Last week a graduating University of Oregon senior was sentenced to three years in prison for the Eugene drunk driving death of a fellow student, according to the Eugene Register-Guard.
The victim, a Scot who was also attending UO, was riding his bike in a marked bike lane when he was struck from behind. The newspaper reports that in the immediate aftermath of the Oregon bike and car accident the 22-year-old driver stayed with the victim “and took responsibility for his conduct.” The driver “had a blood alcohol level about twice that in which a driver is presumed intoxicated under Oregon law,” the paper notes.
The fact that the driver did not leave the scene of the accident and had no prior drunk driving history prompted prosecutors to agree to the lesser charge of criminally negligent homicide, rather than seeking a conviction for second-degree manslaughter (which would have carried a heavier mandatory sentence). The driver pled guilty as part of the agreement with the prosecutor’s office. He will also lose driving privileges for the remainder of his life.
A story like this, involving one young life extinguished and another permanently stained is the most sobering of reminders about the dangers of drunk driving. As the Register-Guard writes “the incident shook the entire (university) community, particularly young men and women who think they are immune from the consequences of alcohol impairment.” Not mentioned in the article but also worth considering is the broader responsibility that those providing alcohol have under Oregon’s dram shop laws. Bartenders and the owners and employees of stores that sell alcohol share in the responsibility – legally as well as morally – for accidents such as these if they serve or sell beer, wine or liquor to people who already appear to be impaired.
As an Oregon drunk driving attorney with a special interest in the cycling community and accidents affecting it, a case like this is particularly difficult to read, or write, about. Families of the victims of Oregon drunk driving accidents can seek justice in our civil courts when they feel the criminal system is unable to offer them the closure they need, but the bigger issues are education and responsibility. Each of us needs to do everything in his or her power to ensure that young people not only know the risks or drunk or negligent driving but that they act accordingly. It is an unfortunate fact that accidents like this one take place far too often. Our goal must be to eliminate them through education as well as enforcement.
Eugene Register-Guard: Driver who killed cyclist gets prison