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Luskin: Slow Justice

Last year, I was picking berries, when I heard a car skid and crash on the road by my house.

Expecting the worst, I ran to the scene but found a single car, empty, wrecked, and perpendicular to the road.

Four young men were standing nearby, dazed but alive.
The eighteen-year old driver had been pushing seventy in a thirty-five mile zone when he lost control at a curve – right where I’d been walking earlier, with Leo, my dog.

The driver accepted responsibility, pled guilty to reckless operation, lost his license for thirty days, and was sent to Reparative Probation.

I’ve served on Reparative Panels for nearly ten years, and just a year and a day after the accident, I appeared before his panel, to make a victim statement and tell this now nineteen-year old how traumatizing that event was for me.

I told him how just hours earlier the day of his crash, Leo and I had been walking right where he’d bounced off the stone wall.

The young driver admitted he’d never thought about pedestrians or dogs.

I told him how I now cut through my neighbors’ woods to avoid walking on that stretch of road, where the 370-foot skid marks are just beginning to fade.

It was a friendly meeting; I’d brought Leo with me, and I told the driver how glad I was to see him alive.
“Me, too,” he said.
And while his speed was indeed extreme, he’s not the only person who travels that stretch of road too fast.
There’ve been several accidents there since his, all speed related, including one earlier the same day as our meeting.

“It was a friend of mine,” my driver said. “Head-on. They took him to the hospital.”
“What about the people he hit?” I asked.
He didn’t know.
I later learned his friend had side-swiped an on-coming car, leaving skid marks only sixty-five feet long, but the collision had injured both drivers, landing the speeder in Dartmouth.

It took a year and a day from the accident for me to have my say. And while some might call this Slow Justice, I call it effective.
“I can’t stop other people from speeding,” the young man said, looking at me.
“I know,” I said. “But you can slow down.”
“I won’t speed again,” he said.
I believe him.
And I believe in Restorative Justice, a process which I think helped this young driver learn to slow down and share the road.