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"Accident"? Ha!

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


"Accident"? Ha!

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
May 5, 2009

The Daily Herald (www.dailyherald.com) carries an article this morning about the motorcyclist killed by a distracted driver.

The motorcyclist, 55-year-old Anita Zaffke, was rear-ended after slowing in the 55MPH zone and stopping, when the traffic light ahead changed to yellow. Her motorcycle was struck from behind by the car of a woman who may have been painting her fingernails. Lake Zurich Police reported finding no skid marks on the pavement.

The driver of the car was charged with "Failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident."

It was the Lake County Coroner's opinion that Kaffke's death was "accidental." Well, duhhhh... What's important is that Coroners (at least, their juries) don't have much leeway in assigning causes of death. A death can be accidental, homicide, undetermined, and there is one other choice. I recall these choices from attending a coroner's inquest in McHenry County (of which I had a very poor opinion).

If it turns out that the car's driver was, as reported, painting her fingernails while she was driving at 55MPH and approaching a signalized intersection (or painting her nails at all, while driving; here's a new charge: "P-W-D"), then a whole flurry of charges should follow, including Reckless Driving. Maybe involuntary manslaughter?

When will drivers stop multi-tasking and drive their cars without dividing their attention?

When will police increase their enforcement against distracted driving?

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