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Monday
Nov092009

What do you call it, accident or negligence?

Gregory and Alexandra Bruehler (Left.) were both killed on October 1st when their tandem was stuck by an F150 Pick-up Truck on Texas Route 16, North of Helotes.

The driver of the truck, Gilbert John Sullaway Jr., is alleged to have veered off the road, and over corrected before striking the couple.

No traffic citations or criminal charges have been filed against Sullaway. The reason, police say it was an accident; he was driving at about 70 mph in the 65-mph zone and there was no evidence of intoxication.

Bull Crap! In my view, an accident is when a tire blows out or if there is some other mechanical failure, or there is a road hazard that causes a person to run into another.

If a driver is alert and he sees a cyclist ahead, common sense and decency says he should slow down to less that 70 mph. He should pass the cyclist giving at least 3 feet of space, more if he is traveling above 50mph.

If he hits the cyclist, it is negligence, pure and simple. The fact that he hits the cyclist is proof enough, no need for independent witnesses.

Some may put forward the defence that the cyclist swerved in front of them. That is the reason for not passing any less than 3 feet, to allow for such possibilities.

In this case, the tandem was dragged 200 yards under the vehicle; this was no glancing blow it was obviously a direct hit.

The couple left behind a 7 year old daughter. The dead couple's parents have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver; their only recourse obviously.

If police would start charging these reckless and dangerous drivers with Negligent Homicide, although it would not help the victims, it would eventually make some people, wake up, and take responsibility for their sloppy driving habits.

Above: Hundreds of cyclists from the San Antonio, TX area, attend a memorial for Gregory and Alexandra Bruehler

Police officers who work on homicides usually state that they do it to bring closure to the families left behind. Although these are not deliberate killings, they are caused by extreme negligence, and the grieving families also need some sense of justice.

What closure is there for a family when the person responsible walks away scott free as in this case.

I sometimes feel I am wasting my time writing about stuff like this; after all, I am preaching to the choir.

On the other hand I always feel there is a possibility that if enough cyclists like me who happen to write, draw attention to this problem, it may just filter down into the mainstream media.

Eventually our voice will be heard, and something will be done. It would be nice if I could live to see it

 

Read a full account here and here

Reader Comments (24)

If I took a gun and fired into a crowd of people, it would be as much an "accident" if I killed or seriously injured somebody as what this was.

While nothing will ever bring them back, having justice come down hard on negligent drivers may just save a few lives down the road.

November 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWilliamNB

It is disgusting. When a medical doctor can be sued for negligence even while actually attempting to do his best, yet a motorist cannot be held accountable for not paying attention in the slightest - that's when I see things are not as they should be.

And I've read of similar outrages from Australia and the UK. It is becoming a global issue. Somehow we've become convinced of our "right" to drive and that nothing can hinder that. Punish a man for vehicular homicide? Surely not! We'll just make up some new rule to keep cyclists off the roads.

November 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterToddBS

This is terrible!

In Australia, it is not unusual for a driver to get away from hitting a cyclist or pedestrian by saying: "I didn't see them...". If a driver can't see a cyclist in front of him/her, this driver should not have a licence. The rule should be simple.

When are we going to see some changes?

November 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAMR

AMR,
I had a serious run in with a woman in an SUV, a few years back. She put forward the "I didn't see him defense."
The judge dismissed the case because it was my word against hers.
Duh, isn't "I didn't see him" an admission of negligence?
To use William's gun analogy in the first comment, this would be the same as saying, "I didn't see him standing there when I fired the gun in his direction."
Dave

November 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDave Moulton

It is indeed a sad state of affairs when justice looks the other way. It is this same situation that has made an organization such as MADD come into existence. Judicial accountability all too often is lacking.

I have also had my run in with law enforcement and the courts. In my case, a woman in a car approaching from the opposite direction made a left hand turn right into my bicycle. Her excuse? "The sun was in my eyes so I turned anyway." Plain and simple negligence in my book but the police didn't think so. After all, I was a cyclist. No tickets.

This story ties in with so many others. Distracted driving. Aggressive driving. Impaired driving. You name it. These situations can be avoided and are all preventable. If it is preventable then only negligence is the verdict. An accident is unexpected and unpreventable. As for the ratio of preventable to unpreventable, it is better than 9 to 1. Very few accidents are deemed unpreventable as almost always, something could have been done do either lessen the impact or to avoid the situation entirely.

Finally, let me say I am saddened for the family and for their friends and especially for their orphaned daughter. She will probably never remember nor again experience the simple joy a bicycle can bring someone. I hope I am wrong.

November 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJim

Is this another (unintended) consequence of our (now and growing) entitlement society? In North San Diego County, after four fatalities involving juvenile drivers and alcohol, police and traffic safety has cited “inexperience” as a common factor in every case.
BullShit!
It’s called irresponsibility.
Dave and I and most others gained experience, and we didn’t kill anyone to get it.
When is accountability going to be a part of life again?
Of course the current liberal government, liberal media and “political correctness” won’t allow that out of fear of “offending” someone and backlash from special interest groups or even the ACLU.
Talk about a bailout!

