She never learned to drive.
She loved to walk to the grocery store or to a friend's house.For 30 years, Beatrice Schneller had crossed Holladay Boulevard near her home - always distrustful of drivers who sped along the busy street.
She told her family that she feared someday she would get struck by someone in a hurry. Even the crosswalk didn't slow drivers down. Crosswalks only give a false sense of security, she would complain.
On a Saturday morning, Labor Day 1990, Schneller, 69, was killed while crossing Holladay Boulevard, carrying her groceries. She was hit, outside a crosswalk, by a pickup truck driven by a 22-year-old man. Her broken body was thrown 80 feet.
The posted speed limit was 30. Police officers cited the driver for traveling 12 miles over the limit, for improper lookout and for failing to carry auto insurance.
The case was plea bargained. The remorseful driver, who admitted he wasn't looking where he was going, was sentenced to five months in jail. The jail penalty was suspended when he paid a $135 fine.
"Mom was only 3 feet from the curb. If this guy had been driving the speed limit, I believe Mom would be alive today. She would have likely seen him. I don't think she ever knew what hit her," says her son, Calvin Schneller.Driving 12 miles over the limit is hardly a case of blatant reckless driving, Schneller concedes. But his mother's death has changed his driving habits - and his attitude toward what the court categorizes as "minor driving offenses."
"We're only human and most of us occasionally speed. But now, if I speed I think, `Would happen if a kid walked unexpectedly into the road. Could I stop in time?' It makes me cringe. I know what kind of an impact that speed has when a car hits a person. People are fragile."
Because speed kills, Schneller considers speeding a serious offense. And he thinks those driving without insurance should be harshly punished.
The Utah Commission of Justice in the 21st Century recommends decriminalizing minor traffic offenses. Turning these offenses over the to civil court would increase the court's ability to enforce penalties and allow judges to spend time on other matters. Civil traffic cases would be handled by the Justice of the Peace courts, proponents say.
Serious offenses including DUI, reckless driving, vehicle homicide, leaving the scene of the accident and joy riding would still carry criminal penalties.
Schneller would support decriminalizing so-called minor traffic offenses, giving civil courts power to collect fines - if these offenses were strictly enforced and fines were stiff. "If you hit someone in the pocketbook, that's a disincentive as powerful as serving time in jail."