Thursday, August 28, 2008

Idaho Bicycle Justice

Take narcotic pain pills, get behind the wheel of your Hummer, and kill a bicyclist. Get 9 years probation.

That's how it turned out on August 27th, in Mike Wetherell's courtroom.

Harsh, huh?

Executive summary:

On October 19, 2007, oncology nurse Sarah Howard was riding her bicycle on a nice, wide road with striped bike lanes. She had stopped at an intersection, waiting for the light to turn green.

Alas, at the very same time, Erika Hanson was motoring down the very same road in her Hummer H3, with narcotics in her bloodstream. As she approached the intersection where Howard was stopped, her Hummer swerved into the bike lane and straddled the curb. She plowed into Howard from behind. The cyclist was probably already dead when she hit the pavement, over 100 feet away.

Am I missing any meaningful details?

Hanson's sentence: one year of "house arrest," nine years of probation, and loss of driving privileges for life.

Pretty tough.

Has justice been served?

Why do I feel a little less safe today than I did yesterday, as a transportation cyclist?

More details on the Statesman website HERE.

Previous "Bike Nazi" commentary HERE and HERE.


Unknown said...

I'm a biker and I'm not too enraged by the punishment given. But then again, I'm also not a huge proponent of the prison system either. I don't see what putting her in jail will do other then satisfy people's feelings of revenge.

The house arrest is good in that she's not another tax payer waste sitting in a cell. The probation on the other hand amounts to nothing. But the fact that she lost driving privileges for life is the best punishment really.

I mean hell now she'll have to bum rides, take public transit, or even better ride a bike.

Anonymous said...

On the one hand I am enraged to a white-hot seethe, however, on the other hand I think that 9 Years probation may actually be more punishment than doing time.

What I'd like to know is: How much (if any) punishment she is receiving for possessing and using the illegal drugs that brought about this tragedy in the first place?


I'm presuming that - given the fact she was driving a Hummer, and her light sentence - this woman had the cash for one helluva attorney.

Bikeboy said...

Colin... the ONLY reason I believe a more stringent punishment would be in order would be to make other roadway users seriously consider the protection that is LEGALLY afforded to cyclists. If you hurt a cyclist on our roads, you will pay dearly.

If the punishment would not have such an effect, then I'm with you on the penalty handed down in this case.

Q: What's to say she can't behave herself for a couple years, then approach a judge with a slick attorney at her side and say, "Your honor, I'm a changed woman. I've found Jesus during my period of probation, and I REALLY need my driving privileges back, so I can be more of a contributing member of society."

db said...

Technically, the drugs (including oxycodone) were not illegal -- they are prescription meds that she apparently had prescriptions for. She was, however, illegally intoxicated behind the wheel.

I would've preferred that she do ONE year of prison. That would send a message without overloading the prisons, etc. Also, some cycling-related community service (make her paint bike lanes) would've been appropriate.

But regardless, no sentence really "makes up for" the death of an innocent person.

Remind me to never read the comments on the Statesman's site, by the way.