November 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

I think the trouble is that cycling is viewed by non-cyclists as an inherently dangerous activity and thus injury is the responsibility of the cyclist. If we change this view then we change the way the courts hear the cases. That might require getting the judges to become cyclists. If someone on a skateboard got hit even we might see it as the skateboarder's lot. They suffer from the same stigma.

I once had a guy in a truck try to hit me. I know this because after he missed he turned around and flipped me off. I had to duck under his mirror and I watched his front tire go by in the gutter with mine pressed up against the curb. Got my attention.

-Rob

November 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRedtaildd

This is getting all too common. It is obvious that there are getting to be more cyclists out there and people need to be held responsible for what they do while driving. Since when is driving a right? I often have the feeling from drivers that they feel they are more important than me since they are in a car and i'm on a bike. Why is the life of that person in the truck more important than the lives he ended. How does this make sense to anyone? People need to be held accountable.

November 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRandy

Steve, your references to the government, media and ACLU are rather bizarre in this context and have nothing to do with the way the justice system treats cases of cyclists hit by cars. If the ACLU had a view on this issue - which they don't - I reckon they would side with the rights of cyclists not to be hit by cars.

November 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTim

Tim,
To not understand doesn't make something bizarre. That is why there is so much confusion and uncertainty today. And hand-holding.
Motorcyclists are treated the same way.
Let me ask you, where do you think Western Civilization is headed when you have special interests groups and the ACLU demanding special treatment and accommodation to people that would rather not integrate into society or live up to its requirements.
So people claim they didn’t see (motor)cyclists. Government officials defend these claims (most of the time).
The media goes along for the ride.
Do you see the connection?
In Holland you’d better get out of the county if you kill a cyclist.
Here the government doesn’t let companies fail, doesn’t let people with mortgages they should not have fail, and people failing to be responsible drivers excused.
Is this a trend we the people want?

November 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

In these cases, unfortunately, the only recourse for the family is to pursue a civil case against the driver. This can be done even if there is a trial and an innocent verdict, as was the situation in the famous OJ trial. Police can even be called into the civil trial as witnesses, which may thereby increase the awareness in the police force of the severity, culpability & cost of these sorts of accidents. America may be a car country, but it is also a money country. There is no special interest stronger in this country than the almighty dollar. Just ask your local politician.

November 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJake

Extreme negligence of a driver is given immunity by extreme negligence by the front line of law enforcement. Yes you're preaching to the choir but the choir needs to sing the same tune... our laws need to be changed.

November 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJack

Very sad...My heart goes out to their family and little girl...
With cycling gaining popularity, and more and more motorists on the road everyday, something has to change. Drivers need to realize they aren't the only ones on the road. I personally couldn't imagine not being able to see a cyclist on the road in front of me unless I was completely not paying attention. At the very LEAST this driver should have their license suspended indefinitely for negligence and/or reckless driving.

November 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

This is nothing short of a tragedy that could have been prevented. Given that the courts are cracking down on drivers who are texting while driving (I believe it is called "inattentive driving") I can't imagine how this guy could not have been charged with at LEAST involuntary manslaughter. There are enough laws on the books that any DA worth hisor her salt could have made a case, but that would mean giving cyclists a status on the road that apparently no one is yet willing to begrudge.

By the way, Steve, your political rantings are not relevant to this discussion. Perhaps on the Faux News network website, but not here.

November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEJ

To EJ, et al:
Let’s see, you belittle district attorneys, claim there are enough laws in existence, and then tell me my political (rants) are bogus? How do you think DA’s (and other gov’t officials) got there? How do you think laws are established?
Perhaps you think the laws we have are pseudo-laws, applied or ignored at one’s discretion.
Maybe this is the base of the problem. Otherwise, what are you saying?
And how do you propose Change?

November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

One final word EJ:
You are an example of the problem; your very words, which represent your thoughts, condemn the people responsible for justice, then this:

“…but that would mean giving cyclists a status on the road that apparently no one is yet willing to begrudge.”

You then excuse those irresponsible people!
You have abdicated a cyclist’s place on the road, and not begrudgingly.

November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Bicycling Magazine recently had an excellent review of this issue in an article titled BROKEN. Below is the link for thise interested.
http://www.bicycling.com/article/1,6610,s1-3-12-16637-1,00.html
The tragedy is a non impaired driver is frequently never cited with more than misdemenor charges.............

November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

I am quite certain that if there had been a car parked on the side of the road with two people in it and the pickup truck driver had swerved into the car and killed the occupants, the police would have found a suitable charge. This is a tragic case indeed, and the picture of the little girl at her parents' funeral (published in the local newspaper and all over the Internet) has stayed in my mind for the last month. Dave is totally right: there are no "accidents."

