Last spring there was an unusual fatal crash in my area. Two people were run over by a car. The unusual part was, they were inside a restaurant at the time. So the incident got more coverage than usual.
Based on the coverage the facts look simple. A guy with health problems was going downhill approaching the end of the street. He hit the gas instead of the brake and accelerated through the intersection, across the sidewalk, and into the restaurant.
Is hitting the wrong pedal a crime?
Here’s where Massachusetts is different than most states.
In some states police would ticket him for going out of his lane and that’s all it would be, a $100 fine. It’s not criminal homicide unless they prove more than a moving violation. I’ve read plenty of stories where somebody got run over and the driver, though at fault, paid only a fine.
In Massachusetts the law says if you make a mistake while driving and somebody dies, you can go to jail. Police do not have to prove that some specific moving violation was the cause of death. The legal standard is “negligence” — was the driver at fault. It’s up to the jury to decide if hitting the wrong pedal is an “oops” or a crime.
Old drivers get a deal where they give up their licenses forever and don’t go to jail.
I would have expected a similar deal here, based on the likelihood that the driver’s poor health was a major contributor, but the publicity in this case has the prosecutor looking for more.
What do you think? What’s the right price for driving while sick, hitting the wrong pedal, and killing two people?
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