Colorado Springs: Two Careless Driving Cases; Different Treatment?

According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, drivers in two pedestrian deaths are receiving different treatment by the El Paso County District Attorney’s Office.

Fact Pattern #1:  Driver 1 was driving south on Tejon in Colorado Springs, looking for a parking spot. He drove past an angled parking spot, stopped and drove in reverse to get back to the spot. Another vehicle was coming up behind driver 1 and driver 1 was trying to beat that vehicle to the parking spot. Meanwhile, a pedestrian, not walking in a crosswalk, was struck by driver 1 as driver 1 was in reverse.  The pedestrian suffered a fatal injury.  The driver said he had checked his rear camera and did not see anyone.  The pedestrian died 17 days after the accident. At that time, law enforcement charged the driver 1 with careless driving causing death.  Hours after driver 1 was charged, the DA dismissed the charges, citing the fact it is not illegal to drive in reverse and further citing the fact that the pedestrian was not in a crosswalk, which meant the pedestrian had to yield the right of way to the driver.

Fact Pattern #2:  Driver 2 also hit a pedestrian as he was driving backward.  Driver 2 had driven past a stop sign.  To avoid another vehicle, driver 2 backed up to get behind the stop sign.  Meanwhile, a pedestrian had started crossing the street behind him, not at a crosswalk.  Driver 2 indicated he had checked his rear view mirror and did not see anyone before driving in reverse.  The pedestrian suffered fatal injuries and passed away a few days after the accident.  Driver 2 was charged with careless driving causing death, failure to provide proof of insurance and driving under restraint. The charges against driver 2 have not been dismissed.

These two fact patterns seem similar enough that the two drivers should be treated similarly.  One distinguishing fact the Colorado Springs Gazette points out is Driver 1’s role in the community. Driver 1 is the head of the El Paso County Republican Party whereas Driver 2 has no such affiliation.

One additional distinguishing factor is that Driver 2 did not have proof of insurance and his driving privilege is allegedly revoked or restrained for some reason.  That said, the lack of insurance and/or the lack of a valid driving privilege should not have any bearing on whether Driver 2 drove carelessly.

Careless driving is defined as driving without due regard for all attendant circumstances.  Law enforcement appears to have disagreed with the DA’s assessment of the case against Driver 1.  While it may not be illegal to drive in reverse, it seems that watching for pedestrians, whether in a crosswalk or not, would be an attendant circumstance.  Additionally, at least on the surface, if Driver 2’s conduct was careless, it seems that Driver 1’s conduct was also careless.

The district attorney’s office has discretion when deciding whether to charge a person and what to charges to file, however, there should be consistency in charging and equality in treatment. Similarly situated people should be treated similarly.  The resolution of Driver 2’s case is yet to be seen, but at least for now these two cases have raised some questions in the Colorado Springs community.