AG: No Charges in Cycling Death



AG: No Charges in Cycling Death

Another cyclist killed and no charges will be brought against the motorist. According to a Providence Journal article:

A criminal charge against a Westerly woman who fatally struck a Warwick man riding his bicycle in Charlestown will be dropped next week, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office said yesterday

I have yet to figure out what I personally think an appropriate charge for this woman would be, but to just drop the case seems like a slap in the face of the cyclist’s family and, to a much lesser extent, the entire cycling community. After all, the police did find that the motorist was speeding

Police said she was traveling at about 60 miles an hour. The posted speed limit in the area is 50 miles an hour.

There was no indication that the cyclist was riding inappropriately, he was riding in the breakdown lane, with traffic. On the other hand, crime scene reconstructionists found the motorist had changed lanes to pass two other vehicles

As she was merging back into the right travel lane, she got distracted and continued right into the breakdown lane,” Healey said, quoting the accident reconstructionist. “At this point she is traveling 50 to 60 miles per hour. She is traveling in the breakdown lane for approximately 100 feet.

That would equate to driving on the breakdown lane for about a second, Healey said, noting that at 60 miles an hour a car travels approximately 90 feet per second.

Hurst told police she flipped down her sunvisor as she came up the hill before Kings Factory Road. The accident reconstructionist found that glare could be a factor given the time of day and location of the accident.

a spokesman from the AG’s office said they dropped the case because

“The only evidence of negligence against Ms. Hurst is that she was traveling at 60 miles per hour and driving in the breakdown lane (but for a period of time lasting just more than one second),” Healey said. “We found that this, clearly, could not be considered ‘reckless conduct’ under Rhode Island case law.”

I’m sorry, but a person was killed! I understand this was not a premeditated crime and accidents do happen. However, people need to take responsibility for their actions and even their mistakes. If a person can’t control their vehicle, perhaps they shouldn’t be driving one? If driving conditions are such that you are experiencing sun glare, how about slowing down to a safe speed? Why aren’t more people outraged at the apparent lack of compassion for a human life?

It’s another sad day for the cycling community.


  • Don R.
    Dec 17, 2007 at 5:19 am

    This is indeed ridiculous and sad. Law enforcement takes pains to protect motorists as usual.

    Police and criminal courts just don't like to prosecute 'normal folks,' regardless of their negligence. They save their effort for obvious 'bad guys.'

    But the real meat of this will play out in the civil courts. The cyclist's family has already filed a civil suit against the driver, and the results of that case will provide the real pragmatic justice here, if any. I hope that case receives enough publicity as it proceeds for us to be aware of its results.

  • Dec 18, 2007 at 5:08 am

    There was a recent article in Bicycling magazine about bike accidents stating that

    "Barely a week goes by when you don't hear of a cyclist being killed, the behavior of the driver being outrageous, and the response of law enforcement or the penalty passed on to the driver being woefully inadequate," says Andy Clarke, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists. "The kinds of crashes we're talking about almost always involve a motorist who was hopelessly distracted or out of control-speeding, taking corners as they shouldn't, talking on a cell phone, or reaching for a CD. Most are avoidable and preventable, but the response is so feeble. It's an intensely frustrating feeling of powerlessness."

    The issue Don raises is a good one. I guess what makes me so upset is not that this case was passed up by the criminal courts, but the message being sent. It's unlikely that the outcome of a civil case will make headline news, heck it's just another cyclist that was killed. What did make the headlines is that the criminal charges were dropped. As far as I'm concerned, this just sends the wrong message.

    A friend of mine long ago told me that if anyone ever wanted to commit murder, they should use their car. While this woman will likely be experience some monetary fine, it's likely the insurance companies that feel the real burden of her actions and the lawyers that reap the benefits. I'm a true believer in having the punishment fit the crime. If we had better public transportation in this state, I'd be tempted to have cases like this result in the loss of a drivers license. I suspect this would be the outcome in Europe.

  • Dec 18, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    The Providence Journal posted a follow-up story today. The family of the cyclist feels the investigation was handled poorly and that the accident reconstructionist was wrong. Apparently, there are two eye witnesses whom the family feel have testimony that contradicts some of the "facts" presented by the AG.

    My gut tells me that it's unlikely the AG's office will reconsider the case and it will proceed to be heard in a civil court.

  • Barry
    Dec 22, 2007 at 8:43 am

    I think it may be appropriate for an offical letter from the Bike Providence coalition to be sent to the AG expressing concern about the case as it is chilling for all on-road bicyclists that speeding, veering off the main travel lane and killing a cyclist results in no charges. If the AG feels there are no applicable laws violated, then we should ask about possible legislation to make such a situation a violation, involuntary manslaughter perhaps, or driving to endanger of some kind.

    Was there any traffic citation given to the driver at all?

    Note one of the recent pedestrian deaths from a snow-plow (the pedestrian had to walk in the road since sidewalks were not cleared) also resulted in no charges against the driver. Pedestrian deaths are trending up in Rhode Island but there seems to be noone in authority all that concerned. (I was at a Transportation Advisory Committee meeting where the only concern in a report from a spokesperson for DOT traffic safety was about the safety of motorists.

  • detay61
    Mar 20, 2008 at 8:36 am

    As I see this case dropped I can't help but wondering if it had less to do with a disregard for the victims and more to do with the status of the driver. I think that if a person driving a Celica killed a cyclist they would fall under the entire weight of the law, while someone driving a Cayenne would find the case dropped.

    Did that letter ever make it to the AG?