Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Rash Of Hit-and-Run Incidents Plagues The Bay State

You've heard of the legend of the Boston driver, haven't you? Motorists from our neck of the woods are notorious for their driving, which is, by turns, too aggressive, too irrational, too heedless of the laws and way too often downright crazy. Some (like my dear departed Ma) attribute Boston driving to the, quote-unquote, "Irish scofflaw" influence, whereby motorists of Irish descent supposedly flout the laws established by Anglo-Saxon grandees. Even beyond its status as a vile, anti-Irish canard, this theory makes no sense when you consider that a lot more law-makers (not to mention law-enforcers) in the Bay State are Irish than Anglo-Saxon. Then there is the theory that Boston drivers are screwy because the roads themselves are screwy, having once been meandering cow paths and all that. Maybe so, but I've seen as much crazy driving on I-95 and I-93 as anywhere else - and those were built during the Cold War 1950's to transport nuclear weapons and provide escape routes for evacuees and their design is about as disorderly as a geometry lesson. Another theory holds that the high concentration of both college-age kids and liquor-serving establishments in the Boston area enable a "perfect storm" of vehicular mayhem. Still another theory contends that Massachusetts, being the liberal state that it is, doesn't punish its serial traffic offenders enough, allowing them to stay on the road when they ought to be stuck on the sidewalk. Or maybe the best theory is one that accommodates all the half-truths that engender every other theory.

Whatever the reason, Boston traffic still sucks, and always has. It almost killed me once, as a matter of fact. During a long slog home from a bar in the wee hours of my misspent youth, I was stumbling across the Alewife Brook Parkway when a sedan stuffed to the sun-roof with young folks whizzed by, just missing my ass by inches. Some others I know of have not been so lucky. A girl I went to grammar school with, just six months married, was killed by a hit-and-run driver when she opened her car door to haul out Christmas presents. I could go on, but I won't.

There's been a rash of hit-and-run incidents in the Greater Boston area in the last month or so. It could be one of those random clusters of events that spuriously suggest a trend - or it could really be a sign of something changing for the worse. Here are a few cases plucked out from Google News:

1) 55-year old Paul Baran of Taunton struck and killed 17-year old Nicholas Silva-Thomas while the latter was riding his skateboard in the middle of the street. Baran fled the scene, but later turned himself in. Although Baran was not apparently intoxicated during this incident, he had a rap sheet that went back longer than Silva-Thomas had been alive, including "more than 30 misdemeanor charges — ranging from speeding, driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident resulting in property damage — as well as a score of hearings, some involving Baran’s status as a habitual traffic offender." When he was hauled into court this August, the event marked the 16th time Baran's license had been revoked or suspended since 1989. Yet, until recently, he was still driving. Even if he is found guilty of "leaving the scene of an accident resulting in a death", Baran could serve as little as two years - or less. And that's not counting parole.

2) 47-year old Jon Ravida of East Boston struck and killed 22-year old Sothay Pen as the young woman was crossing Route 1A in Revere. She died of severe head trauma at the scene. The Boston Globe reported that Ravida "has an extensive driving record dating to 1987, according to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. His license has been suspended four times, and he was ruled at fault in two accidents." Mr. Ravida did not turn himself in, but was in fact identified by witnesses who noticed the damage to his SUV (of course, an asshole like this would have an SUV) and his suspicious behavior when he stopped at a gas station near the scene.

3) 34-year old illegal immigrant Nicolas Gauman struck 23-year old Matthew Denice while the latter was riding his motorcycle, and dragged the young man's body behind his pickup truck for a quarter of a mile. Denice had just been graduated from Framingham State College with a degree in Computer Science. Gauman was not only driving while intoxicated, he was also driving with an open container of liquor in his vehicle.

It could be that economic stress is ramping up both the distracted mindset and the substance abuse that is causing these incidents - as well as the fear of oblivion that encourages a man to flee from his own crimes - but that is no excuse. I say, let's get tough on irresponsible drivers - and then maybe later on we can get tough on bankers and hedge-fund managers and CEO's.

Lengthy driving rap sheet for alleged hit-and-run Taunton driver frustrates family, friends of dead teen (Enterprise News)
DA accuses hit-run suspect of a coverup (Boston Globe)
Illegal Immigrant Charged in Hit-and-Run Death of 23-Year-Old Massachusetts Man (Fox News)

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