Thursday, March 13, 2008

Every One Pays for Careless Cop

Last weekend, a Deputy Sheriff's car killed two cyclists on Stevens Canyon Road in Cupertino. The incident has garnered significant media coverage, in part due to many witnesses, and the senseless waste. From reports, the cyclists were perfectly obeying all traffic regulations, and the Deputy simply fell asleep at the wheel, running over the cyclists. Now, two families have lost loved ones, one person must live with the pain of having killed people. Everyone in the county will also have to pay as Sheriff's department will likely have to settle an inevitable lawsuit for a few million dollars. The deputy will probably receive no more than a slap on the wrist (and will surely have a union and a lawyer to shift the blame elsewhere.) About the only real winner will be the lawyers.

It is yet another sad tale of a life lost due to the car-obsessed society. Why do we have to accept that 'accidents' happen? I'm sure the lawyers will argue that the fatigue of working long shifts, the time change, and probably a slew of other factors caused the deputy to temporarily lose control and cause this tragedy. But why does this lead to the killing of two innocent people, while the vehicle driver is able to walk away? What would happen if safety equipment were switched around? Instead of protecting the occupants at the possible expense of those outside, what if cars were designed to protect those outside at the expense of those inside? If a car hit a pedestrian at high speed, the car could turn over, or compress itself. The best way for a driver to be safe would be to drive carefully. Now instead of being responsible for the safety of those around, they are primarily responsibly for their own safety. In the Cupertino tragedy, this scheme may have resulted in the loss of one life - or more likely would have resulted in a deputy taking the day off because he felt too tired.

Unfortunately, the public debate now seems to center around the dangers of cycling, rather than the dangerous caused by driving. If we could truly remove the implied 'right' to drive, and ensure complete responsibility for actions, we can improve life for all - and reduce the possibility of other senseless tragedies.