Friday, July 08, 2011

Such a very California way to die.

An 83-year-old Northern California woman has died after being hit by a skateboarder moving at 15 to 20 miles an hour, police said.
Now, the kid ditched his board in an attempt to not hit her, and, to his credit, he stayed with her instead of punking out and running off, but here's the part I don't get:
The teen has not been charged in the incident, but detectives are investigating, Capitola police Detective Marquis Booth told CNN.
Now, if I'd mowed her down with the Zed Drei, you'd better cool believe I'd have been charged with something, and I would have been lawfully using the street, on the way to an actual destination, not just arsing about on a kiddie toy made from a piece of wood and surplus rollerskate bits. She's just as dead as if Junior had bunted her into the Great Beyond with an irresponsibly-driven Camaro, which would have caused outrage, but an irresponsibly-ridden kiddie toy gets an "Aw shucks, it was an accident and boys will be boys"?


New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

Skateboarding should be a crime.

Marty said...

The world is a risk. Shit happens all the time. The media brings it closer to us. There is 200 million people between that story and me. People die in odd ways constantly. I have grown weary of reactionary laws.

"Let's make all little old ladies wear helmets when leaving the house. All teen boys must wear a 40db beeping device that warns innocent people that they are in the vicinity. If we don't we will continue to have dead old people littered everywhere! Blood in the streets!"

Tam said...


I don't think any new laws are needed. I'm pretty sure that causing someone's death through negligence is already illegal enough. :)

Anonymous said...

"Skateboarding should be a crime"

Words Fail me. What's next? Roller blades?

Marty said...


I know. I am so with you. I feel like a ton of stupid reactionary laws are becoming the norm.

And roller "Blades" are the should be known as "Assault Skates"!

pdb said...

I've been warning you people for years, YEARS! How many more grannies have to die before we take action against this smelly, disheveled scourge?!

In all seriousness, skateboarding shouldn't be a crime. But neither should beating them with a baseball bat if they bring their toys to grind on my property.

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

Yes, rollerbladers, folks that bike on the sidewalk careening of an average of 1.7 pedestrians for every 10th of mile travelled, and kids that won't STAY OFFA MY LAWN. Illegal!

Also, people that talk in a theater.

Joseph said...

"'re going to burn in a very special level of hell. A level they reserve for child molesters and people who talk at the theater. — Shepherd Book"

TBeck said...

Get granny off my damn lawn!

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

I wouldn't be surprised if charges come up later. They could just be waiting on the DA to figure out exactly which statutes would be most appropriate to charge him under, since it's a bit of an unusual situation. Also, don't forget the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. What facts did the MSM screw up or miss completely that might make a difference?

But, assuming what's in the story is both correct and complete, you're right that he should be charged with some form of negligent homicide.

God, Gals, Guns, Grub said...

Haul Pelmke of the Brady Campaign for Skateboard Safety says, "See what can happen when you don't have background checks and require skateboard locks prior to purchase. We need tougher laws to get illegal skateboards off the street. We also need to fix the skateboard show loophole to prevent terrorists from getting these assault skateboards."

Dann in Ohio

perlhaqr said...

What facts did the MSM screw up or miss completely that might make a difference?

Turns out she was wandering around a skate park.


(I made that up.)

Anonymous said...

"Maryann Slettehaugh was crossing a street in Capitola, California, Tuesday afternoon when she was struck by a 17-year-old boy...

Slettehaugh was in a crosswalk and a panel truck had stopped to let her pass, according to media reports.

Dally said the skateboarder, who was traveling down a steep hill, jumped off the board and tried to avoid colliding with Slettehaugh but was unable to..."

From the article it appears he was riding on the street, and not on the very irresponsible of him to have consideration for pedestrians.

It's entirely possible that the panel truck blocked his view of her until it was too late to avoid the collision...but he tried anyway. Had the boy been 12, playing 'tag', and run into her full bore on the sidewalk due to a blind corner, would that REALLY be any different?

How about if you're cruising down the street in the Zed Dre (not speeding, paying full attention), swerve to avoid a child chasing a ball, strike a parked car pushing it into the car parked in front of it and crushing the chasing parent in the process...think you'd be charged with SOMEthing then?

Recognizing that there was an ordinance against 'boarding in general in that area, there are times when you can do everything right...and still not keep bad things from happening. Given that he seems to have deliberately avoided the sidewalk, and did everything he could to avoid the collision, I fail to see how ANYone could find negligence.

Tam said...

If she was using a crosswalk and there was a stopped panel van, that would indicate to me that there was a red light or stop sign that Tony Hawk was breezing through.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

Anonymous @ 0907: I believe that you're correct in everything, except that the fact that skateboarding is prohibited in that area would leave him open to the negligence charges. He did everything he could to avoid the collision - except obeying the law put in place to prevent that very scenario.

As a juror, I would give some consideration to the fact that he did risk his own life trying to prevent the actual collision, but there is still that underlying negligent act to consider.

