It’s a video that simultaneously sends chills down the spine of every motorcyclist and confirms the worst fears of those who advocate for distracted-driving laws. A young man is flying down the right lane of a freeway at night in a V8-powered sedan. There is a couple riding a motorcycle at a normal speed in the middle of the lane. Without so much as touching the brakes, the young man hits the motorcycle, putting both of the riders in the hospital. After asking “Are you okay?” the driver starts checking his car for damage.
There’s no obvious malice in the video and the driver is stone-cold sober. It seems like an obvious case of texting and driving. When asked what caused the accident, the driver insists on referring questions to his attorney. But why he has an attorney isn’t immediately obvious, because he’s not being charged with anything.
What’s going on?
The image at the top of the article contains the clue: the driver was an on-duty patrolman. In the video obtained by CNN, you can see Ohio State Trooper Jacob Daymon ramming a motorcyle for no apparent reason. There are two obvious questions that arise after viewing the footage:
What was Trooper Daymon doing when he struck the motorcyclists? Was he texting? Chatting? Surfing the Internet? Most of us have seen troopers doing all of the above; your humble author was texting at a stoplight the other day when I realized the car pulling up behind me was an Ohio patrolman. I quickly hid my phone, but there was no reason to worry; the trooper was busy texting someone on his phone. Perhaps he wasn’t doing anything personal at all. It’s possible he was simply operating one of the myriad of in-car information systems that are part of the modern police car. If that’s what happened, then we need to ask: What makes us think that police officers have any more ability to safely operate a vehicle when looking away from the road than anyone else would? Did the in-car computers in Trooper Daymon’s car compel his attention to the point where he simply didn’t see the motorcycle approach for several seconds?
Why wasn’t Trooper Daymon charged? It’s a virtual certainty that a citizen in the same situation would face some sort of charge. At the very least, it’s reckless operation; at the worst, it’s an attempt at vehicular manslaughter. Particularly in rural Ohio, one might expect to have to face an arraignment and make bail in this situation. We keep hearing that distracted driving is equal to, or worse, than drunk driving. Imagine a drunk driver hitting a motorcycle under these conditions. He wouldn’t be sent home. Even a drunk cop might face discipline. What if there had been a fatality? What would have happened then?
Right now, there are more questions than answers. And as long as Greene County, Ohio implicitly supports Trooper Daymon’s actions, there probably always will be.