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How Many Defenseless People Need to Be Hit Before It’s a Felony?

10:32 AM PDT on June 17, 2011

Apparently, the number is higher than eleven.

Early Thursday morning, Christina Dahab plowed into a group of cyclists standing in the road waiting to head off for the last leg of a bike ride.  Nine of the cyclists were hurt so bad, they were hospitalized, at least two underwent surgery early yesterday evening and one other person is reportedly still in a coma.  Another handful of cyclists escaped with less serious injuries and an dozens of bicycles were mangled some beyond repair.  By yesterday evening, Dahab was back on the street, free on $15,000 bail, and charged with "Misdemeanor DUI."

If she's found guilty, Dahab could lose her license for as little as one month and face various fees and penalties.  Usually any DUI involving personal injury automatically results in a felony, but the LAPD determined that her blood and alcohol level was not past the legal limit.  That's bad news for anyone hoping the wheels of justice would roll over Dahab as fiercely as she rolled over the cyclists.  If a driver is drunk, the case is an easy one to make and the full weight of the law will come crashing down on them.

If a driver is just unbelievably and dangerously negligent, it's often viewed as acceptable level of carnage for all the other wonderful things are car culture brings us such as obesity, isolated communities, sprawl, global warming and an oil-dependent economy that is destroying the world.

Riders who met with the LAPD are already raising red flags about the quality of the investigation.  While the investigation is being handed over to the Culver City police, the initial report by the LAPD has some real whoppers.  The police report reads as though it was written by Dahab's defense attorney noting that the driver was turning around a blind curb and that there's no way to tell if she was speeding when she assaulted eleven people with her car.

The LAPD's explanation that they can't prove whether or not she's speeding is also somewhat questionable.  A driver drove into a group of people standing next to bicycles with flashing lights and reflectors without stopping or braking sending 11 people to the hospital.  Does it matter whether they were technically speeding?  Also, the state's speeding law reads like this.

CVC 22350. No person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather,  visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and width of, the  highway, and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of  persons or property.

It sounds like regardless of the posted limit, Dahab was driving at a speed that endangered the safety of persons or property.

But of greatest concern is that the primary factor for the crash is listed as "pedestrians in the roadway."  Such a determination places the blame squarely at the feet of the victims.  It's the traffic crash version of "she was dressed slutty" or "she shouldn't have walked in that area at night."  It's especially galling because that section of the road, adjacent to an intersection is an "unmarked crosswalk" so the reporting officer is basically giving her, and any other driver, the right to run people down in a crosswalk.

It's also something that can be appealed, so if you have any information on the crash, you should contact the Culver City Police Department Traffic Division at  (310)253-6200.

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