Readers! Remember the horrifying 2011 case of a mom convicted of vehicular homicide after her son ran into the street and was hit by a drunk driver? (Who was NOT charged with homicide?) She was facing a possible three years’ jail time. As I wrote at the time:
In brief: An Atlanta mom and her three kids got off a bus stop that is across a busy highway from her home. She COULD have dragged everyone to the next light, three tenths of a mile up the road, but it seemed to make sense to try to cross. Not only was her apartment in sight across the way, but the other passengers who disembarked were crossing the highway right there, too. So she and her kids made it to the median, but then the 4-year-old squirmed away and got killed by a drunk driver. The driver was convicted of a hit and run. The mom was convicted of vehicular manslaughter. Yep. But as [Transportation for America’s David] Goldberg says:
What about the highway designers, traffic engineers, transit planners and land use regulators who allowed a bus stop to be placed so far from a signal and made no other provision for a safe crossing; who allowed – even encouraged, with wide, straight lanes – prevailing speeds of 50-plus on a road flanked by houses and apartments; who carved a fifth lane out of a wider median that could have provided more of a safe refuge for pedestrians; who designed the entire landscape to be hostile to people trying to get to work and groceries despite having no access to a car? They are as innocent as the day is long, according to the solicitor general’s office.
Now the story has a new ending. The judge offered the mom a second trial (not sure how that works) and this time, she was allowed to plead guilty only to jaywalking, with a $200 fine. And there is even some hope that this heart wrenching example is leading Georgia to take note of the need for safe road-crossings at bus stops.
Let’s hope it also leads folks to stop automatically blaming parents when a child tragedy occurs. Said in 2011 and I’ll say it again:
When we prosecute parents who are trying their hardest, who make mistakes, or who misjudge a situation, we are prosecuting them for being what parents have always been: human. Not superheroes with super strength, judgment, fortitude and foresight.
A human parent is what I am and what we all are. Let’s not make that a crime. — Lenore