Posted by Jonathan Maus ( Publisher/Editor ) on June 4th, 2007 at 9:24 am
On Friday night in Vancouver, Washington, a teenager struck and killed a cyclist with his car. The driver claims he was distracted when a bee entered his vehicle.
Here’s an excerpt from the KOMO-TV news report:
“Gabriel (the driver) told investigators that a bee flew into the vehicle, and he veered into the bicycle lane while attempting to get the bee out. Investigators did find a bee in the backseat of the vehicle.
No citations were initially issued, and Gabriel and Galegos were released to his parents.”
An investigation is underway.
I realize this is a tragedy on many levels, but I get concerned when I read a news headline that says, “Bee blamed for causing fatal bicycle crash.”
As if there were no other factors in this tragedy.
I can relate to how a bee would cause someone to swerve, but should we put 100% of the blame on an insect? Surely there are other factors that might have been involved:
- Was it a safe bikeway?
- What if there was a wider shoulder?
- Would a physically separated bike lane have protected the cyclist?
- What if there was a safer, alternate route away from motor vehicle traffic?
I also wonder if the pending Vulnerable Roadway Users bill would apply to this case. I asked lawyer Ray Thomas, who helped draft the bill, and he said the driver would have to be cited for careless driving before the bill would be triggered (it would also obviously only apply in Oregon).
At this point, we don’t have the facts to know whether or not the driver acted carelessly. How long was the bee in the car before the crash? Should he/could he have pulled over to remove it before he became distracted?
Hopefully the investigation will take a very serious look at these questions.
It’s obvious the driver did not mean to cause this crash, and he will no doubt face a lifetime of mental anguish, but sending the message that the death of a bicyclist is merely unfortunate collateral damage because a bee flew into someone’s car just doesn’t seem right at all.
UPDATE: Here’s what the BTA’s Scott Bricker says about how H.B. 3314 (the Vulnerable Roadway Users bill) would come into play if the proposed law were on the books:
“It depends on the behavior of the driver and ultimately what the officer cited him with… if the driver was at fault and careless, then yes it would apply. Careless is not a criminal charge, so these are the types of cases that often end with the violation of Careless and only up to $720 fine. If 3314 passed, the person would also be required to complete 100-200 hours of community service and a driver education course. If they failed to do that, they would face a max. fine of $12,500 and a 1 year license suspension.
Finally, and very importantly, 3314 would require this kid to show up in court twice. Currently with Careless, you can just mail in a fine and call it a day.”