Recently we talked about how in New York City, there’s a discrepancy between the number of cyclist deaths in the city and arrests issued. The city doesn’t quite know how to handle collisions between vehicles and bicycles and are reluctant to point fingers. Now it appears as if San Diego is adopting a similar stance. In light of five crashes where cyclists were either killed or injured and questions surrounding whether appropriate charges were filed against the drivers involved in the accidents, San Diego’s lieutenant of Traffic Division Rick O’Hanlon said, “it is not the police department’s decision to file charges. Even if we make a custodial arrest, the City Attorney has within their latitude to dismiss the charges.”
Of the five accidents between cyclists and drivers, two died. One was “doored,” meaning the cyclist was taken out by a driver who failed to see the cyclist and opened his door at the exact moment the cyclist reached the vehicle, causing the cyclist to run into the door. The other cyclist was struck by three vehicles, with the first vehicle’s driver claiming she didn’t see the victim because the sun’s glare had blinded her. The other three cyclists who sustained injuries include a 10-year old girl who was hit by a van who turned left into her right of way, a cyclist who was hit from behind by a 76-year old woman who allegedly drove into the bike lane to avoid being hit by a truck, and another cyclist who was hit from behind by an SUV.
The problem with these types of accidents is that although they are serious in nature, typically unless intent, malice, gross negligence, or substance abuse was involved, the police don’t see it as a criminal matter. Most car accidents with other cars don’t result in criminal charges, just traffic violations, and cyclist-vehicle accidents are treated no differently. The one big difference, of course, is that cyclists are at a much higher risk of serious injury or death should they get in an accident with a vehicle. Retribution, however, likely won’t come from any criminal charges unless there’s proof that the driver who struck you was intentionally trying to run you over or cause you harm. In most instances cyclists receive retribution via civil suits.
A bigger issue at hand is not how these accidents are handled but trying to avoid them in the first place. As cycling continues to become more and more popular, it’s important for drivers and bicyclists to coexist harmoniously and respectfully instead of one group being blind or ignorant to the other. Awareness of and respect for each other will go a long way in preventing terrible accidents from occurring.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bike/5465305209/