Car accident
December 23, 2004 7:17 PM   Subscribe

I'm pretty damned sure that it was the District Attorney of this town that almost hit me with his SUV the other day. Should I write him a letter?

I was crossing the street on my bicycle, and I had the "walk" sign going for me. He and I screeched to a halt at the same time, and I stared at him, filled with rage. He had a cell phone to his ear and a look of horror on his face. He was not using a turn-signal.

I didn't realize it was him until a couple of days later, because I saw him on the local news. I voted for him. I'm sure it was him because he lives a block away from where it happened, and a block away from my parents; I rode by his house a couple of days ago and confirmed that a large SUV was parked outside, just like what had almost hit me.

So, I'd like to write him a letter. Not a threatening letter by any means; just one that says "hi, I'm the guy that you almost hit with your car last Friday because you weren't using your turn signal and were talking on your cell phone. Did you know that it's been proven that using a cell phone while driving is actually worse than driving drunk?"

Something like that.

So, I have three questions:

1. If I write this letter, am I automatically going to get filed as "harrassing the D.A.?"

2. What are some good internet resources that I can quote from--provided I write the letter--that show exactly how dangerous driving and talking on a cell phone is? I saw a piece on something like "Dateline NBC" once where they tested it, but I need some good, solid studies.

3. The look on his face when he almost hit me made it obvious that he was envisioning a headline: "DISTRICT ATTORNEY HITS BICYCLING YOUTH WITH CAR WHILE TALKING ON CELL PHONE AND NOT USING TURN SIGNAL". He knew what he was doing was wrong, and this is why I want to write him a letter. The District Attorney should know better than to be an asshole driver. Should I write this letter?
posted by interrobang to Law & Government (39 answers total)
 
(Also, not using turn-signals is a huge problem here; almost nobody uses them, which makes bicycle-riding very dangerous.)
posted by interrobang at 7:18 PM on December 23, 2004


He knew what he was doing was wrong, and this is why I want to write him a letter.

If you're sure he knew what he did wrong, why write the letter? What do you hope to accomplish?
posted by jpoulos at 7:26 PM on December 23, 2004



If you're sure he knew what he did wrong, why write the letter? What do you hope to accomplish?


To put a personal face on the event that potentially could have cost him his job. To draw attention to the people-almost-hitting-me-with-their-cars-because-they're-talking-on-their-cellphones problem this town suffers from. To do the same about the turn-signal problem.
posted by interrobang at 7:42 PM on December 23, 2004


The poor man has suffered enough.
posted by lometogo at 7:42 PM on December 23, 2004


Yeah, I'm not sure about the advantage of writing the letter, either--if he knows he did something wrong, then it's redundant, and if he doesn't, then I don't think a letter's going to suddenly illluminate him.

You certainly wouldn't be "harassing" him, but it's hardly to your advantage to call it out more explicitly. ("Hey, I'm D.J. Interrobang, of 25 Tudor Place, and I'd just like to call attention to the fact that you might resent me now. Now that you know who I am. Just in case I ever get arrested.")
posted by LairBob at 7:44 PM on December 23, 2004


I say stick it to him. Why not write the newspaper too? I mean, the odds that they give two shits about it are slim, but what the hell?
posted by puke & cry at 8:02 PM on December 23, 2004


To draw attention to the ...

To draw whose attention? This one guy, who you admit probably realized his error immediately? If you want to spread awareness, do what puke & cry says: call the newspaper. But writing to this guy seems pointless.
posted by jpoulos at 8:08 PM on December 23, 2004


I was thinking that the tone of the letter would be "I'm pretty sure that you almost hit me with your SUV the other day because you were talking on your cell phone, and not using your turn-signal. This is a big problem in this town, and here's why talking on a phone while driving is so dangerous..."

Writing it to the newspaper would be *more* of a personal attack, and in some circles, could be considered libel.
posted by interrobang at 8:15 PM on December 23, 2004


It's only libel if it's not true, and it would really be the newspaper taking that risk, not you, unless you bought an advertisement.

Anyway, I say don't write him. It can't do you any good. Your anger is justified, but it sounds like he was fully aware of the situation and all its ramifications, so your good deed is already done.
posted by bingo at 8:25 PM on December 23, 2004


How about writing an editorial for your local paper?

