Transportation

Car Culture Shifts Blame to Victims

By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published July 28, 2011

The story of a woman who was convicted of vehicular homicide when her son was killed in a hit-and-run is one of the worst examples of American car culture, and the way it shifts fault to the victim and hurts the poor.

The facts of the case are that the mother of a four-year was charged with vehicular homicide because, "Instead of walking to a crosswalk half a kilometre away, she led her children to a median. According to testimony, her daughter darted across the street and son A.J. followed and was hit and killed."

The driver who killed her son "pleaded guilty to hit and run" and "had been drinking earlier in the day while taking pain medication, was partly blind in one eye, and had two previous hit-and-run convictions from 1997."

Despite serving a six-month felony sentence, and the two previous hit-and-run convictions, the driver who killed the boy has kept his driver's license.

It's a bit like a mother being charged with homicide when her son is killed by a mugger because she was walking through a bad part of town! The Atlanta transportation network essentially ignores pedestrians (why was the pedestrian crossing so far from the bus stop?), and then blames the victims.

It's especially outrageous that the mother was facing a three-year jail term, while the hit-and-run driver is serving only six months.

Nicholas Kevlahan was born and raised in Vancouver, and then spent eight years in England and France before returning to Canada in 1998. He has been a Hamiltonian since then, and is a strong believer in the potential of this city. Although he spends most of his time as a mathematician, he is also a passionate amateur urbanist and a fan of good design. You can often spot him strolling the streets of the downtown, shopping at the Market. Nicholas is the spokesperson for Hamilton Light Rail.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted July 28, 2011 at 07:29:51

Kinda proving everything I've been saying for the longest time about how deeply entrenched the car culture is in our world.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted July 28, 2011 at 09:40:22

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By Jonathan Dalton (registered) | Posted July 28, 2011 at 11:29:00 in reply to Comment 67014

For RTH you to use a trajedy (sic) such as this to further you anti-Car agenda

Most people on here have and use cars. That our advocacy for safe streets, transit, bike and pedestrian issues is so readily labeled anti-car, really speaks of the vulnerability setting in among car culture adherents. It's as if every stop sign added at a cross street further erodes the foundational freedoms of our country. Relax.

The article was about the insanity of charging the mother trying to cross the street, instead of the drunk driver, with vehicular homicide. If you read further into this story (http://www.infrastructurist.com/2011/07/21/the-lonesome-death-of-a-child-pedestrian/) you will see that the woman was not alone in crossing the street, there was a whole group of people coming from the bus stop, suggesting it was common practice in the area.

Many articles have been written here about street design which is hostile to pedestrians, and the broad ineffectiveness of the train-and-blame approach to safety especially as it relates to pedestrians. It is absolutely an indictment of autocentric thinking when a pedestrian is charged with homicide for trying to cross the street.

Comment edited by Jonathan Dalton on 2011-07-28 11:29:14

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By crapitalist (anonymous) | Posted July 28, 2011 at 10:03:03 in reply to Comment 67014

Um, outrage fail.

The boy getting killed by a hit-and-run driver was a TRAGEDY, a preventable one to boot. I've been to Atlanta and it was the most pedestrian hostile place I've ever seen. Good luck trying to walk anywhere if you can't afford a car, you're out of luck.

His mom getting convicted of homocide for crossing the street is a TRAVESTY, the shame is that YOU can't see this.

It seems YOU'RE the one trying to make this political, this has nothing to do with "left-wing" or "right-wing", it has to do with basic human decency and whether it is a CRIME to cross the street from a bus stop to your apartment with your kids.

The real CRIME is that she would of had to walk her kids a full kilometer out of their way to cross at the nearest cross walk. You must have a pretty big blind spot to not see what's wrong with that.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted July 28, 2011 at 10:18:05 in reply to Comment 67017

Two fails don't make a right?

You didn't successfully address either of the sensible questions that Capitalist posed.

I was actually thinking the exact same thing (this is a justice thing and what a lame argument about Portland) as Capitalist was while I read the article and posts to follow.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted July 29, 2011 at 01:41:50 in reply to Comment 67021

I think there is nothing wrong with talking about the angles that Ryan and others have taken. I have only read comments to this point so far, but if you and Capitalist think this is a justice thing which I am sure nobody will argue that fact, than talk about it and bring it up here as well rather than bashing someone elses slant on this story. There are many things to address here. I haven't been to Atlanta other than their endless airport, but when I was in Washington DC as a kid, I remember their roads not being so pedestrian freidnly to cross. Good luck trying to cross their 6 lane highways dressed up like city streets. It was like taking your life in your hands and I was nervous every time I had to cross. The cross walks were far too spaced out where I was as well. I thought crossing at a non-cross walk was a j-walking charge? Not manslaughter and three years in prison. That's very f'd up.

