The Gainesville Sun by Ron Cunningham
May 29, 2020
Remember when we said goodbye to Granny?
Rose McDonald was killed by a hit-and-run driver on Waldo Road on Jan. 30. Gainesville police waited a month to release her identity.
That’s when we discovered that Rose and Granny were one and the same: an irrepressibly upbeat and eminently likable street person who was admired by scores of Gainesville residents.
It was a tribute to Granny’s popularity that her friends held not one but two memorial services for her at Bo Diddley Plaza.
I mention this because under a new Florida Highway Patrol policy — one sure to be adopted by other law enforcement agencies — Granny’s name would never have been released. And her friends would not have known what became of her.
As of April, the FHP no longer identifies the people involved in its press releases about traffic fatalities. This is due to agency interpretation of a state constitutional amendment, popularly called Marsy’s Law, intended to protect the privacy of crime victims.
No question that Granny was the victim of a crime. But the FHP’s blanket policy assumes that every person killed in any auto accident no matter the circumstances is, by default, a crime victim.
And it’s not just the dead who go unnamed. When a pregnant woman in Broward County was killed, the other motorist, charged with gross vehicular manslaughter, was also not named.
Does that mean drunken drivers are also crime victims?
In a way I can buy the logic that anyone killed in traffic is a crime victim. That’s because we as a society routinely design our roads and write our laws to facilitate, or at least encourage, fast, careless and distracted driving. That’s a major reason why upwards of 40,000 Americans die on our streets and highways every year.