Hard to be satisfied with charges against logging truck driver
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Most drivers have made the split-second decision to press forward on a yellow light, especially when traveling at highway speeds on Highway 82.
Many of us have also seen other drivers push that yellow light past its limit and blow on through the intersection after the light turns red. It’s a dangerous habit, proved all too painfully in August when the driver of a semi truck laden with a full load of timber barreled through the red light on southbound Highway 82 at the Buffalo Valley intersection.
The truck, driven by John H. Briggs, T-boned a Jeep driven by 24-year-old Claudia Tena de Ramirez when she pulled out onto Highway 82 to make a left turn, killing the young woman on impact. There were no passengers in her vehicle.
Briggs is now facing the misdemeanor criminal charge of careless driving resulting in death. If convicted, he could face up to a year in the county jail and the likely revocation of his commercial driver’s license.
People are asking, is this a fitting consequence?
If a driver runs a red light and another motorist dies, shouldn’t there be a felony charge? Doesn’t our basic understanding of justice call for a more serious charge and more harsh punishment?
We believe so, but we also understand that the Colorado State Patrol and the district attorney are trying to best serve justice by applying a set of charges that can be proven without question and offer no room for a jury to acquit Briggs.
Briggs made a very serious mistake in judgment in thinking he could push the yellow light and run through the intersection moments after the light turned red, especially while driving a heavily-loaded semi truck.
The district attorney has determined that his action was criminally careless, but that it doesn’t rise to the level of being criminally negligent or reckless, or to a level of vehicular manslaughter or vehicular homicide – felony charges that would carry a much longer sentence in state prison.
We may still scratch our heads over this, largely because it could send a message to other drivers that the consequences of running a red light aren’t all that severe.
But take another look at the consequences Briggs faces if convicted: the loss of his livelihood as a truck driver, the cost of a defense attorney, a year spent in jail, fines to pay, and the ongoing shame of having committed one careless act that cut short the life of a young person.
None of this will bring Ms. de Ramirez back, or ease her family’s pain. But a conviction will be a U-turn in life for Briggs.
We also hope it’s enough to make drivers apply the brakes when approaching a yellow traffic light, because no one would want to be in Briggs’s shoes now.
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