This tragic incident has been on my mind, saddening and infuriating me since it happened this past weekend:
Anita Zaffke had stopped her motorcycle at the intersection of U.S. Highway 12 and Old McHenry Road as the light turned yellow. Lora Hunt’s car struck and killed Ms. Zaffke. Ms. Hunt admitted to painting her fingernails as she drove, and claimed she did not see the motorcycle until she hit it.
I will freely admit that my opinion is extremely biased because I am a biker’s wife and a motorcycle rider myself, though not lately. I have heard the whole “I didn’t see the motorcycle” scenario way too many times over the years. When you are the unseen motorcycle, as all of us who ride have been at one time or another, if you are lucky, you have enough room and time to evade an accident. If not, you become a victim of the classic motorcycle accident where the driver of a car doesn’t see the motorcycle who had the right of way.
I am amazed and incensed at some of the comments made on the linked news reports and other accounts of the incident that imply that the victim was partly to blame simply because she made the choice to ride a motorcycle. I cannot agree that someone should expect to be injured or killed because they choose to legally ride a motorcycle on a public highway. From all accounts, Ms. Zaffke was a responsible and trained rider. At the time of the incident, she was wearing a helmet and reflective vest, and had yielded for the yellow light. She was not doing anything wrong. Yes, motorcycling is inherently risky. No, no and a thousand times NO should anyone be injured, let alone KILLED, because some freaking irresponsible moron decides that painting her nails in her car is more important than driving that car and watching where she is going.
Some of the other comments that bothered me most are the ones that say “what if the car driver was distracted for some other reason.” Ummm. She wasn’t. She wasn’t trying to read a map because she was lost. She didn’t just get a phone call with an emergency. She wasn’t trying to attend to a baby or child riding with her. She wasn’t being stung by a bee that entered her vehicle. She was PAINTING HER NAILS. Yeah. I think that’s way different.
At this time, the only charge against the car driver is a traffic violation, failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident. To my knowledge, we do have distracted driving laws in Illinois. The language is such that it must be proved that the distracted driver’s recklessness was so extreme that he or she acted with complete disregard for the safety of others. I understand the need for a proper investigation, but if this incident does not constitute “extreme recklessness” with “complete disregard for the safety of others”… what does??
Most of the laws introduced recently here have had to do with texting while driving. I don’t think texting while driving is a good idea, but it seems to be far from the most common or most distracting thing that people do while driving. Maybe the current distracted driving laws just need to be revised and strengthened.
I admit (and probably so should you, and you, and well, just about everyone) that I do not always have 100% of my attention on the road. This whole thing has made me look again at what I do while driving. I wish everyone would take a moment to do that, especially if you live and drive anywhere near where my husband or I might be on a motorcycle.
(NaBloPoMo | May ‘09: 5 of 31 | 75% Challenge: 101 of 274)