Tagcarnage culture

Carnage culture dispatch #1

I’ve been a “fan” of carnage culture news and discussion for several years, mainly since I started reading Streetsblog (probably in 2007) and their Weekly Carnage series. I write about “carnage culture” here and a little bit on Grid Chicago. But on Grid Chicago I tend to keep the coverage about crash data plus more “reasonable” (a euphemism for less angry, maybe) and objective.

Carnage culture to me is a description of the level of life and property damage Americans are willing to accept as a cost of doing business, and a cost of living. And I think that level of acceptability is much too high. Is the person responsible for these crashes paying for the damage they caused? Did the City bill the driver for the trees, curbs, landscaping, and guardrail he ran into?

I present here the first Chicago Crash Diary. From the photos and background information I received from a reader, combined with the Illinois Department of Transportation crash data, I was able to “reconstruct” a particular damaging crash in 2010. I made a color flyer from this information to quickly distill the details.

It seems continuing our system of having extremely high health care costs (without an equivalent return in quality or faster care when compared to countries with lower health care costs) is an acceptable cost of perpetuating backward ideas about society’s responsibility to take care of its members and refusing to allow a system that shares health care costs for those not already covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or child health insurance programs.

This is like carnage culture: we accept the damage to property, to human lives, and to society, to continue a culture (including our built environment) that depends on and glorifies automobile ownership and driving to places where other modes suffice. Our culture that allows unlicensed drivers, uninsured drivers, drivers with limited education (driver’s education is not needed for those 18 and older), being distracted by cellphones, and lax enforcement,* is the same one that allows $300 billion to be spent on “picking up the pieces” after crashes (study from AAA by Cambridge Systematics). But ours is the same culture that builds its cities and neighborhoods and places of employment to only be accessible by those who can drive.

The cost of crashes are based on the Federal Highway Administration’s comprehensive costs for traffic fatalities and injuries that assign a dollar value to a variety of components, including medical and emergency services, lost earnings and household production, property damage, and lost quality of life, among other things. [This story is interesting because the press release’s angle was that crash costs are three times higher than congestion costs, which is constantly in the news; congestion is apparently something we care more about.]

I don’t think $35 per month liability insurance, or the police, district attorneys, and courts, are protecting us from this damage.

*I could go on. Just search for “top causes of car crashes”.

Carnage culture: Extrapolating blood alcohol content levels

A breathalyzer test, to measure an automobile driver’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC), is not always administered at the time and scene of a crash. I don’t know why it took four hours for Drew Forquer to have his BAC measured, but it registered at 0.045 percent, slightly more than half the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

Drew was convicted on Friday, June 17, 2011, of reckless homicide and aggravated drunken driving, but not “aggravated DUI charges that specified he was over the legal limit.”

…but the judge said it was clear to him simply from the results of field-sobriety tests, eyewitness testimony and Forquer’s “bizarre” turn — which was caught on surveillance video — that he was impaired.

The prosecution hired an expert witness to extrapolate Drew’s BAC at the time of the crash, “estimated…to be from 0.084 to 0.123 percent.”

What extrapolation means

Using evidence, prosecution and defense argue about the estimated BAC based on a variety of factors, including:

  • witness statements about driving behaviors (prosecution)
  • evidence of drinking before or during crash (prosecution)
  • field sobriety test (prosecution)
  • individual’s metabolism (defense)
  • “what the driver ate or drank that day” (defense)
  • other health issues (defense)

(The parentheses indicate which side used the factor in Drew Forquer’s case.)

In Drew’s case, his defense attorney argued that the BAC was lower because him having liver disease and chronic alcoholism would have slowed his metabolism (meaning alcohol would enter the blood stream more slowly).

Drew awaits sentencing, which can be from probation to 15 years in prison. They must be joking about probation – he’s gone to court for four previous DUI arrests!

More carnage culture articles

Story sources

Chicago Tribune – Thursday, June 16, 2011

Chicago Tribune – Friday, June 17, 2011

A taxi driver exited Lake Shore Drive and drove across the grass separating it from the Lakefront Trail. This photo, taken on July 4, 2010, is not related to the story above. Photo by Andrew Ciscel.