Don't name him directly, but use the same identifying information that you've given us - SUV, driving while on phone, no turn signal, approximate location ot occurred, etc. This way you: a) get the word out to more people than just one guy; b) don't risk the potential that he might slap you back; and c) probably get the message to him anyway if he reads it, as he'll recognize who you're talking about, even if no one else will

If you want to be really cheeky, you can end the editorial by calling on, oh, I don't know, the local prosecutor to crack down on this dangerous and anti-social behavior.
posted by googly at 8:29 PM on December 23, 2004


I think you should write the letter. Obviously you have strong feelings about cell phones and turn signals. Voicing your concerns about prosecution of traffic offenses to the District Attorney is entirely reasonable.

This page has some links to research that supports your position about cell phones and driving.
posted by greasy_skillet at 8:33 PM on December 23, 2004


Don't mail the letter.

You won't achieve anything. If you think you're going to educate him, you're nuts. If you think he'll mail you an apology, you're nuts. The only possible result might be a District Attorney with a personal grudge against you.

Write the letter, if you insist. Don't mail it.
posted by cribcage at 8:41 PM on December 23, 2004


The District Attorney deals with so much more bullshit than just about anyone else in that neck of the world that the last thing you need to do to the man is add to his list of stupid shit to deal with.

What I'm saying is... don't write the letter. You'll probably just make the guy think you plan to sue him or something, which is the last extra stupid court thing he would want to think about.

Just my 2 cents. And, don't forget, this is the man who, if you get into trouble will
posted by shepd at 9:15 PM on December 23, 2004


I think the editorial idea is great.

Also, if I were you, and I'm not, but I'm just saying...if I were you, I'd make a t-shirt to wear while I bike around town. Something that said, "Mr District Attorney, please don't hit me with your SUV while you talk on your cellphone!" If I could fit it all on a tshirt, that is.
posted by contessa at 9:16 PM on December 23, 2004


cribcage, excellent post. Write, but do NOT mail the letter.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:23 PM on December 23, 2004


I say write it.

I have no idea what his thought process was after the "incident," but it's very easy to forget that type of momentary awakening. He didn't hit you, after all. His reflexes must be really good and talking on the phone while driving is well within his abilities! I mean, he stopped in time, right?

I think writing the letter would remind him of the dangers of talking on the cell phone while driving (which he knows in the way that we all know it, like how we know that speeding is more dangerous, but most of us still do it). Besides, if he knows that you know who he is, then his near-miss isn't an anonymous near-miss. He would know that you know that he almost hit you, and that might keep him from talking on the phone while driving in the future. After all, if he kills someone down the road, you'd be a great witness for the prosecution (whoever that would be). That'd have to be kicking around somewhere in the back of his mind.

I think if you write it well, in a non-agressive tone, he wouldn't have any grudge, and there wouldn't be any repercussions. His interests are in the well-being of your community. If you show him that you share that interest, I honestly think he'd appreciate it.
posted by Alt F4 at 9:26 PM on December 23, 2004


Hey, my sentence got lopped off! ARGH.

will... be the one dealing with you, indirectly (or maybe even directly). He is not the man you can anger and feel safe knowing you'll never need to worry about him again.

Writing him will surely not leave him a happy man.
posted by shepd at 9:51 PM on December 23, 2004




I think writing the letter would remind him of the dangers of talking on the cell phone while driving... I honestly think he'd appreciate it.

Naivete, thy name is MetaFilter.


In Alt F4's defense, this is a very small town. I could probably go over to his house, knock on his door, and talk to him about this. I probably wouldn't get in trouble for sending a letter (which has not yet been written, by the way), and I'd almost certainly get a response.

This thread is making me lean toward not writing the letter, but thanks very much for the link, greasy_skillet, and thanks to everyone else for the advice.
posted by interrobang at 9:56 PM on December 23, 2004


Don't do it. I guarantee that if you ever need the DA on your side, it'll be in the kind of situation that makes getting cut off on your bike seem pretty minor.
posted by nicwolff at 9:57 PM on December 23, 2004


I was crossing the street on my bicycle, and I had the "walk" sign going for me.

