Friday, May 05, 2006

When Squids Kill

"Squid" is a slang term used by experienced motorcyclists to refer to reckless youngsters who take foolish chances, usually on high-powered sport bikes. While the squid typically has no committment to motorcycling as a sport and scares himself away from two-wheeled transport after a few close calls, longtime bikers are left to deal with impressions left on the general public by the squids' legacy of burnouts, wheelies, stoppies, and high speed operation.

Sometimes squids cause deaths other than their own. On April 23, New York State Trooper Craig Todeschini crashed into a tree while chasing a squid doing in excess of one hundred miles per hour on backroads near Pompey, New York. Todeschini, 25, was killed instantly. A Jamesville motorcyclist, James Carncross, turned himself in and faces charges of aggravated negligent homicide and aggravated manslaughter.

Todeschini's death has sparked a movement for a New York State law making it a felony to run from police. Currently, it's just a traffic violation, albeit a serious one. While more severe penalties may not convince squids not to run (they are, by definition, young and foolish) it might give some of them pause, and a few examples of serious jail time for running from police can't hurt.

But there are other questions raised by Todeschini's death that aren't being addressed. First, State Troopers do not require approval for pursuits by their officers; to chase or not to chase is left up to the individual officer's discretion. It's possible that the trooper killed was jsut trying to get close enough to identify the license number of Carncross' bike. If not, it's hard to see how Todeschini had any real expectation of catching a sport bike on a twisty country road, especially since the officer was driving a Police Sport Utility Vehicle. It's doubtful that Todeschini could have kept up with Carncross' sport bike even if he'd been driving a Police Interceptor. He had virtually no chance with an SUV.

The New York State Troopers might want to revisit the wisdom of equipping officers, who may be called into a high-speed pursuit, with top heavy, ill-handling vehicles. Unfortunately, it often takes a tragedy to get policies re-examined.