On Saturday, May 2nd, a woman by the name of Anita Zaffke was enjoying her day by riding her Honda Shadow on US-12 in Wauconda. Seeing the light ahead at Old McHenry Road going from green to yellow, she brought her bike to a stop. It was then that a Chevy Impala driven by a woman named Lora Hunt rolled up behind her and stopped too late, sending Zaffke and her bike flying. Zaffke died of her injuries an hour later, and it’s no wonder—the police report says she flew about 200 feet.
Why did Ms. Hunt fail to stop? Her report to the police on the scene stated that she had been painting her nails at the time. Tests administered showed that she was neither drunk nor under the influence of other substances at the time of the accident.
What was the official charge against Ms. Hunt? “Failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident.” In other words, a ticket for a moving violation.
Some articles, such as this one, talk about how terrible she feels and how she was taken to the hospital following the incident, too. And how hey, at least she wasn’t drunk!
What I fail to see the logic in is how her lack of drunk driving is in any way better than the fact her judgment was clearly lacking, regardless. Who in their right mind thinks it’s a good idea to paint their nails while driving? She absolutely should feel terrible. What’s mind-blowing is that all she got for this was a simple traffic ticket—something that would likely not have happened had she not hit a motorcyclist.
There are inherently greater risks in riding a motorcycle than there are in driving a car, and most of these are posed by other vehicles on the road. Of course there are bikers who do stupid things while on their bikes, just as there are stupid drivers who do stupid things while driving their cars. When you ride a motorbike, you assume a greater risk than you do when you drive a car. Most people (riders and non-riders alike) would agree that that’s the case.
But I think it’s highly unlikely that most people (again, riders and non-riders alike) would agree that you’re also choosing to give up some of your basic rights as a human being, to be governed by the rule of law in how it affects you and your chosen motor vehicle. No one’s claiming that Ms. Hunt purposely and vengefully sought to end Ms. Zaffke’s life—but the idea that a traffic ticket is somehow all the legal redress that’s offered when her actions killed another human being, just because that human being was operating her motorcycle in a law-abiding manner, is patently outrageous.
The circumstances of this tragic accident have thankfully raised the issue to a nationwide status. Interested parties (especially those living in Lake County, Illinois) are encouraged to contact the Lake County State’s Attorney’s office:
State’s Attorneys Office
18 N. County St.
Waukegan, IL 60085
For US residents, contacting your local senators and representatives also couldn’t hurt.
Finally, for local concerned parties, Greg Zaffke II (Anita Zaffke’s son) has posted to the Sport-Touring.net forums requesting concerned riders to come to his mom’s wake and funeral. The wake is tonight; the funeral is tomorrow. Group rides are being arranged to both, and full details of when and where can be found at the forum link above.
(We’ll be attending the funeral, but unfortunately have a family commitment that precludes our attending the wake this evening.)