Last week, Rhode Island Governor Don Carcieri signed a texting-while-driving ban into law, which was put into effect immediately. He didn’t need another reason to sign common-sense legislation, but just six days before, he got one from an incident in South Kingstown, RI:
A woman who was struck by a vehicle last week while she was walking on South Road was released from Rhode Island Hospital on Saturday.
Police have named a suspect, Dianne M. Wales, 38, of 53 Wingate Road, Wakefield. She was arrested Wednesday morning and charged with failure to stop at the scene of an accident, personal injury resulting, a felony, after telling police she was looking at her Blackberry and did not see the pedestrian.
If anything, failure to stop at the scene of an accident should only scrape the surface of the charges. And this isn’t really an “accident;” it sounds like an open-and-shut case of wreckless driving to me.
But Friday afternoon, Capt. Jeffrey Allen said police had pulled the charge pending input from the state Attorney General’s Office.
And unfortunately, the Rhode Island Attorney General has a history of letting those guilty of traffic crimes walk free. Late last month, the state finally threw a man in prison for driving with a suspended license – after his 17th offense. At the same time, the Attorney General’s office said that it only takes three such offenses to rise to the level of a felony.
If this case is in limbo and the state hasn’t decided whether or not to press charges against this woman in South Kingstown, let’s remind Attorney General Patrick Lynch of the disgusting details of this crime:
Wales allegedly told police she had just been in an accident and wasn’t sure what she hit, because she had been looking at e-mail on her Blackberry when she heard a “thud.”
According to the police report, Wales told police did not see what she might have hit, so she drove about 250 feet and pulled over to inspect the damage. At that time, she allegedly did not see anything and assumed she had struck a tree or a rock or an animal that had darted out of the woods.
As if striking a tree or an animal with a car because the driver was looking down at a Blackberry is any less wreckless? A human life was nearly taken because a selfish woman saw no problem with putting others at risk so she could read an e-mail.
Regardless of the fact that the texting law went into effect six days later and regardless of the fact that the victim survived, this woman broke the law and must be punished. Letting her walk free sends a message that pedestrians can be carelessly mowed down in Rhode Island with no consequences.