Motor vehicles, present in our society for only a few decades, have given rise to a hodgepodge of complex problems that are difficult to remedy. Their social utility is often momentarily forgotten when one hears or reads an item of news relating to a traffic tragedy in which a life has been taken. The solution to this highway slaughter is seemingly in the distant future, as the facts show that little progress has been made in the past. It is undoubtedly true that carelessness and disregard for the safety of others are contributing factors in a vast majority of fatal accidents. In order to stifle this deadly reckoning, various safety committees plead with the public to better their driving habits, and legislatures are constantly enacting various laws that designate the standard of care which drivers must follow. Violations of these prescribed standards usually warrant criminal punishment to the guilty. This punishment is the most severe when the defendant, in failing to comply with the required standards, causes the death of another. The obvious conclusion is that the effectiveness of the safety committees and the legislation is relatively slight in view of the fact that the fatality rate is ever increasing. The purpose of this article is to make a detailed study of the criminal sanctions which the several states impose upon the unfortunate driver involved in a highway tragedy. Such an individual is properly described as "unfortunate" in view of the fact that thousands of other drivers have, and exercise, driving habits comparable to those of the defendant. Often the only distinguishing factor between a defendant and others who are of equal culpability is the fact that the former, because of fortuitous circumstances, has become involved in a fatal accident. To "remedy" the problem, courts imprison the individual who, for all practical purposes, is quite often an upstanding citizen of the community. The taking of his freedom is particularly harsh in those instances where the statutes require only ordinary negligence for a conviction to be sustained. This "remedy" solves nothing, as is explained at the conclusion of this article.
The Fallacy and Fortuity of Motor Vehicle Homocide,
41 Neb. L. Rev. 793
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