Fatal Newport Beach Sports Car Crash Highlights Lawlessness of Car Culture

3_12_09_ferrari.jpgPhoto: Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times

Yesterday, the media reacted with horror to the news that Mixed Martial Arts and reality television star Charles "Mask" Lewis died after a particularly gruesome and spectacular crash between his Ferrari and a Porsche in Newport Beach. After reading the Times’ coverage of the story, it’s clear that this crash was completely avoidable if we had a justice system that prioritized taking unsafe drivers off the road. The driver of the Porsche that allegedly caused the crash has a long history of violating traffic laws, but was still free to cruise Orange County roads:

According to Orange County Superior Court records, Kirby has been cited
for at least eight traffic violations since 2001, including a
conviction for driving under the influence in which he was sentenced to
three years’ probation.

In the 2001 drunk driving arrest, Kirby allegedly told the
arresting officer that his father was a retired CHP patrolman who
always advised him to never submit to a sobriety test. He also told the
officer that "he shouldn’t be picking on people with money," according
to the police report.

I’m beginning to wonder if the California Highway Patrol has any moral authority left.  Last week we saw them going out of their way to "correct" information about cyclists rights by disseminating incorrect information and now we have them advising drunk family members on how to avoid DUI’s.

Kirby is being held on suspicion of felony drunk driving and driving under the influence.  I’m guessing that drunkenly causing a fatal crash is a violation of his probation.

  • Spokker

    “He also told the officer that “he shouldn’t be picking on people with money,” according to the police report.”

    Wow, way to work the stereotype.

    “now we have them advising drunk family members on how to avoid DUI’s.”

    You can’t assume anything he said in the 2001 arrest is true. He may have been lying. After all, he’s a jackass.

  • I was always taught that driving was privilege, not a right. Yet it seems like the DMV and courts do everything they can to keep drivers on the road, no matter how dangerous they may be. I would think that eight traffic violations — let alone a drunk driver conviction — would be enough to permanently revoke someone’s driving privileges.

    How comforting to know people like this share our streets.

  • Lea

    How fast you all forget that the driver of the Ferrari isat least 50% responsible for this horrible crash. He too was traveling at a high rate of speed while racing the Porsche driver.

  • Dan

    picking on people with money? Dude, you’re driving a 1977 911 …

  • How fast you all forget that the driver of the Ferrari isat least 50% responsible for this horrible crash. He too was traveling at a high rate of speed while racing the Porsche driver.
    No, you’re absolutely right. This certainly appears to be a case where both drivers are at fault, but I’m not trying to point the finger at the drivers for this; even though they may both deserve it.

    Instead, I’m pointing the finger at a system that let Kirby continue to drive with a license. This is one case where the system is as much at fault as either of the drivers.

  • Stephen

    I also want to point out that Jamboree is essentially a 6-8 lane highway from PCH all the way to the 261. The portion where the accident occurred has a somewhat steep grade, so drivers going downhill easily hit 65-70mph on it, while the limit is 50mph. I know because I grew up in the neighborhood right off Jamboree and Bison. It was never attractive to walk or bike on Jamboree because the cars just went too fast while the sidewalks were so narrow. In addition, this portion of Jamboree does not have a bike lane, there are signs that tell you to bike on the sidewalk instead, even though it is technically illegal to ride your bike on the sidewalk in many parts of OC as part of the car culture down there.

  • jksisco

    There is a point system attached to a license to drive, too many violations in a set period of time and you’ll end up exceeding the points, which will result in either a suspension or a revocation of your driving privilege, however, there is nothing that can really prevent someone to continue to drive. In this case, there is no indication that the arrested driver is in that situation. Accidents do happen, although alcohol may have been involved in this instance, You can’t fix stupid. Why do the millions of drivers who are responsible and do obey the laws forced to alter or somehow be penalized because of the behavior of a few? That makes no sense. Harsher penalties of those that repeatably violate the law is certainly more justifiable. This is a pretty weak attempt to paint the CHP in a bad light, based on a few unverifiable anecdotes. My heart goes out to the friends and family of Charles Lewis for their loss. The tragic result of this accident should serve as a reminder to the rest of us, that things can change in an instant.

