Two crashes in Louisiana. Two people riding their bikes. Two fatalities. Two opportunities to get it right. Two times they got it wrong. This is a long post, but please read it. Yes, it’s a rant, to some degree, but it’s also a plea to get it right. Knowledge is key…for everyone.
One: On August 17, KLFY reports that a man was riding his bike at 6am (before sunrise) near Baldwin, LA. According to Louisiana State Police, he was riding near the centerline. He was struck from behind by a motorist. Trooper Brooks David reported that as the truck approached the rider, David Maxie, the front of the truck hit the bicycle and Mr. Maxie.
THE FRONT OF THE TRUCK DIDN’T HIT ANYTHING. The driver of the truck, Tyler Sultan, ran into Mr. Maxie. According to the state police, Mr. Maxie did not have the required front and rear lights. So we can all agree that he was not as visible as he should have been. The trooper also noted that Mr. Maxie was not wearing a helmet. [Let me digress for a moment and say that I will not get on my bicycle without wearing a helmet. I think everyone should, whenever they are on their bikes. But there is no legal requirement for adults to do so.] In this case, with a hit-from-behind crash, it is unlikely that wearing a helmet would have made a difference. In this type of crash, there are typically multiple internal organs damaged by the impact of the vehicle or as a consequence of being thrown forward onto the road at high speed.
Here’s where it gets interesting, though. Trooper David continues: “Louisiana State Troopers wish to remind bicyclists to never assume a motorist can see you. Simple precautions such as wearing an approved bicycle helmet, reflective materials and avoiding distractions are key to avoiding crashes and preventing injuries. Louisiana law requires bicyclists remain as close to the right of side of the roadway as possible and obey all traffic laws.”
Let’s restate that: how about also reminding MOTORISTS to never assume the road in front of them is clear. Simple precautions such as wearing a seat belt and avoiding distractions are key to avoiding crashes and preventing injuries.
And by the way, Louisiana law does NOT require bicyclists to remain as close to the right side as possible. It, like the law in all 50 states, requires bicyclists to remain as close to the right side as practicable. That’s an important difference. Practicable means “safe and reasonable.” So if Mr. Maxie needed to move left to avoid debris, or if the shoulder (was there one?) was in poor condition, he was within the letter of the law to do so. But he’s not here to give his side of the story. The law also states that Mr. Sultan was required to yield to other traffic on the roadway and to allow three feet of space when passing a person on a bicycle. Yeah, There’s blame there, too, perhaps.
Two: Lerry Theriot was a bicyclist riding in New Iberia, LA on Tuesday morning at 530am. He was struck and killed by a motorist: hit from behind. In this case, the bicyclist had both front and rear lights as required by law when riding at night. So how was this one reported? State police say they’re investigating whether the lights were visible at the required distance.
Where was Kerry Theriot riding? Near the fog line (as far right as possible in the roadway). What happened then? An SUV hit him. Nope. A person driving an SUV ran into him from behind! What was that person’s name? We don’t know. It’s not reported by KATC. So apparently, an SUV without a driver ran into a man legally riding his bicycle on a roadway. Was it a self-driving car? I doubt it.
The reporting on this one included a reminder from the State Police that motorists should avoid distractions when driving, and suggested bicyclists be aware of the rules when riding between sunset and sunrise. Umm…from the information presented in the news report, Mr. Theriot WAS following the rules. And now he’s dead.