Don't Walk in Sonoma County

Crash Sonoma County, as you may have noticed from my weekly Toll segment, has a significantly higher tempo of death and injury from cars than does Marin. Though road design is a large part of the problem, another might be unjust enforcement of the law.

Last month, Jared Whisman-Pryor severely injured a bicyclist and fled from the scene on his motorcycle, only to be identified later in surveillance tapes. Unfortunately, Rohnert Park police aren't even trying to arrest him, saying the bicyclist may have been at fault. So rather than try to prosecute Whisman-Pryor for a hit-and-run that left a bicyclist unable to walk, they're looking for a way to lay the blame on the bicyclist. They don't want to arrest Whisman-Pryor; they just want his side of the story.

Meanwhile, Santa Rosa police have determined that the death of Joseph Von Merta, 44, and the injury of Robert McKee were their own faults because they were drunk when crossing the street. McKee, the victim of a hit-and-run drunk driver, was in a crosswalk at the time of the crash. Pedestrians in the roadway have the right-of-way, so how he could be at fault simply for being drunk, especially when in the crosswalk, is beyond me.

The police's finding that Von Merta's death was his own fault is more understandable.  He was crossing against the light, and so should have yielded to the right-of-way of vehicles, but his level of intoxication at the time should not come into play. Indeed, in this instance, it is still the responsibility of roadway designers to ensure the natural speed limit is a safe one. Von Merta didn't need to die that night.

In the cases of Jared Whisman-Pryor and Robert McKee, it's unconscionable that we don't hold drivers accountable for their own actions, especially when so often they result in injury and death. Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park need to get their acts together.