Lawmakers in New Hampshire are considering changes to traffic laws after an unlicensed driver killed two cyclists just hours after she had been pulled over for speeding.
Darriean Hess, 19, was charged with two counts of negligent homicide after she plowed into a group of cyclists, fatally injuring two Massachusetts women, and seriously injuring two others. The cyclists were taking part in an annual charity ride along the New England coastline.
According to police reports, Hess had been stopped on the same road eight hours prior to the fatal accident and had been ticketed for speeding and driving without a license. The officer who had previously pulled Hess over had required her to wait for a licensed driver to pick up her and the vehicle she was driving. Hess is being held on $50,000 bail.
Under the current New Hampshire law, a driver may be charged with a misdemeanor only if he or she has already been cited for operating a vehicle without a license. Representative Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, has filed a bill that would make any violation committed by an unlicensed driver an automatic misdemeanor. If the new bill passed, police would have the option of arresting the driver or issuing a summons. The bill was submitted to New Hampshire police for their recommendations, but no other information on its progress is available.
According to Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 90, Section 23, a person who is found driving while revoked, suspended, or otherwise unlicensed, may be subject to a fine from $500 to $1,000, and imprisoned for not more than 10 days, for the first offense. Subsequent offenses may result in 60 days to one year imprisonment as well as possible extension of suspension of license for an additional 60 days to one year.
While bike riding is a popular mode of transportation, especially in urban areas of Massachusetts, is can be extremely dangerous. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 700 people are killed in bicycle accidents and another 500,000 people are treated annually for bicycle-related injuries. While wearing a helmet can prevent some injuries to the brain, bicyclists are still extremely vulnerable and susceptible to suffering other types of serious injuries, such as neck and spinal cord injuries, broken bones, and even death.