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Editorial: For safety’s sake, force serial crasher off the roads

Two years ago, David W. Batty was driving on a snowy, icy U.S. Highway 2 when his vehicle clipped a van that was slowing in front of him, sending it into an oncoming pickup. Killed were Gregory Stueck, 37; Kalen Hearn, 22; and Michael Edwards, 51.

At the time, Spokane County prosecutors said they didn’t have enough evidence to sustain vehicular manslaughter charges. After that triple fatality, Batty issued a statement that read, in part: “To the family members of those who are gone, please know that Lisa and I and countless others are praying for all of you who have been affected by this terrible tragedy.”

Then he continued to drive and cause more accidents, even after his privileges were revoked.

When the prosecutors dropped the charges in 2007, Hearn’s mother said, “I’m glad it’s over. Now we can get some closure.”

If only the community could get closure on the 53-year-old retired firefighter and his dangerous driving. Perhaps that begins now, with the high bail set by Spokane County Superior Court Judge Ellen Kalama Clark for Batty’s latest vehicular onslaught. Batty was jailed last week when the judge learned that he had caused two accidents and received a speeding ticket after having his license revoked. The revocation stemmed from an arrest for driving while impaired.

Yes, that’s four violations after the 2007 crash. And before that, Batty spent two years in jail for a 1993 vehicular homicide. When he emerged from jail, the city of Spokane rehired him as a firefighter. He has since retired.

Batty has been a long-standing embarrassment to the Fire Department and to the city that gave him another chance. He has been a roadway menace who apparently hasn’t extracted a single lesson from the heartache he’s caused.

Judge Clark set Batty’s bail at $200,000, noting his “flagrant disregard for the law.” He wasn’t intoxicated during his recent violations, but something is clearly wrong. Nobody in his right mind climbs back behind the wheel with such a horrific driving history.

If he needs substance abuse treatment, give it to him. If he needs jail time, give it to him.

While harsh sentencing laws have done harm by filling jails without addressing the core causes of crime, nobody could blame Clark for imposing the maximum punishment possible for Batty.

Either he doesn’t want to comply with traffic laws or he can’t. Either way, he must be stopped.


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