Archive for Thursday, July 12, 2007

Pine’s vehicular homicide statute review welcome

July 12, 2007

This spring, a 19-year-old Tonganoxie woman lost her life when her car was rammed by a motorist police said ran a stop sign. Although the motorist faces a number of charges, they won't include vehicular homicide because of a Kansas Supreme Court ruling that found that traffic offenses such as running a red light or stop sign don't in themselves satisfy the requirements of a vehicular homicide charge.

To many in Eudora, the Tonganoxie case may bring to mind Tisha Downing, a Eudora High School secretary killed west of Lawrence on U.S. Highway 40 when the car she was driving was struck head by a vehicle driven by a motorist attempting to pass another vehicle on a hill. In that case, too, prosecutors couldn't charge the driver with vehicular homicide who casually put his and the lives of others at risk through a foolhardy and ultimately tragic act of impatience and selfishness. We said at the time of that wreck, there should be more consequences because the willful, considered disregard for basic traffic laws and human life seemed to set it apart from wrecks caused through absentmindedness or negligence.

One Kansas lawmaker agrees. The recent wreck and death prompted Sen. Roger Pine, R-Leavenworth, to call for a study of the state's statute with the intention of giving prosecutors more flexibility to charge drivers with vehicular homicide.

Those convicted of vehicular homicide can be sentenced to one year in jail and fined $2,500.

We support the added flexibility not because we think selfish individuals who put themselves at risk will be deterred from driving so dangerously, but even the harsher penalties seem meager compared to the damage done from murderous actions.

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