When a Car Does the Killing, It’s Always an “Accident.”

Mary-Powel Thomas is President of the Community Education Council for School District 15 in Brooklyn. Back in June Thomas organized a pedestrian safety forum for schools, community groups and others who live and work along Brooklyn’s dangerous Third and Fourth Avenue corridors where numerous pedestrians, kids and elderly people in particular, have been injured and killed by motor vehicles in recent months.

Thomas forwards along this interesting letter that she recently submitted to the New York Times.

To the Editor,

I was struck by the juxtaposition of two recent articles in your newspaper. On Monday you reported that an 18-year-old woman was in jail on charges of endangering a child, because her 11-month-old was in a coma after a bathtub accident. She could face additional charges if the little girl dies.

Though "no one doubts [this was] a tragic mistake," a Brooklyn district attorney explained that in deciding whether to press charges, prosecutors ask themselves if the adult’s behavior "constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe."


Today, you report
that a five-year-old is dead in Lindenhurst. His mother moved her minivan, then "discovered her son…lying beneath a tire." No charges were filed.

Hello? Would not a "reasonable" parent of a five-year-old make sure she knew where her child was before moving a two-ton vehicle?

Though the cases occurred in two different jurisdictions, this is nevertheless an appalling contrast. We as a society seem to have decided that motor vehicles are quasi-autonomous beings, and the driver is almost never at fault when the vehicle mysteriously lashes out and kills someone.

Though I have no doubt that the Lindenhurst death was also "a tragic mistake," it would seem that both these mothers merit something between imprisonment and complete exoneration.

Mary-Powel Thomas

Brooklyn, NY

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