Weer'd Beard said...

Its like "Gun Death", only some deaths count!

Tam said...


"I wouldn't be surprised if charges come up later. They could just be waiting on the DA to figure out exactly which statutes would be most appropriate to charge him under, since it's a bit of an unusual situation. Also, don't forget the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. What facts did the MSM screw up or miss completely that might make a difference?"

Oh, the "Aw shucks" I was referring to was more the tone of the article than anything else. It sounds like they're mulling charges.

I just think that if it had been a motorized vehicle, the reporter would be leading the charge for "Granny's Law"...

Randy said...

Am I the only one that saw this in the article?

"..... and the teen was cited for a violation."

Tam said...


Yes, I saw that. He was cited for an ordinance violation. "Skateboarding In The Street" or something like that.

'Cited for a violation' is not the same thing as 'charged with a crime'.

Anonymous said...

Tam: Point. But I'm going to play devils advocate, and point out that we don't know their relative orientations to each other. It COULD be that he was approaching the panel truck from the rear, and the truck had stopped mid turn to allow her to pass. Finding his path blocked, unable to stop and not wanting to play chicken with oncoming traffic, he chose to go around on the sidewalk side of the truck.

Jake (formerly Riposte3): He didn't 'neglect' to obey the 'no boarding' ordinance. It was a conscious decision to disregard the ordinance (which I'm not defending him for...he should at the very least get cited for that) which would make the action reckless, not negligent.

Reckless endangerment MIGHT be a valid charge, but I still think it would be a hard charge to prove based on the fact that he wasn't on the sidewalk (a decidedly non-reckless, conscious choice), and me made every effort to avoid the actual collision.

NotClauswitz said...

Capitola is a little beach-resort town - it's quite small, and the "commercial district" I'm familiar with is the flats down around the beach/river-mouth, that would fit inside a large tennis-stadium complex. There are Malls in the mid-west that could encompass Capitola.
The streets are narrow and it's just a few square blocks, and when the Ocean get's uppity it floods.
The approaches to the beachfront flats are steep, leading down from the canyon mouth where the river empties into the sea, and ideal for skateboarding.
The thing is, you could meet a lot of skateboarders (and surfers) there, 40- and 50-year old skateboarders included, people who live by their lifestyle choices...,+CA&hl=en&ll=36.97251,-121.951491&spn=0.007474,0.010021&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=59.727033,82.089844&t=h&z=17&layer=c&cbll=36.97251,-121.951491&panoid=X3CCMtxaZnEPkzOHdEmgqg&cbp=12,102.98,,0,0

Hobie said...

Sorry, but I think that sometimes an accident is just that. I'm not for any sort of zero-tolerance policy on accidents where somebody MUST be at fault and somebody MUST bear the blame and somebody MUST be punished. I see no indication that the skateboarder was willfully negligent or uncaring about any harm that activity might have caused. I lean towards supporting the concept that the skateboarder's conscience will extract all the punishment that's appropriate.

Tam said...

You don't see anything maybe even a little bit negligent about riding a vehicle with no brakes into a pedestrian crosswalk?

Sigivald said...

I suspect there's no obvious and convictable crime to charge him with.

They could try negligent homicide, I suppose, but the way he ditched the board to avoid her would make a conviction really hard to get - and pointless in any case, given that he was responsible enough to stay with her, and thus very sympathetic and arguing against the sort of gross negligence rather than mere accident that a conviction wants.

(California Penal Code 195 says homicide is "excusable [...] When committed by accident and misfortune".

And the parts related to vehicular manslaughter require "gross negligence" - and also it's not clear that riding a skateboard is legally "driving a vehicle".

If skateboard-caused deaths were common enough to matter, the laws might be changed, I suppose.)

Ian Argent said...

Would brakes have helped? Say he had been evil kneival jr on his Huffy in the same scenario. He still hits grandmama at roughly the same speed with the same force, I'd think.

That's the big difference between a car and a bike or skateboard. In a car, the brakes are going to stop the operator as well.

Not enough info in the article, but, for me, it comes down to, "was the panel van blocking view of the pedestrian," and, "why was the van stopped." Crosswalk does not necessarily imply any kind of traffic-control measure, whether stop light or sign. There's a crosswalk at the corner of my street that has neither, and a parked car could block anyone's view of someone crossing street, much less a stopped panel van in the street itself.

Let's see what happens after investigation. I like it when charges are pressed after, and not before, the cops are sure something illegal or reckless happened.

(If you take the impression that I don't much care hour he got his pink bod up to 15-20 mph, you won't be far off either. )

Anonymous said...

he should be tortured until he confesses he is part of a terrorist skateboard plot to kill older americans...
then TSA can make the streets safer by hunting down and groping every skateboard owner...

Epochelyptikal said...

I'm with Hobie, or at least my interpretation of Hobie's comment.

