I usually shy away from writing here about cycling fatalities; I hate to put a negative spin on a pastime that I love.
However, this one happened on Tuesday this week a little too close to home for me to let it pass without comment.
A local anesthesiologist and avid road rider, 54 year old Dr. Mitchell Hollon (Right.) was riding his bike on what is known as the James Island Connector Road.
This is in fact a series of bridges and raised highways over two rivers and the marshland between. The City of Charleston is a peninsula so this is the only way to travel west to James and Johns Island where all the good riding is.
Mitchell was doing just that riding on the ample shoulder, when he was struck from behind and killed by an AT&T utility van.
Mitchell was thrown over the low concrete wall at the side of the overpass and fell forty feet to the marsh below. It took an hour to recover his body.
This is another senseless death; there is plenty of room for cyclists and automobile traffic to coexist on this stretch of highway. People just need to pay attention when they are driving.
The picture below shows how wide the traffic lanes are and the wide shoulder. A large dent in the front of the van and the broken windshield shows that the driver was completely on the shoulder at the moment of impact where it is proper and legal for a cyclist to be.
Lt. Chip Searson, head of Charleston's traffic division said,
Officials are looking at a variety of contributing factors, including whether the driver's cell phone or other personal electronic devices were in operation at the time of the 8:40 a.m. collision.
Searson repeated the department's assertion that all signs point to the operator of the AT&T work van as being solely at fault in the accident.
All this of course does not bring back a good man, but please, please let some good come out of this by bringing about awareness and maybe some changes in the law.
People’s attitude need to change. It is said that distracted driving is every bit as dangerous as driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol. Until the penalties for distracted driving are brought in line with DUI and these cases carry the public stigma of drunk driving, these tragic consequences will continue.
I wonder what AT&T’s policy is for their drivers; do they encourage cell phone and GPS use as a tool for their workers to receive instructions and do their job? Large corporations like AT&T need to take a large portion of the responsibility for driver training, and the safe operation of their vehicles.
Drivers have to be held accountable, and people need to realize that this death happened to be a cyclist; it could just have easily been someone out of their vehicle for some emergency like changing a flat tire. It could have been a cop writing a ticket.
I have said this before but it bears repeating.
If a driver can’t steer their vehicle on a course within lines painted on a highway lane without running into objects at the side of the road, maybe they shouldn’t be allowed to drive a motor vehicle.
When roads like the James Island Connector become safe enough that a child could ride their bike over, the road becomes safer for everyone.
A tribute to Mitchell Hollon appeared in this morning's Charleston Post & Courier