November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSprocketboy

Steve,

I call bullshit. I've abdicated nothing. I've belittled no one except for you and your self-righteous omnipotent bullshit. You write:

Perhaps you think the laws we have are pseudo-laws, applied or ignored at one’s discretion.
MY POINT EXACTLY (typical conservative dimwit, you don't understand anything even after you read it). If the laws on the books were actually enforced, and not just selectively, none of us would be having this conversation and there would be justice for that little girl. My main argument and the reason I am so outraged by this tragedy (and I detect NO outrage from you, Steve regarding the deaths of these two human beings, just toward the system) is that a driver can annihilate a cyclist on the road and claim, "I didn't see him or her." End of story, good enough for us in the justice system, you get a free pass, motorist.

It seems there is a lot you don't understand, Steve-o, and you are all too willing to simply read what you want into what others say. By the way laws are established by Congress (either state or federal in the US) and are enforced by a criminal and civil justice system. Perhaps if you didn't spend so much time listening to the conservative pundits, you might actually be able to form your own ideas and not jut spew their talking points.

November 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEJ

Speaking of DAs, wonder if the DA for Bexar county wears boots and a cowboy hat, hasn't ridden a bicycle since he was 10-years old, chews tobacco, drives a 4WD Ford expedition to work every day (not that he ever takes the beast off-road), keeps a laminated copy of his NRA membership card in his wallet...just sayin'.

November 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

Sprocketboy, I think you got it right. As far as accidents are concerned, the real tragedy here (arguments by the idiots EJ and Steve aside) is that this was probably a very preventable event. A 7-year old girl was robbed of her parents most likely because the driver simply wasn't paying enough attention to what he was doing. It speaks to the question: Have we become so self-absorbed that we wind up doing things like taking the lives of others for granted? If I am a driver and I read about this and decide to drive more carefully, then the deaths of these two people will not have been in vain.

That said, there is a big difference between being inexperienced, irresponsible and unaccountable. If I am a 16-year old who has just earned my license and don't have a lot of time behind the wheel on the highway, am I irresponsible for taking a car out on the highway to better learn how to drive there? If I am a 40-year old who has been driving for more than 20 years, am I irresponsible if I run a cyclist over because I decided I did not like the song that was playing on the radio? And once I run that cyclist over, am I being accountable if I claim that I did not see the cyclist? Somehow that seems to be in the "blame the victim" category of accountability.

It would be great if drivers did just a couple of things: slow down; turn off the cell phone; leave the radio alone or just turn it off (silence is an unappreciated commodity); don't drive while impaired by any substance you have ingested; don't drive if you are too tired or emotionally upset. All of these things fall under being accountable. Let's hope more people are willing to give it a try after all this.

November 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKeith

Actually, I am shocked that the driver in this case is not being charged with something. I mean, the state of Texas executes people at the drop of a hat. Of course, that leads to the argument/topic with regard to the political and social aspects of the case. Could this tragic accident and its consequences reflect the class/culture warfare that seems to be going on in the US? I bring this up only because I attempted to discuss this case with a co-worker a couple of days ago. Unfortunately, the two angry white male Republicans we work with overheard us and I found it interesting and even shocking to hear their response.

To give some background, both of these men make more money than most of the people they work with and they frequently comment on/put down/make fun of people who are at the low end of the pay scale. I have inferred (perhaps wrongly) that they believe there is no excuse for being poor. A poor person is either lazy or stupid or both. They both claim to believe very strongly in the sanctity of human life, yet they are obsessed with war and spend countless hours at work justifying the loss of lives in the current US wars. That and, when the controversy about the "torture" that was conducted during the previous administration was ongoing, one commented, "We should have tortured them all!" Oh, and they both drive Ford trucks. Another inference I have made (could be wrong here as well) that they believe that certain lives are more valuable than others.

So when I mentioned that the relatives of the little girl were suing the driver and his company, the two angry conservatives became outraged. "Don't they know that guy's company provides jobs to people?" This led to a tirade about there being too many victim's rights groups, blankety-blank ACLU, blahbity-blah ACORN. One of them thought he would make a joke: I guess that will be two fewer liberals to vote for the Democrats down in Texas! Funny, NOT. They went on: Why was the couple out riding a bike and not spending time with their daughter? I wonder who was taking care of their daughter or if they just left her at home alone? Basically blaming the victims. Another assertion: People who ride bicycles on the road are idiots - whether they are riding safely or not, there is no safe place on the road for bicycles. I commute to work on a bicycle or walk, they both know this - think I am crazy.

So I ask you, had one of the two people that were killed been an off-duty police officer or firefighter, would charges have been filed? If they had been members of Congress? Are certain lives simply more valuable than others? If the two victims were liberals, would a predominently Republican judicial system take their deaths less seriously - and vice versa? Has it really come down to class warfare/political ideology when we deal with situations where people may be held accountable for their actions?

November 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBill

For all the diatribes volleyed after my comments, no solutions are offered.
Or, coming up short on that, who has taken personal action to improve traffic situations (for everyone)?
…any…Trolls…any…one?

November 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

It's just Texas values and Texas criminal justice system and Texas cops at work. Many fine folks there, just not in law enforcement.

November 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLewis
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