This accident happened over Memorial Day weekend on May 26 in Racine County, WI. It involved a semi-tanker and a passenger vehicle, one pulling out in front of the other at a stop sign. Truck driver Jonathan Schweiss lost his life after his rig crashed into the smaller car, because its driver, Katherine Bennett, failed to yield to oncoming traffic at a highway intersection two-way stop. A citation was issued for the minor infraction of failure to yield, but this story makes news now because the Racine District Attorney’s Office isn’t pressing any charges against Ms. Bennett in Mr. Schweiss’ death.
I can hear you 4-wheel haters chomping at the bit already, so before you jump to conclusions, the police report found that Ms. Bennett was not under the influence of any substances nor was she distracted. It was also noted that Mr. Schweiss’ truck “could have been in her blind spot.”[i] How big of a blind spot does the law allow for a semi to fit in the blind spot of a small passenger car?
Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I wish Ms. Bennett any harm of legal retribution. After all, accidents happen. They do. And, undoubtedly, not a day goes by for Ms. Bennett that she doesn’t wrestle with that accident. However, had their places at that intersection been reversed, would Mr. Schweiss have been freed so easily back onto the road?
The Evident Double Standard
The truth is that if Mr. Schweiss had been the one to cause the accident, he most definitely would have paid dearly for it. In all actuality, if he were a company truck driver, he would have lost his job, because not only would his insurance go up but so would the company’s. He probably couldn’t have found another trucking job any time soon because of the points counted on his license, because it doesn’t matter who’s at fault in an accident, it only matters that there was one.
There are obvious reasons why there are staunch supporters on either side of the double standard debate. Is it fair to hold your average citizen driver to the same standards as you would a specially trained professional? You certainly wouldn’t with many other professions, but most of them require many years of education rather than a few weeks or months. And let’s be honest, few of us find ways to practice medicine in the course of our daily lives, but we do find plenty of reasons to climb behind a steering wheel daily.
What side of the line do you fall on, or is there even room for a double standard when it comes to sharing the road?
[i] Denise Lockwood, “No charges filed in accident that killed Falls truck driver,” Menomonee Falls Patch, September 21, 2012, http://menomoneefalls.patch.com/articles/no-charges-filed-in-accident-that-killed-falls-truck-driver (accessed September 24, 2012).