“The sun was in his eyes” so please feel sorry for him?

Except for the most hard-hearted of us, we can all empathize to some degree with the driver of the vehicle in the collision that caused the death of bicyclist Susan DeSotel.

No doubt it is traumatic to unintentionally cause the death of another person.

In a comment on this story, someone self-identified as a relative of the driver says, in part, “If all of you only KNEW the trauma and suffering he is going through himself right now.”

He has horrifying images in his head and has to live with it the rest of his life. The commenter (identified as “iwubyou“) concludes:

“Prayers go out to Susan’s family and friends for dealing with their poor loss, and also to my uncle who now has to have this on his shoulders, and all the horrible people and horrible comments he will now face from here on out.”

At the risk of being considered horrible, some observations:

iwubyou asserts that the driver is blameless because the sun was in his eyes and he “did not see a little bike pedaling through.”

As motor vehicle operators, we are obligated to see where we are going and to avoid collisions with others on the road. If that means we must wear sunglasses and use visors or other devices to operate safely, that is what we are obligated to do.

There are all sorts of reasons for what we blithely pass off as “accidents.”

The sun was in our eyes.

We were distracted by a child crying in the back seat.

We just reached down to pick up the cell phone.

Reasons. Those are not excuses that should prevent us from facing legal consequences if they result in our causing the death of another person.

Unfortunately, our laws don’t seem to agree. The police call Susan DeSotel’s death the result of a “driving error.” If the driver is cited at all, it’s possible that on top of a fine for the traffic ticket he could face a $1,000 fine and lose his license for six months.

As I maintained the other day, that is not acceptable. I think some time behind bars is appropriate if your driving error kills someone.

The more compassionate and maybe wiser Mrs. Smith suggested that such a driver should be required to speak at some number of driver education classes over the course of a year. (That is an excellent idea. Think about it.)

What do you think is appropriate? Tell me by leaving a comment here. Tell your legislators.

As people are saying, the driver will have to live with the consequences of his driving error for the rest of his life. I’m sorry, but we all live with unpleasant things, some of which we bring upon ourselves and some that others visit upon us.

At least we are still alive.

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5 Responses to ““The sun was in his eyes” so please feel sorry for him?”


  1. 1 Tyler August 6, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    I rather disagree with you. When there is an accident involving a death, the police do an extensive investigation into the accident and draft an accident reconstruction report. They calculate things like damage to vehicles, force, road conditions, etc. and then they decide if the driver was at fault or not. I for one, appreciate the fact that our police departments do not just go around charging people for criminal activity when a tragic accident occurs.

  2. 2 bjsmith August 6, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    Thank you for sharing your opinion. I also appreciate the fact that police don’t just go around charging people when a tragic accident occurs. When a driver’s actions clearly are the cause of a death, law enforcement authorities should be able to prosecute. We don’t seem to have that option in some cases when it is warranted.

  3. 3 crazycommutingcyclist August 7, 2010 at 11:44 am

    I have recently read an article (and I wish I bookmarked it) on why motorist who hit and either cause injury or a death of a cyclist are not charged with a weightier crime. This article stated with the boom of cyclist starting in 1970’s (due to an oil embargo) there were more cyclist getting hit or killed on the road. With the increasing number of motorist being brought to court to face charges the courts soon became choked. Now that delays of prosecuting more serious crimes were increasing, lawyers and legislators got together and moved the injuring or killing a cyclist down to a fine and misdemeanor unless there are gross negligent on the part of the driver. And we all understand that gross negligent is a relative term in the eyes of the law.
    In my opinion; cyclist as a group need to band together and pressure the local law officials to treat cyclist injury or death at the hands of a motorist as they would with the death of a motorist by a motorist. We also need to pressure the schools and drivers education to bring back cycling as part of the education program. If more people at least know how to ride properly then maybe when it comes time to drive a car they would not only be more alert for cyclist but treat them with respect.

  4. 4 Tim August 8, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    I think that having the driver speak at drivers education would be an excellent idea. One it requires the driver to reflect on his actions. Two it puts the idea in front of a multitude of new drivers that they need to pay attention while driving, lives depend upon it.
    While on a group ride Saturday we we’re passed by a pickup in a blatently unsafe manner, with oncoming traffic. It was a situation where only a matter of seconds would be required to wait and pass safely. It’s not your road, it’s not my road it’s our road. It’s time we all learn to share it with each other. Seriously is a few seconds of your time worth someone’s life? One problem is that we treat driving as a right, not a privledge. I don’t know if I could get back behind the wheel after killing someone, and I’m not certain anyone should be allowed to, certainly a suspension for some time is appropriate. Sadly we will probably never know exactly the cause of Susan’s death. As far as I know the only witness is the driver.
    He will have to live with whatever actions or inactions of his that contributed to this tragedy.


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