Careless Driving citation issued in collision that killed Kerry Kunsman

Kerry Kunsman (1947-2014).
(Photo from his blog)

The Oregon State Police announced today that the man who drove his truck into Kerry Kunsman on September 19th as he rode his bike on Highway 131, has been issued two citations.

Frank Bohannon, 74, has been cited for Careless Driving (ORS 811.135(3)) and Driving While Suspended. Prior to this decision, the OSP says they conferred with the Tillamook County District Attorney’s Office and decided there will be no additional criminal charges. Additional penalties will be triggered because Bohannon’s actions resulted in the death of a “vulnerable roadway user.”

Oregon was the first state to pass a Vulnerable Roadway Users law in 2007. It adds additional consequences above and beyond the standard traffic violation penalties. Bohannon will now have to choose between doing 100-200 hours of community service (which “must include activities related to driver improvement and providing public education on traffic safety”) and completing a traffic safety course or paying a $12,500 fine and having his license suspended for one year. Bohannon will also be required to appear in court and face up to his actions. Prior to the existence of this law, the offender could simply mail in a check and be done with it.

Kunsman took this photo while biking down
the Oregon Coast just one day
before he was hit.

Kunsman died in a Portland hospital two days after the collision. He was a League Certified Cycling Instructor and a Board Member of the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition who was well-known in his community. Kunsman was on a “Border-to-Border” bicycle tour from Canada to Mexico and kept a blog about his journey up until the morning of his tragic death.

Kunsman was riding westbound from Tillamook to Netarts on a state highway around a sharp right-hand curve with no paved shoulder when the collision occurred. Judging from photos taken at the scene and the time of day, it’s likely the sun was setting on the horizon as well. As you can see in the photo at right, Kunsman’s bike was equipped with a rear taillight (which was on during the day) and a large, hi-vis reflective patch.

This collision was the seventh high-profile rear-end collision on Oregon highways in the past six weeks. Four of the collision have resulted in a fatality. In six of the seven cases, OSP has determined that unsafe driving behaviors were to blame (one of them is still pending an investigation).

This spate of collisions have led some people to conclude that the solution is to ban bicycling altogether on some highways because “it’s too dangerous” — but this decision by OSP will (hopefully) reinforce the idea that bicycle riders have a right to all Oregon roads (except some freeways) and that roads are much safer when everyone operates their vehicle with caution and care for others.

UPDATE: Here are some comments about the collision from the DA who looked at the case, as reported by The Oregonian:

“It’s an extraordinarily tragic accident,” Porter said. “But it is in fact just that — an accident.”

The investigation showed no signs of excessive speed, intoxication or reckless driving by Bohannon, he said.

But Bohannon was cited for careless driving because he is familiar with the highway, knows that there are often cyclists on the highway and should have taken more care on the curves, Porter said.

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