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Troopers search for law-breaking link in Florida fatality

Many driving decisions are made on the spur of the moment as a response to changing traffic situations. Other choices are made in advance like snapping on a seat belt, turning off a cellphone to avoid talking and texting temptations, or curbing alcohol use before getting behind the wheel.

Many at-fault drivers in the Florida Panhandle don't make an immediate connection between a choice, like speeding or drunk driving, and negligence. Instead, accused drivers say they were hoping to get to work on time or didn't feel intoxicated after a few harmless drinks with friends. The excuses fit everyday life but do not conform to criminal and civil laws.

Negligent drivers sometimes choose to cause harm to themselves or others. Drivers involved in serious injury accidents or fatalities sometimes tell authorities they didn't mean to hurt anyone. That may be true in the driver's mind but becomes false when evidence proves otherwise.

Jacksonville police are investigating a pedestrian accident that killed a 57-year-old woman as she was crossing a street to a synagogue on Yom Kippur. The woman's teen daughter survived the crash with injuries that require surgery.

Troopers with the Florida Highway Patrol want to know whether the driver who caused the collision violated a traffic law or drove under the influence. The initial investigation confirmed neither suspicion.

A rabbi told reporters the street crossing in front of the synagogue is dangerous. He said several near-accidents have occurred there, in part because Orthodox Jewish members are forbidden by their beliefs to use the pedestrian crossing signal on the Sabbath.

The rabbi shared his concerns with a Jacksonville lawmaker three months before the fatality. The religious leader never received a response.

Civil responsibility for an accident may extend beyond a driver. Government officials can be held accountable for disregarding public safety including failures to build, light, maintain and update roadways.

Source:, "Woman dies after being struck while going to synagogue for Yom Kippur service in Mandarin" Topher Sanders and Larry Hannan, Sep. 15, 2013

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