On June 8, a driver turning left into an Ashburn neighborhood struck and killed 27-year-old motorcyclist DamionSavon Robinson. The driver of that car was charged with reckless driving and faces a fine and a year in jail if convicted—punishment Robinson’s girlfriend says is far too light, considering her boyfriend’s life was taken and hers was devastated.
Selena Drincic said her boyfriend of seven years “loved and respected” motorcycles and knew the inherit dangers of riding them. She said Robinson drove the speed limit, wore a full-face helmet and always covered his arms and legs, even though he had asthma and would get hot while riding in the summer months. He also bought a light grey and bright orange motorcycle—his first ever—so that other drivers would see him better on the road. That was late last year.
“He was very calculated in his choice because he knew that motorcyclists were vulnerable on roads,” Drincic said. “He wanted to make sure his motorcycle was seen.”
Robinson “drove for others,” Drincic said, because he understood that motorcycle accidents happen frequently when those other drivers claim to not see the motorcyclist they hit. According to the Motorcycle Awareness Campaign, nearly 20 percent of all motorcycle crashes are caused by a driver violating a motorcyclist’s right-of-way.
In Robinson’s case, he was killed while driving his Kawasaki Ninja along Bles Park Drive when the driver of a Dodge Challenger turned left onto Rock Creek Terrace into his right-of-way. She was charged with reckless driving—a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and/or an up-to $2,500 fine if convicted.
In Virginia, if a driver who causes a wreck that leads to the death of another is convicted of reckless driving, they can’t be convicted of a Class 6 felony unless they weredriving “without a valid operator’s license due to a suspension or revocation for a moving violation.”
Drincic also highlights a May 2015 case in whicha driver turned left on a yellow light onto Crossroads Drive from Ashburn Farm Parkway, striking and killing a 31-year old man driving a Kawasaki KLR-650. The driver of the car was charged with failure to yield on a left turn. She was eventually found guilty and paid a $250 fine.
To Drincic, that doesn’t make sense. And now, she’s pushing for legislators to introduce a bill in the 2021 General Assembly session that would amend the law to convict anyone who kills another in the course of being convicted of reckless driving to be found guilty of a Class 6 felony, regardless of the status of their driver’s license. A Class 6 felony in Virginia is punished by one to five years in prison and/or up to a $2,500 fine.
To do that, Drincic plans to talk with Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D-33) and Del. David Reid (D-32)—whose respective districts include the intersection where Robinson was killed. Drincic also is working to gather thousands of signatures on a petition to show community support for the law change. She already gathered more than 4,000 signatures on a petition pressing for the driver who killed Robinson to be convicted of felony reckless driving.
“I have a message, I have a goal,” Drincic said.“We cannot stand aside and allow Damion Savon Robinson’s death to be treated like another mishap.”
Headed into the General Assembly special session this week, Boysko and Reid said they were focused on their priorities for that session and needed time to look into Virginia’s reckless driving law before commenting on it. Reid said he has 30 pieces of potential legislation he’s looking to introduce next year, but can introduce a maximum of only 15 bills.
When Boysko and Reid do examine the reckless driving statute, they’ll also have to consider the second portion of the statute—that for someone to be convicted of felony reckless driving, they must not only have been driving without a valid license, but “as the sole and proximate result of his reckless driving, caused the death of another.”
A 2018 Supreme Court of Virginia opinion highlighted that element when upholding a trial court ruling. The case dealt with an August 2015 crash in which one of a driver’s passengers died after the driver fell asleep and veered off the road down an embankment. Although the passenger was not wearing a seatbelt and was ejected from the car, the court found that his death was the “sole and proximate result” of the man’s driving.
Legislators will need to determine whether amending the reckless driving law could disproportionately punish drivers who might cause the death of another motorist, but weren’t entirely to blame—or whose actions weren’t entirely the sole and proximate causes of the other motorist’s death.
Virginia State TrooperEnzo Diaz, the ticketing trooper in the May 2015 crash, said even 1-percent of negligence on the part of the motorist who is struck or killed in a wreck—such as speeding—can dissolve their chances, or their family’s chances, of arguing their case in court.
Right now in Loudoun, Robinson’s case isn’t the only fatal motorcycle crash that has led to another driver being charged with reckless driving and is awaiting a hearing.
In March this year, a 40-year-old motorcyclist was killed when a driver turned left into his pathway while turning into a shopping center off Algonkian Parkway. The driver of the car was charged with reckless driving. His court date is upcoming.
Between now and the 2021 General Assembly session, Drincic is focused on continuing to raise awareness for Robinson’s case, and what she feels are inadequacies in the law. She is organizing the Damion Robinson Memorial Run, which she hopes will bring dozens of motorcyclists to Bles Park at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 10—two hours before the scheduled trial in the case of the woman who struck and killed Robinson.
“I have a goal, I have a mission,” Drincic said.