Early this past Sunday morning, a father and his 14-year old son were completing the 200-mile event in the Los Angeles Wheelmen's 51st annual Grand Tour. At 1:30am along the Pacific Coast Highway a drunk driver struck the two cyclists. The father died at the scene and his son is in critical condition with numerous broken bones. The driver fled the scene following the accident, but was arrested after he drove about a mile from the site, ditched his truck, and proceeded to get away on foot.
This is a horrible news and frankly, I don't know what the father and son could have done to avoid the situation other than not to be at that place at that time. We as cyclists have to look out for our own safety. Some accidents I hear about seem avoidable to me. In this particular case, I don't know what you do about a drunk driver hitting you from behind.
Should we all just stop riding our bikes on the road? Clearly, that is not the case. Certainly, drunk driving laws need to be made tougher and the local district attorneys need to prosecute offenders to the fullest extent of the law. In the State of California, the laws were recently changed to make the penalties for a crime committed while drunk a lot more serious.
As I understand the situation before the laws were changed, a drunk driving incident was treated as an accident which means that the most a driver could be charged with was manslaughter, a crime which carries a relatively minor sentence. The new interpretation of the law is that a driver who knowingly drives drunk qualifies for "intent" rather than "negligence" which raises the maximum penalty to second degree murder, a crime that carries a very stiff sentence.
Now that the laws have been changed so that the punishment fits the crime, the local district attorneys need to send a strong message by charging drivers, like the one who caused this needless death, with the maximum crime and ask for the maximum sentence possible.
From my perspective, that is the only way we can begin to prevent such crimes(I hesitate to use the word accident, because it really is a crime) like this from occurring.
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