Hit the brakes for safety

Tim Castleman is a Sacramentan who promotes sustainability and peace through conservation and reduced consumption

On May 2, 10-year-old Benito Guevara was struck and killed by an SUV in Sacramento. Two other boys survived the incident with serious injuries.

The driver’s identity was not immediately released, and police initially said there would be no charges filed. Newspaper accounts indicate the boys were crossing a busy street near an intersection but outside of the marked crosswalk and against a red light. This led police to conclude that the SUV had the right of way and could not have avoided hitting the boys as they darted across the street.

Is this the standard of accountability we are willing to live with?

Yes, the boys were foolish to cross against the light, but to shrug it off and absolve the driver simply because these children ran outside the lines when a light was this or that color seems barbaric!

Who had greater control to avoid this tragedy—the children or the operator of the SUV? By law, every driver has a responsibility to exercise “due care for the safety” of pedestrians at all times. Everyone who has a license to operate a motor vehicle has agreed to accept this responsibility. Maybe driving just a little slower or paying closer attention might at least have reduced the carnage.

Since the invention of the “horseless carriage” in the 19th century, we have struggled to resolve this issue of safety for pedestrians, and we’ve consistently arrived at a moral and legal principle that simply does not excuse the operator from the responsibility of “due care” for the safety of pedestrians.

We advise our children to “look both ways” and to “watch out for cars,” but the simple truth is that people have the right of way. Or do they? Is it ever OK for an SUV to run down a child—or three?

An SUV managed to hit all three kids at once, killing one and hospitalizing the other two, and at this time there appear to be no legal consequences for the driver because the kids were not within some lines painted on the road and a certain light was not lit. Is this really how unsafe we want our neighborhoods to be?

If a driver strikes another human being, it should be the last time he or she is entrusted with the responsibility of “due care” for the safety of other human beings.