Last April when freshmen Ashley Kelly and Andrea Cinque were hit by a car on U.S. 1 resulting in fatal injuries for Kelly, the UM community was shocked, saddened and moved into action. Many students were angered and expected the driver to be severely punished.
Kristin Arbuckle, the 25-year-old driver in question, received her sentence last week. After pleading guilty to running a red light, Arbuckle’s license was suspended for six months, and she must serve 50 hours of community service, attend an eight-hour traffic school course and pay a total of $323.50 in fines, court fees and a donation to a memorial scholarship fund set up in Kelly’s name.
This seemingly light punishment astonished the UM community. A young woman’s life is gone forever and the punishment is 50 hours of community service? Surely a life is worth more than that. Thoughts of how we would feel if our friend or family member was killed in a similar situation lead us to the immediate and emotional conclusion that we’d want someone to pay.
But after setting those initial thoughts aside and thinking about Arbuckle’s side of the issue there are many of us who should, with some reflection, be able to empathize with her, at least to a certain extent.
Every day a large portion of the UM student body drives to school, work, the mall, the beach or any other number of places. Many of us are in a hurry, not wanting to be late for class, a hot date or our favorite TV show. In our rush to get wherever we’re going, there are many of us who have pushed the speed limit a little (or a lot). Seeing a yellow light, there are at least some of us who have made the decision that yellow means go, not slow down.
For most of us, these decisions haven’t brought on any negative consequences, other than the fact that we don’t get in trouble, so we continue with our actions. For Arbuckle, her decision to run a red light-a decision that many of us could have made in our rush to be somewhere-ended in tragedy. That tragedy is something she will have to live with for the rest of her life.
Arbuckle pleaded guilty to running the light and didn’t fight the charges against her. In fact, our anger should not be directed at her but rather at the law. This case should be viewed as an opportunity to bring to light, and if deemed necessary to lobby against, Florida laws that protect drivers more than pedestrians.
For now, the legal system has decided that Arbuckle did not display a disregard for safety when she ran the light. While many of us may disagree with this decision, our legal system has made its decision. Part of the responsibility of the law is to stop people before they offend or re-offend. Rather than lambasting Arbuckle for her actions, no matter how angry we are, we should use her situation to guide our own decisions. We can’t change what happened, but we can help make sure it doesn’t happen again.
In the end, though, this isn’t about our outrage or agreement with the situation or punishment. It’s about a family that has to live with only the memories of their daughter. No amount of punishment, anger or regret can change that fact or bring about adequate closure for a grieving family. We keep the Kellys in our hearts.