Am I correct in reading this that you were riding your bike on the sidewalk and then proceeding through the crosswalk while riding? If so, you were more likely than not in the wrong.
1. Most cities have ordinances against riding a bike on the sidewalk.
2. Even more cities forbid riding one's bike through a crosswalk, instead mandating you dismount and walk the bike through the intersection. It is nearly impossible for a driver to be aware of faster-than-walking-pace traffic on sidewalks in addition to the traffic on the roadway.
Which is why
3. You should always ride your bike in the street or in designated bike lanes. This gives you all the rights and responsibilities of vehicular traffic.

If 1 & 2 do not apply, then, by all means ignore my post and write the letter.

I can't stand inattentive drivers almost as much as I can't stand cyclists who do not obey traffic regulations. Both classes of people make my life as a full-time cyclist more dangerous than it needs to be.

<yourMom>and always wear a helmet</yourMom>

posted by Fezboy! at 10:13 PM on December 23, 2004


Yeah guys, I'm all for "stick it to the man" stuff, but for this it seems like the only likely outcome here is that you'll make an enemy of the local D.A.

And without getting into arguments about abuse of power and what not, a D.A. in a small town is the last person's shit list you want to be on.
posted by PissOnYourParade at 10:57 PM on December 23, 2004


wow, i'm amazed at the responses here. not only are you all excusing the DA for what he almost did, but you're implicitly excusing him from the future transgression of taking out his grudge in his professional duties. shouldn't we hold our public officials to a higher standard? if i have a personal grudge against a coworker and take it out on them at work, i get in trouble. seems like that standard should absolutely apply here. but you know, maybe that's just naivete.

i would write the letter, mail it, and keep a copy - maybe even get it notarized, if you're that worried about it. if you have trouble later on and you are on this guy's shit list (i wouldn't imagine you would be; he should realize that not taking it to the public in the first place is a concession on your part, and you could even include something about that in your letter), then write to the newspaper about his abuse of power, or call and ask them to do a story on it (if it's in court, and you're in a small town, they probably wouldn't have a problem with this). brandish your previous letter like a shield, and take him down for all you're worth. if he's a shitty enough public official to let a silly letter over something he knows he did wrong affect his duties, then he deserves it.

that is, unless you break the law fairly regularly (like say, you smoke pot on weekends or something like that). if there are legitimate ways this guy could have you by the balls, then reconsider. but if you're a law-abiding citizen most of the time, go for it.
posted by pikachulolita at 11:10 PM on December 23, 2004


I'm pretty damned sure that it was the District Attorney of this town that almost hit me with his SUV the other day.

In any case, your next novel needs to start with the first sentence of your post.
posted by climalene at 11:20 PM on December 23, 2004


I wasn't thinking of writing a mean, threatening, or angry letter. I just wanted to put a less anonymous face on the guy he almost hit because he was doing two stupid things, with some facts about how dangerous and bad it is to drive and talk on a phone at the same time.

I don't think I'd get on his shitlist; if I thought he was actually a bad person, I wouldn't have voted for him in the November election.
posted by interrobang at 11:32 PM on December 23, 2004


I think you should write the letter, do it anonymously and advise that you are not going to take the matter any further (unless you want to) so that the 'shit list' is avoided.

The DA probably already knows what he's done is wrong, but that was probably forgotten a few minutes after the near miss. By sending the letter, it will give him food for thought about his actions and that next time he might 'nearly miss' or even hit someone who isn't quite so pleasant.
posted by floanna at 12:19 AM on December 24, 2004


WRITE THE PAPER. seriously.
posted by puke & cry at 1:01 AM on December 24, 2004


what ALT F4 said. Write it or he'll forget it ever happened.
posted by rooftop secrets at 1:52 AM on December 24, 2004


I agree with googly. Write the paper.
posted by lazy-ville at 2:14 AM on December 24, 2004


as a cyclist, i know exactly where you're coming from. it's a nightmare out there and cellphone using idiots in suvs terrify me, too. if he'd almost hit me in the same situation i'd have been tempted to kick/key his damn car. and i think i'd take a certain pleasure in making him squirm with a letter.