Those are her kids and it's a decision she made and maybe it was a bad one but the sheer horror that she has surely felt losing her child and watching her son killed in front of her and her daughter, is far greater than jail time and to take her other child's mom away and make him perhaps feel like she was at fault and a bad person because she got jail time for it, is twisted beyond beleif.

That girl needs her mother more than ever.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted July 28, 2011 at 11:03:42

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted July 28, 2011 at 13:30:23

The auto industry and their supporters have been lobbying to forbid pedestrians from roads for nearly a century now. Looking at the history of the first jaywalking laws, they were laughably unpopular and nearly unenforceable. So instead they turned their efforts on public opinion - launching ad campaigns in major newspapers and other public relations efforts. Where laws failed, they turned toward cultural engineering.

http://beyondmacgyver.wordpress.com/2011...

"Car culture" was created. Laws, the media and even urban forms were manipulated to help sell more cars. Because of the colossal size and clout of the auto industry, they were able to steam-roll nearly all opposition, and today we can see the results all around us.

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By Jonathan Dalton (registered) | Posted July 28, 2011 at 15:46:52 in reply to Comment 67047

They fought just as hard against safety in the cars themselves. Having lost that battle, I guess they won on the roads.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted July 28, 2011 at 14:13:13

Holy crapola, has this topic ever brought out the car hounds in droves. If prosecuting and convicting a woman for "vehicular homocide" for walking across the street with a group of people who just off the bus isn't an example of car culture run amok then what the hell is it? Seriously people.

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted July 28, 2011 at 23:58:50 in reply to Comment 67052

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted July 28, 2011 at 14:43:17 in reply to Comment 67052

Georgia State Law defines Vehicular Homicide as "the unlawful killing of another person using a vehicle". I assume so that the law can be interpreted as "If you push someone into oncoming traffic, you can be charged easier". In this case instead of a push, it's being negligent to children under your care." so the prosecution certainly can draw these charges. Should they have? My response would be a resounding no.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2011-07-28 14:44:13

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted July 28, 2011 at 14:23:27

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By z jones (registered) | Posted July 28, 2011 at 14:58:59 in reply to Comment 67054

I don't know why I'm bothering, but...

A whole group of people got off a bus and started to cross the street, a 5 lane highway with no crosswalk for half a kilometer. They got to the median and stopped to wait for the other side to clear. A child slipped his hand out of his mom's grasp and ran out. Into the path of a drunk driver who could only see out of one eye and who had a history of hit-and-runs. The man hit and ran again, and the kid was killed.

And you think the mom should be charged with something? That the guilt and horror of what happened which she'll carr until her dying day isn't 'punishment' enough?

I just don't know what to say.

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted July 29, 2011 at 00:05:48 in reply to Comment 67058

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted July 29, 2011 at 08:36:30 in reply to Comment 67078

This woman has lost her child, though an accident that could happen to anyone. And you want to give her a criminal record and make her perform community service? What is wrong with your heart? Why not sentence the road engineers to community service for not providing a crosswalk? Are they not at least as culpable? But no, you want to blame the victim.

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted August 01, 2011 at 07:44:33 in reply to Comment 67084

Not at all. I want to blame the woman who through her actions, or inaction, let her child get hit by a car. She had opportunity to cross elsewhere or to do a better job supervising her child to avoid this tragedy. Why do you insist on not putting the blame on the person responsible? Road engineers? If you wanted to blame the driver I could understand and appreciate your opinion but the road engineer? Why not blame the poor sod who drove the paver in the hot Atlanta sun? But the road engineer? I am starting to see why you are the "nobrainer."

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By WRCU2 (registered) - website | Posted July 28, 2011 at 14:40:59 in reply to Comment 67054

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By Wiccan (anonymous) | Posted July 29, 2011 at 10:18:18

No class on RTH. Typical.

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted July 29, 2011 at 17:07:48 in reply to Comment 67085

Indeed

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By WRCU2 (registered) - website | Posted July 29, 2011 at 21:37:04 in reply to Comment 67091

No class on RTH. Typical

Indeed

I disagree with both you and wiccan, I have been leading a troll-hunter class, with class I might add and I am providing the initial pieces of evidence to support my claims that there are deceivers among you dressed with deceptive names.

Registered users at RTH shouldn't have any reason to chastise me with down-votes when all I am trying to do is get to the root of a bad situation in this here forum.

Hasn't anyone even noticed that since I challenged a few suspicious anonymous trolls, there were only 6 anonymous posts today when there were 28 yesterday?

For Hamilton's sake please give me a break!

Comment edited by WRCU2 on 2011-07-29 22:19:13

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By Franx (anonymous) | Posted July 31, 2011 at 17:46:04

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Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2011-08-08 22:24:57

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