Carnage culture needs to change

Updated June 5, 2011, to add new names.

If you ever read the comments under articles about a bicycle crash on a Chicago newspaper website, you’ll find the most hateful and misspelled vitriol about how bikers are horrible people and need to get off the road.

But bicycling poses no threat to public safety. Doing it actually enhances public safety and health. A recent study found that even though bicyclists inhale more pollution than people walking or driving, their lung capacity and health was such that they could “deal with it” better than people walking or driving. And if more people rode bicycles, there’d be fewer on-road injuries.

These are the people who need to get off the road:

Carlos Estrada, 42, of the 3600 block of Wisconsin Avenue, Berwyn, Illinois

A west suburban man was arrested on suspicion of DUI early Wednesday [June 1, 2011] — hours before he was to be sentenced for another DUI and more than 25 years after his license was revoked.

“Mr. Estrada has not had a valid driver’s license since September of 1985 and has been arrested several times in the past for driving while license suspended or revoked,” [Riverside Police Tom Chief] Weitzel said.

Chicago Sun-Times

Sandra Uher, 54, of Elgin, Illinois

A 54-year-old Elgin woman faces a little extra trouble with the law now, after she showed up drunk to her trial for her sixth DUI charge. The judge revoked bail and sent Sandra Uher to Cermak Hospital, part of the Cook County Jail. She could see six to 30 years in prison.

Daily Herald, via Chicagoist

Ryan LeVin, 36

On parole in Illinois, “A ‘millionaire playboy’ who killed two British tourists in Florida [Craig Elford, 39, and Kenneth Watkinson, 48] when his $150,000 Porsche jumped the curb will not go to jail, despite the fact that he fled the scene and lied to police officers about who was behind the wheel during the accident. Instead, he will pay cash restitution to the victims’ family, settling a civil suit on the condition that he not go to prison.”

Ryan LeVin, 36, will spend two years under house arrest in his parents’ oceanside condominium. LeVin initially denied driving the speeding car and pinned the blame on a friend. Illinois will seek to have his parole revoked and sent back to prison.

1st paragraph from Boing Boing, 2nd paragraph from Chicago Tribune

Kazimierz Karasek, 59 of Prospect Heights, Illinois

The driver of a semi truck who injured three dozen commuters when he turned into the path of a Metra train Friday [May 13, 2011] had accumulated more than 50 traffic citations since 1986 but hadn’t lost his license.

None of the infractions, including a 2000 drunken-driving arrest, triggered the suspension of the commercial driver’s license of driver Kazimierz Karasek, who was killed in the fiery wreck in Mount Prospect.

Chicago Tribune – They also have a map of the crash at Northwest Highway and Mount Prospect Road showing the string of events.

One of Kazimierz Karasek’s citations including driving the wrong way on a divided highway! There are hundreds of other people driving cars and trucks without licenses, on suspended licenses, and without the required insurance. That’s in addition to the hundreds of people who were not required to take driver’s education (in Illinois, people 18 and older are not required to take a formal driver’s education course). I am saying there are many bad drivers and many with poor or no education on how to drive legally and safely.

Yet we continue to let the drivers we know to be terrible at driving continue to drive and harass our cities and citizens. Those who take surface trains are not immune.

A Union Pacific locomotive tows the UP-Northwest Metra train damaged by Kazimierz Karasek’s stupidity, his truck, and its cement slab cargo. Janelle has more crash photos.

Chicagoland is not the only place where we witness this carnage and traffic injustices. Streetsblog NYC today reports that an “unlicensed, speeding, hit-and-run driver who killed an elderly Staten Island couple in 2009 has been sentenced to a maximum of five years in jail.” Nice, right?

Will this couple make it across Western Avenue safely? Photo by Joshua Koonce. In related news, the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Mayor’s Pedestrian Advisory Council will start the public planning process for the Chicago Pedestrian Plan. Find a list of meetings.

P.S.: Who still freaking drives around closed railroad gates?

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