The man who drove his pickup across several lanes of Evergreen Way in Everett and killed Trent Graham in October 2012 has been ticketed for second-degree negligent driving, the Everett Herald reports.
He received a $10,287 ticket, the sum of court fees plus the $5,000 fee made possible by the state’s relatively young Vulnerable User Law.
Passed in 2011, the law created a non-criminal penalty for people who kill or seriously injure people walking, biking or operating another more vulnerable vehicle (like farm equipment, for example), but who did not fulfill the requirements for a serious criminal charge like vehicular homicide or assault.
Prosecutors declined to pursue criminal charges in the case, since there is medical evidence to suggest the man driving may have had a seizure that contributed to the collision. There’s also no evidence that the man had a history of seizures or that he disregarded any doctor’s advice not to drive, which could also be a basis for criminal charges.
However, police did find enough evidence of negligence to pursue non-criminal fines under the state’s Vulnerable User Law. The Herald does not note whether his license has been suspended or if there is community service required (also possible under the Vulnerable User Law). I’ll update if I learn more.
Graham worked at Gregg’s Cycles in Alderwood and was an artist with a son, now in his early teens. Friends and family were devastated by the loss.
It’s hard to imagine any fine amount making up for the loss of Graham’s life. But as we discussed earlier this week, such tragedies often happen with small or no penalties at all. A recent New York Times op-ed cited the case of John Przychodzen, who was killed in 2011 in Kirkland a year before the Vulnerable User Law went into effect. The person responsible for his death was later issued an insulting $42 ticket for “unsafe lane change.”
The op-ed cites vulnerable user laws, like the one used here, as one part of the solution to making sure non-criminal negligence is not an allowable excuse for taking or forever altering a life on the road. It’s a measure that doesn’t make things right by any stretch of the imagination, but hopefully it removes the added insult of watching those responsible get away with no legal recourse at all.
I am not sure what stance to take given we don’t know enough about the seizure the driver had, how fast henwas driving relative to the speed limit, etc. Somehow he was seen to be at fault given the ticket and fine but mitigated by a seizure. I am confused.
$10,000 is much better than $42. Now if only it could be followed by a huge civil judgement. The driver is obviously at fault. He should be required to support the family of the deceased for a number of years.
I’ll take stronger laws and enforcement over greener paint and more numerous sharrows any day. This is a small, if extremely unfortunate step in that direction.
I don’t see how writing a check to the state is any form of justice- it punishes the poor while meaning nothing to the wealthy, it doesn’t help the victim’s family, and it doesn’t address the underlying issue.
A better system would have the penalty focused on taking the driver’s license for a very long time. If you couple that with a strong civil judgment in favor of the injured family then you have some justice.
This is a tough call. A driver with no history of medical problems having a seizure and killing someone is about as good of an example of a traffic fatality actually being an “accident” as I can muster. It’s rare, but it does happen.
I’d be curious what the police found to indicate negligence.
The Herald reported a while back that he may have been texting.
I am not sure if that was shown to be true or not, but if so that’s certainly negligent. Because there were no criminal charges, it’s harder to find exact details of the investigation.
I can speculate that there’s a difference between whether prosecutors believe there was criminality and whether they feel they could make the charges stick in court.
Medical condition or no, he made the decision to get behind the wheel. If I’m holding a shotgun and have a seizure and someone in the room ends up getting shot, it’s not because I had the seizure, it’s because I was holding a shotgun.
“They earlier had found evidence that the man, 56, had crashed under similar circumstances before in King County in 2010. In that crash, police reports said the man suffered from a sleeping disorder and was not supposed to be behind the wheel without taking medication.”
this was from the Herald earlier this year…. so he had had a prior incident.
Car-violence against people and property is tolerated in our culture. So is gun violence. It is seen as part of the standard risks we take walking out the door in the morning.
Whether this is fair or not, this is the status quo. If 2 cars get in an accident there are rules about who’s fault it is. The police interpret the rules. Courts. Insurance companies. There is a pile of precedent, argument, debate, contract law, etc. involved. If a car hits a ped or bike, there is some form of “welp, it was your job on your feet/bike to get out of the way…” that is implicit. If the guy hit another car, his insurance would be making that car whole RIGHT NOW and it never would have touched the courts. Any court fine would have been over and above the insurance finding.
$10K is as much as we could expect. The woman in Kirkland and this guy MAY HAVE BEEN different cases (though seems this guy just has a lawyer that knows how to create Uncertainty and Doubt when the person has a previous history with this kind of incident and wiggling out of it). But she was certainly less excusable. “I didn’t see [that guy directly in my path]” was sufficient to get her off with a $42 ticket. Unconscionable.