on the other hand, though, i'm not convinced it would do much good. i'm not very good at writing letters and, poor anger management aside, i strongly believe you don't convince people by making them feel stupid or angry (but i don't think you need worry about "making an enemy" of the da. i'm sure he's got more important stuff than you to hold a grudge over).

i think it depends very much on exactly how well you can write the letter. or the editorial. either way, you need to make it clear that this is not stalking or revenge. and i, personally, would find that hard to do.

you mention going round and talking to him. if you don't get tongue tied or angry, that might be better, because you could get more of a two-way interaction. some kind of connection. it seems to me that the aim is to get home that people like us really do exist, that we're in constant danger from people like him. and that really we'd just like to be safer.

also, what someone above said about riding on the sidewalk.
posted by andrew cooke at 3:18 AM on December 24, 2004


Cyclist here also. Ride your bike to his house in a safe and legal manner, knock on his door when you see his SUV parked in the driveway, and introduce yourself. Explain the situation in a calm and rational manner.

Not that you are one of them, but angry self-rightous cyclists who flip off motorists and kick fenders make it tough for me, and every other law abiding rider.
posted by fixedgear at 5:50 AM on December 24, 2004


for some reason, i think you're referring to me. if so, maybe you'd like to read my post again, and note how its ambivalent tone contrasts violent anger against a more productive approach. or is that fixed gear symbolic?
posted by andrew cooke at 6:44 AM on December 24, 2004


if i have a personal grudge against a coworker and take it out on them at work, i get in trouble. seems like that standard should absolutely apply here. but you know, maybe that's just naivete.

I don't know if it's naivete, but it certainly is a convoluted analogy that I can't follow even after reading it several times. What does your coworker example have to do with this situation?
posted by bingo at 7:51 AM on December 24, 2004


Having the Walk signal is moot: that sign is for pedestrians, not bicyclists.

If you weren't driving according to the traffic laws -- and I strongly suspect you weren't -- then you're just as culpable as him. If you'd been in your lanespace, you'd have been where he expected to see a car. Being in the pedestrian-space, though, you were likely moving 10x faster than he'd have expected of a pedestrian.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:49 AM on December 24, 2004


I'd say water under the bridge. If he hasn't learned from his mistake then writing him a letter won't make any difference. Besides, it was an accident, and these things do tend to happen.
posted by jackofsaxons at 10:34 AM on December 24, 2004


Moreover, maybe he has Precognition, and was trying to scare you out of making certain remarks in Metatalk?
posted by ParisParamus at 11:32 AM on December 24, 2004


bingo: all i meant was that, anywhere else in the world, if i take out my personal feelings in the workplace, i am behaving unprofessionally and i am censured for it. if this guy were to put interrobang on his "shit list", that would be very unprofessional and would merit the same censure. that's all. sorry it was so convoluted.
posted by pikachulolita at 4:29 PM on December 24, 2004


Okay, thanks, everyone. I'm not going to write the letter, primarily because I *was* riding on the sidewalk--only because it's too dangerous in the streets, what with all the non-turn-signal-using people here and cell phone-drivers--and also because I plan to commit many, many crimes in the next couple of years, and I want the D.A. to have my back.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, METAFILTER!
posted by interrobang at 7:00 PM on December 24, 2004


for some reason, i think you're referring to me. if so, maybe you'd like to read my post again, and note how its ambivalent tone contrasts violent anger against a more productive approach. or is that fixed gear symbolic?

Andrew: No fixed gear symbolism here, one speed no coast year round, and no, I wasn't referring to you at all, it must have been the (unintentional) juxtaposition of our messages. Besides, sidewalk riding is just dumb. I gave up fighting with motorists years ago, even when they do insanely dumb stuff. I've been chased, had pennies, beer cans, and soda cups thrown at me. I'd rather ride away from a fight, people hereabouts carry guns.

Merry Christmas.
posted by fixedgear at 6:51 AM on December 25, 2004


I'd write a short polite note along the lines of "Please respect pedestrian rights", in lipstick, on the SUV window. Don't. get. caught. DAs are officially not allowed to lighten up.
posted by theora55 at 10:26 AM on December 29, 2004


« Older Tips for the various English Scholar applications   |   USB Drive Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.