Seems vehicular related accidents should be reduced to the same culpability as skateboard related accidents and not vice versa. Accidents are accidents.

You get born, you take your chances.


NotClauswitz said...

If in fact the asshole was bombing down Fanmar Way or a number of the steep descents into the central business area, he could have easily been breaking a 25mph speed limit, or even a 35mph speed-limit.
And with no brakes. You don't drive a car down a steep hill with no brakes and call it an "accident."
Look at the street-view around there:,+CA&hl=en&ll=36.97423,-121.952362&spn=0.007474,0.010021&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=59.727033,82.089844&t=h&layer=c&cbll=36.974151,-121.952772&panoid=pLcT8s-kfaE0jDi6fDENLg&cbp=12,206.85,,0,0&z=17

Ian Argent said...

If that's an example of the street the kid was flying down, I don't think it would have mattered if he was on a skateboard, bike, or whatever; that was damn fool reckless, right enough. No way to stop before entering a busy cross street? Someone's life was in the lap of fate.

I did a similar thing once when I was young and stupid, bombing down a hill on roller blades fast enough that I had to lean far enough to touch the ground to make the turn, onto a lazy side street. Afterwards I realized how damn stupid that had been.

WV: comet. That's what you are at the bottom of a hill like that

Joseph said...

I don't think skateboarding should be illegal...but skateboarding at night, in dark clothing, in posted supermarket parking lots is.

There are quite a few skateboarders who have a tendency to ignore common sense.

Anonymous said...

Negligent homicide? I'm no lawyer, but doesn't homicide need intent to kill, or at least the expectation that you'll kill (like gang bangers who shoot up a house hoping the target is in somewhere there, eating his Spaghettio's at the kitchen table, but nails his kid sister doing her homework)? Geez, a little hard there. At most, involuntary manslaughter.

I keep thinking of that dude doing spoken word poetry (title: In a War, These Things Happen) and re-working it: In California, These Things Happen, with shark attacks, earthquakes, death by skateboarder, death by OJ, etc. taking the place of war casualties.

BTW, what's up with all the "Skateboarding used to be a crime" stickers I see stuck on a lot of stop signs? I throw that in with the Andre the Giant "Obey" stickers and sidewalk stencils that were big a few years ago: some under the radar stuff that I'm not hipster enough to understand.

Tam said...

Anon 12:16,

Not being specifically familiar with the CA penal code, yes, I believe the charge would be "involuntary manslaughter". His "accident" defense would be hampered by the fact that he was A) Acting negligently at the time of the accident, and B) Breaking the law (ordinance) at the time of the accident. (See

"In California, These Things Happen, with shark attacks, earthquakes, death by skateboarder, death by OJ, etc. taking the place of war casualties."

Yes, but earthquakes an shark attacks do not have agency, whereas the skateboarder and OJ do.

Brad K. said...


Maybe I am reading too much into the article, but it looks like the kid hit her, after leaving the skateboard.

While skateboards don't/may not have brakes, the rider can achieve braking, depending on skill and conditions, using terrain, direction of travel and turns, etc.

If what I read is correct, that the kid was afoot by the time of impact, then he faces two separate and barely related incidents, legally. First is riding the skateboard, which he has been cited for. Second is after leaving the skateboard, when he plowed into the pedestrian, and that might be difficult to nail down. It is possible that any prosecution for running into someone might be simply gratuitous on the part of the city. Instead of comparing the incident to driving your car onto the sidewalk and plowing into someone, it might be more like someone falling/jumping from a building or plane, and hitting someone, or jumping from a car or bus and knocking someone over.

California cops are still, mostly, cops, and according to the police statement, the kid's behavior, after plastering the lady across the pavement did impress them as not being an attitude or approach that needs correcting, to protect the city and the people, including pedestrians, that live there.

I wonder what kind of mileage the skateboard gets, and whether it meets California air emission standards. Perhaps they should nail the kid for excess CO2 emissions as well as the violation of skateboarding there. I wonder if the kid will fight the skateboarding ticket, since he wasn't on one at the time of the police presence, and the only evidence is his own admission.

I do pity George, her "husband of 64 years". This will be an awful change in his life, too.

TOTWTYTR said...

Apropos your post "I blame TV", would you have the prosecutor make up a special law under which to charge the young man?

Skateboards are not cars, and thus skateboard accidents are not, and should not, be covered by the same laws.

Tam said...


"Apropos your post "I blame TV", would you have the prosecutor make up a special law under which to charge the young man?"

Why would he need to? California Penal Code 192(b) seems to apply just fine.

Goober said...

Tam - I'm curious as to why you think negligence was involved. i ride my bike at 20 mph all the time. People get hit by cars in no-fault accidents every day where charges aren't pressed. Doesn't granny have a duty to look before she steps out into traffic?

I'm thinking that if this were a spandex-wearing street bicyclist that you wouldn't have taken issue with any of it - why does the skateboard set you off?