The final police report on the tragic death of a Parkersburg woman, who was killed in a downtown parking lot almost a year ago, is now a matter of public record.
You may recall when 54-year-old Mary Hardman was struck and killed on her way to work at the main Public Debt facility shortly before 6 a-m on March 31st. The pickup truck that hit her, was driven by a Public Debt co-worker, Mark Byers.
In addition to the low light level at that time of morning, the report cites the heavy tinting on Byers’ windshield and the tinted headlight covers on his truck as factors in the tragedy.
The report also reveals a conflict in the recollections of Byers and the only witness to the incident. Byers initially told police that as he was pulling into his parking place, he got the feeling that perhaps he had a flat tire. He told police he stopped and looked around, and then pulled the rest of the way into his space.
The police report indicates that Ms. Hardman was struck a good 30 feet before he pulled into his parking space.
The witness said that when Byers stopped his truck, he moved it back and forth several times, perhaps to see if he indeed had a flat. Whether that back-and-forth motion was an eventual factor in Mary Hardman’s death, may never be known. But Mr. Byers did not mention that in his initial statement to the police.
Byers was originally charged with negligent homicide, a charge to which he pleaded not guilty. Later, that charge was dropped and the police department was directed to issue him a citation for having too dark of windows.
Mary Hardman is dead. Nothing can change that. I’m sure that if Mr. Byers could live that morning over again, he would do things differently.
Punishing Mr. Byers more harshly will not bring Mary Hardman back. But the way that police and courts treat one incident, has a direct impact on the likelihood that such incidents will occur again in the future.
Police need to more stringently enforce laws already on the books about too much tinting on the windows of cars and trucks. I often encounter drivers whose faces I cannot see, which makes me wonder if they can see me as they prepare to cross an intersection in front of me. I’ve actually had a driver get upset with me for not paying attention to a hand signal he was giving me, from inside a car that I could not see!
The death of Mary Hardman was tragic. But it is not accurate to say it was an accident. A motorist has the responsibility to look out for pedestrians and not equip his or her car with custom equipment that makes it harder to see pedestrians.
If you’re interested in seeing portions of the police report on this tragic event, you can find that under the main story about the case, on wtap.com.
That’s this week’s editorial.