Thursday, December 23, 2021

Overcharging as a Political Stunt

Recently a young man was sentenced to 110 years in prison for a traffic accident that killed four people. This has promoted national outrage including truckers calling for a boycott of Colorado.

That the driver used poor judgment is beyond question. Is the sentence outrageous? IMO, beyond question.  A summary is here.

Interstate 70 Eastbound down what is known as Floyd Hill is as dangerous as any section you might drive. 7% grade with little letup (if you don’t count the 5% grade section) means lots of braking. Trucks must, repeat must, gear down and come down with engine compression and exhaust brake. He failed to do that. Add curves and it gets “interesting”. There are two truck runaway ramps. He failed to use them. Once you clear the last curve the road straightens out but is still 5% grade. Home free? No, traffic coming off I -405 merging onto I-70 creates stop and go conditions.

Enter the local DA in an election year. She grossly overcharged the driver to leverage a guilty plea to lesser charges. The driver elected to risk a jury trial. He was found guilty. Due to the charges she brought and the permutations of Colorado laws, the judge (“My hands are tied”) imposed the 110 year sentence.

Westbound up Floyd Hill you go under a bridge and see a magnificent vista. You are not home free. Further along you climb another steep section then descend into Clear Creek canyon. Five miles of 7% grade with zero letup. There are two truck runaway ramps. At the bottom there is a wicked 45 mph curve as you go over US 6.

I’ve traveled I-70 Denver to Grand Junction more times than I care to remember in all types of vehicles. While I won’t drive a semi, I’ve pulled trailers behind ¾ and one ton pickups over the route. One common sight that boggles the mind is drivers using the truck runaway exits as rest stops.

My personal feeling is this young man should pay for his poor judgment. What is appropriate I cannot say?

I do hope his employer gets sued out of business. Putting an employee, poorly trained if at all, in a substandard maintained truck loose on public highways is an outrage. Alas, it happens all the time.


ADDENDUM II: Hard to get facts straight but here is another opinion.

If it is true he came off Berthoud Pass with bad brakes that is very hard to believe. The East side ofUS 40 Berthoud Pass makes Floyd Hill look like a level city street.


Greybeard said...

I didn't read the link where my answer might lie.
What was the load that ended up all over the highway?

Well Seasoned Fool said...

He crashed into a flatbed semi hauling lumber among other vehicles in stopped traffic. Much like an aircraft crash, the young man made several mistakes. First, relying on his brakes. At the start of the descent there are several signs warning truckers to use lower gears. He ignored them.. Second, not using the *(*&( runaway ramps. He ignored them. Third, weaving in and out of traffic as reported by more than one professional truck driver.

What I haven't been able to learn if this was his first trip on I-70. Was his employer negligent in training him?

Assuming he had traveled I-70 from Grand Junction, this hill wasn't his first rodeo. He had descended the East side of Vail Pass and East down from the Eisenhauer/Johnson tunnels to Georgetown. Both are steep, both have the warning signs, and both have runaway ramps.

Perhaps, since you can see the plains from the top of Floyd Hill, he thought he was home free. Right there is a sign that reads, "Truckers! You are not down yet! Use lower gears".

Well Seasoned Fool said...

Found a picture of the sign and added it to the blog.

Old NFO said...

The sad part it that four are dead...

Ritchie said...

It's not at all clear that he can read English.

Well Seasoned Fool said...

I didn't know that.

LSP said...

I know nothing but GB seems wise on this.

Still, 110 years, in an election year? It's the last part which gets me.

Well Seasoned Fool said...

The prosecution hit him with multiple charges. The Colorado Legislature has passed a law calling for consecutive, not concurrent, sentences in some cases. Each charge carried a maximum of six to ten years alone.

There are some Colorado Highways that have pull over areas for brake checks. Stopping is required; it is not an option. Once, a state employee would be stationed there to monitor compliance. Funding for this activity has been severely curtailed.

Fingers can be pointed, rightfully, in many directions. The young man is ultimately culpable. Being a damn fool isn't a legal defense, and he was a damn fool that got people killed.