  • DannyTanner

    Thank you jksisco for that well thought out intelligent response. It is obvious you have more working upstairs than the author of this terribly written article! Remember we all make decisions in life and this gentleman made one that cost him his life! I am sure that if he were still living he would be locked up as well….I’m sure his B.A.C. was not below 0.08%. So quit trying to pass the guilt onto the other individual involved!

  • That is just horrific. I mean it’s like your life is worth so little that you would risk it and other for a twenty second race. I feel hard to judge this person in this harsh way being a child of car culture and loving fast driving myself, but wow this is a graphic demonstration that you really can do a great deal of damage just for a little big of fun.

    Even though the other guy was drunk, I think this was definitely a two party accident. You don’t drive that fast and get to escape some level of responsibility.

    He had eight moving violations, before this happened, EIGHT!! You can drive a car like a mad person and continue to keep your license. It’s like people don’t get that driving fast will kill a person of they are lucky, I’ve known of people who have been really damaged in car accidents and I bet at times they wish they were dead.


  • Spokker

    Many drivers feel invincible, as if those terrible accidents they see on the news just can’t happen to them. They feel in control, more intelligent than those other drivers. The fact is, you are hardly in control when you are going that fast.

    The Surfliner does 90 MPH between San Clemente and Oceanside right next to I-5, and I still see cars passing the train. It’s such an incredible risk just to save a few minutes.

  • Fallbrook

    Just to make things clear charles the driver of the ferrari doesnt drink and hasnt in year so his achool level was defintaly 0.00 and they where probaly not racing I know him and his girlfriend personaly and they dont race they were on there was home the proche was egging them on and lost control. Just in case u all want to know the fact there they are

  • Then you have to be prudent to not put someone you love in jeopardy like that. I would hope that the female companion didn’t egg him on to do that. Also, without a toxicology test, you don’t know if he drank. Many folks have public personas or even personas that they give to all but their close friends, but do other things behind the scene. Ultimately, though, the driver is responsible for his vehicle.

  • Will

    Both drivers are guilty. It’s clear they were racing, Porsche vs. Ferrari, Ferrari lost… A crash like this is only possible at very high speed!

    @Fallbrook: don’t protect Charles. You weren’t there at the moment of the crash, so you don’t know anything about it.

    By the way, I’m living in the Netherlands, Europe. People in the US are not capable to drive at high speed because it’s forbidden by law, so they don’t have enough experience to drive at high speeds.

    Here in Europe, especially in Germany where it’s legal to drive at high speed at the highway (Autobahn), there are less accidents because people get used to it and have the experience.

    So in my opinion Charles was just a bad driver, taking too much risk and didn’t know what he was doing. Such a shame…

  • Guest

    Manslaughter Conviction in Deadly TapouT CrashThe man accused of causing the gruesome Ferrari crash that killed the owner of the TapouT MMA clothing line was just found guilty of manslaughter — and now faces 13 years behind bars.

    53-year-old Jeffrey David Kirby was convicted today of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated — a felony — for causing the high speed crash that killed TapouT founder Charles “Mask” Lewis back in March 2009.

    As we first reported, Lewis’ $300,000 Ferrari was ripped in half after it careened off an Orange County road — hitting a light pole, and killing him nearly instantly.

    Kirby faces a maximum of 13 years in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for February next year.

    Read more: http://www.tmz.com/2010/12/08/tapout-owner-charles-mask-lewis-jeffrey-david-kirby-ferrari-porsche-drunk/#ixzz24fLIMOyX 


Cyclists and Pedestrians Looking for a Champion

Photo of bicycle after its rider was killed by an LADWP truck via the Daily News. As we approach the summer season, a time when streets are more filled with people NOT in a car, and the number of crashes involving cyclists and pedestrians continues to grow; now would be the perfect time for some […]

The Teachable Moment Everyone Is Ignoring

By all accounts, Paul Walker was a great person. He was a movie star who cared about people. He raised millions for charity. He loved his daughter. He did all the things that one hopes celebrities do in their lives, by using his money and fame to make the world a better place. Except for […]

Response to Venice Boardwalk Crash Should Be Model, Not Outlier

Saturday in the late afternoona, Nathan Lewis Campbell got in his car and created carnage on the Venice Boardwalk. The 38-year-old native of Colorado drove on to the boardwalk and swerved through the area injuring dozens and killing Italian Alice Gruppioni, a 32 year old newly waling barefoot on the beach next to her husband. They […]