Bicycling Community Blasts Light Sentences

Posted on Nov 2, 2012

By , Albuquerque Journal on Thu, Oct 25, 2012

Regardless of what sentence a judge hands down during a Friday morning hearing, Sheryl Kearby won’t be pleased.

That’s because the maximum possible punishment for Carol Svinarich – the woman who struck and killed Kearby’s husband with her SUV as he rode his bicycle on Osuna in January – is 90 days in jail and a $300 fine.

“She obviously needs to sit in jail and think about what she did,” Kearby said. “I don’t think it’s sufficient to begin with.”

Svinarich was convicted of careless driving after witnesses said she ran a red light near Osuna and Academy Parkway NE on Jan. 10, killing bicyclist Scott “Dwane” Lane, 55, as he rode home from work. The father of four later died at a hospital.

This is the third time this month families of victims have been disappointed with the way bicycle fatality cases have unfolded in court.

An Albuquerque bicycle safety advocacy organization is urging District Court Judge Reed Sheppard to sentence Svinarich to the full 90 days, pointing out that Svinarich was again arrested in August – eight months after the accident – for driving under the influence.

“His (Lane’s) life was ended by an act that some would call an accident, but which we maintain was the result of choices by Ms. Svinarich,” the group’s president, Jennifer Buntz, wrote to Sheppard on Tuesday. “She alone was in control of that vehicle, paying more or less attention to her job of driving at her own discretion.

“Because of this, along with her other more recent driving infractions, we urge the maximum penalty.”

Svinarich has pleaded not guilty to the DWI charge, and a trial is scheduled in November.

Buntz said in an interview that the group will ask the state Legislature for tougher punishments during the upcoming legislative session, including license suspensions for drivers whose inattention caused fatal injuries to bicyclists, pedestrians and others.

“I don’t have adequate words to express the way that these inadequate penalties re-traumatize families and survivors,” Buntz said.

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