Town Hall Meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 24 at Kenmore City Hall to discuss their progress and to receive input from the community. Hope you will join us.
Here’s an image of the redesigned 61st Ave NE from Kirkland Greenways:
— Kirkland Greenways (@KirkGreenways) June 18, 2014