Cycling in California has become increasingly popular in recent years, and with good reason. It's great exercise and better for the planet than driving a car. But biking on the state's roads can also be dangerous if car and truck drivers aren't paying attention or willing to share the road. A bicycle rider has very little protection in the event of an accident with a motor vehicle.
If an accident does happen, a car's driver is required to stop and call for help or render aid. That didn't happen in a crash three years ago, in which a BMW hit two cyclists, one of whom suffered a brain injury. The man suspected of driving the car is on trial this week in Saratoga, California.
Prosecutors say the 72-year-old man sped away after hitting the two cyclists, a married couple in their 20s, on Highway 9. He pleaded not guilty to three counts of hit-and-run driving. He did plead no contest to driving with a suspended license, which had been taken away because of a drunk-driving conviction. Although there were no other witnesses to the crash, a mechanic testified that about two weeks after the accident, the man told him his girlfriend had crashed his BMW but didn't report the incident to police. As a result, the man wanted the mechanic to order a replacement for the broken passenger-side mirror from outside the area.
Three other witnesses said they'd either overheard the man saying he'd been in a crash or that he'd told them directly. His former live-in caretaker said he'd told her about the accident the night it happened when she ran into him at a bar. And his office manager said he'd overheard the man telling someone on the phone that two cyclists were riding side by side when one of them ran into his car. The officer worker said the man said he looked back and both cyclists appeared to be fine.
The outcome of the trial will determine whether the man will face criminal penalties. But if he did hit the cyclists, it will be up to them to seek compensation for the woman's brain injury, which has caused persistent double vision and other disabilities. A successful personal injury lawsuit could be the only way for her to recover physically and financially from what was supposed to be a healthy, fun activity.
Source: Mercury News, "Case unfolds against suspect in hit-and-run of two cyclists," Tracey Kaplan, Feb. 9, 2012
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