By Frank James
Many people can relate to having a moment behind the steering wheel they'd rather forget about when they've gotten so angry at someone else on the road that it took every inch of self-control to keep from doing something stupid.
Then there are those who weren't able to stop themselves before something terrible happened. Dr. Christopher Thompson of Los Angeles, newly sentenced to five years in prison for indulging his road rage by using his car to take out two bicyclists in an accident that left them seriously injured.
He was convicted of assaulting for his role in the accident. On Friday at his sentencing, he appeared to be the soul of contrition in the courtroom.
As the Los Angeles Times reports:
A doctor convicted of assaulting two bicyclists by slamming on his car brakes after a confrontation on a narrow Brentwood road was sentenced today to five years in prison.
Christopher Thompson, wearing dark blue jail scrubs, wept as he apologized to the injured cyclists shortly before he was sentenced.
"I would like to apologize deeply, profoundly from the bottom of my heart," he told them, his right hand cuffed to a court chair.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Scott T. Millington called the case a "wake-up call" to motorists and cyclists and urged local government to provide riders with more bike lanes. He said he believed that Thompson had shown a lack of remorse during the case and that the victims were particularly vulnerable while riding their bicycles.
The case against Thompson, 60, has drawn close scrutiny from bicycle riders around the country, many of whom viewed the outcome as a test of the justice system's commitment to protecting cyclists.
Millington said he did not take into account more than 270 e-mails and letters from cyclists that were filed with the court urging a tough sentence.
The July 4, 2008, crash also highlighted simmering tensions between cyclists and residents along Mandeville Canyon Road, the winding five-mile residential street where the crash took place.
One cyclist was flung face-first into the rear window of Thompson's red Infiniti, breaking his front teeth and nose and cutting his face. The other cyclist slammed into the sidewalk and suffered a separated shoulder.
At his sentencing hearing at the county's airport branch court, Thompson cited the Bible in urging cyclists and residents of Mandeville Canyon to try to resolve their differences peacefully.
"If my incident shows anything it's that confrontation leads to an escalation of hostilities," Thompson said.
As the story suggests, it appears Thompson's contrition came to late since the judge found him to be rather lacking in that quality during the trial.
The irony of a one-time ER doc putting the lives of a couple of bikers at risk because of a road-sharing dispute is inescapable and something Thompson will presumably have a lot of time to think about over the next few years.