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Epileptic man sentenced to 3 years in prison after fatal crash

Sentencing judge told Troy Dean Klaerner that he showed a 'callous disregard' for others' safety by driving but seemed 'truly remorseful.'
Sentencing judge told Troy Dean Klaerner that he showed a 'callous disregard' for others' safety by driving but seemed 'truly remorseful.'

By Steven Kreytak
Published: 8:29 p.m. Friday, July 20, 2012

— An epileptic man, whose doctor had repeatedly admonished not to drive because of the threat of seizures, was sentenced to three years in prison Friday for killing a man in a car crash on a scenic Marble Falls bridge in 2010.
Troy Dean Klaerner, 49, pleaded guilty in May to manslaughter without a plea bargain, meaning state District Judge Guilford L. Jones III could have sentenced him to up to 20 years in prison. Prosecutors asked for a 10-year term while Klaerner's lawyer, Eddie Shell, said that Klaerner was "not a danger to society" and should be given probation.

Seven days before the crash, a neurologist had told Klaerner to no longer drive, according to documents filed in the case.
Before pronouncing his sentence Friday, Jones told Klaerner "because of your callous disregard for everybody who ever passed you on the road over those decades that you have been driving ... you deserve the harshest possible sentence."
Jones said, however, that he Klaerner is "truly remorseful" for causing the Feb. 17, 2010, crash on the U.S. 281 bridge over Lake Marble Falls that killed 39-year-old Christopher Lee Smith.



Epilepsy is not a disease but the symptom of one, from this notion, importance of epilepsy awareness and prosecution of epilepsy suffers who are found breaking the law does not always follow the nominal punishment. The article itself covers the sentencing of a man for manslaughter over an incident which arose because of his pre-existing medical condition.

The article is of interest to us as it is "...rare for someone to be charged with manslaughter in a crash caused by a medical condition" (quote from article). Epilepsy is a restricting condition and there is not a lot of support mechanisms set up to increase quality of life of the people who suffer from it. Driving is a main concern for work, social aspects and even simply needs such as food. Of interest to us particularly is how varied driving and licensing laws are for persons who suffer epilepsy and the impact on quality of life, suffering a condition and being liable for its unpredictable effects.

It is therefore incumbent upon the authors to explain why this medical condition could have resulted in such an incident, and doing so requires explaining some of the relevant research findings to the layperson. A relevant consideration of the different types of epilepsy and seizures is necessary to inform legislation and community responses however in this article as the target audience is not necessarily scientifically literate, care must be taken to interpret and generalise facts without distorting them.

Legislation behind driving with epilepsy varies across states and nations worldwide. Generally individuals may apply for a license after a certain period free of seizures. Eligibility is then determined by a general practitioner who reviews the patients’ medical history, ongoing medication, type of epilepsy/seizures and when their last seizure occurred. Whilst there is evidence that certain types of epilepsy increase the risk of motor accidents, the psychosocial implications must be reviewed and supported by relevant government bodies and the broader community.

Not addressing the concerns of epilepsy sufferers such as employment and loss of independence increases the risk of false reporting to physicians and illegal driving. Further education of epilepsy sufferers, psychological, social and financial support particularly for transport is necessary to decrease the risk of incidents like that of Troy Dean Klaerner in the future. Similarly stigmas associated with epilepsy must be critically reviewed and replaced by relevant research informing the legislation being created.

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