By Bruce Cohen - November 2, 2015
Last week, the case of the People vs. Heather Cook came to a close. Cook was sentenced to 7 years and 5 years probation for the hit-and-run crash which claimed the life of Tom Palermo on December 27, 2014. Ms. Cook faced up to 20 years for the her actions which included driving while under the influence, texting while driving and leaving the scene of an accident. Like numerous judges and defense attorneys before him, Judge Timothy Doory opted to continue the status quo of wrist-slapping those who take lives while driving.
This weekend, two more cyclists lost their lives to a drunk driver. John Fauerby and Lynne Rosenbusch were riding tandem on Tobacco Road in Calvert County when they were struck from behind by Catherine Lyon, who was charged with driving under the influence and homicide by motor vehicle. Lyon was later released on $200,000 bond.
John and Lynne were not the only people to die on Maryland roads this weekend. In today’s news, pedestrians and motorists alike were killed in traffic crashes: Rosedale pedestrian on busy streets, Glen Burnie motorists in a head-on collision and a one-year-old boy waiting with his mother at a bus stop.
Traffic deaths claim more lives per year than non-traffic related murders: in 2013, 387 people were murdered while 465 people were killed on Maryland roads. While 2014 marked a year of great improvement for increasing transportation safety (deaths dropped to 442), changes need to occur to further decrease traffic deaths. This year, 5 cyclists have died on Maryland roadways. On average, 100 pedestrians die on in traffic crashes.
During Cook’s sentencing, Judge Doory indicated that judges do not have the authority to permanently revoke a Marylander’s driver’s license. Only the Motor Vehicle Administration can revoke a license to drive. When individuals operate a motor vehicle in a dangerous manner than claims a life, more stringent repercussions are in order. A driver’s license is a privilege that is earned and should be revoked as circumstances dictate.
As we discovered last winter, most first offense DUI cases are dismissed with a probation before judgment. This means that most of these cases do not go to trial and are dismissed so long as the offender does not get caught during the probation period. The use of ignition locks should also be more widely applied to prevent repeat offenders and those on probation from driving dangerously.
As cyclists are vulnerable road users, what happens to those we represent is indicative of what everyone is vulnerable to. When we improve road safety for cyclists, we improve road safety for everyone, including motorists and pedestrians. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who’ve lost friends and family to traffic violence.