Thursday, June 2, 2011

Driver Found Guilty

Obviously these warnings do very little
From the Canberra Times:

Cyclist's death: driver guilty

02 Jun, 2011 06:41 AM
A Canberra driver had an obligation to avoid a collision with a cyclist that led to the latter's death, an ACT magistrate found yesterday. The Fadden man was found guilty of failing to keep an adequate lookout for the cyclist, leading to the collision which caused the rider's death last year.
James Keenan, 61, died in hospital last February after spending a fortnight in intensive care with head injuries after the crash on Sternberg Crescent in Wanniassa.( He was wearing a bicycle helmet)
The cyclist fell to the road after colliding with the side of a turning Mitsubishi Evolution driven by Rhys Wilkins, who pleaded not guilty to negligent driving causing Mr Keenan's death.
Both the prosecution and Wilkins' lawyer argued the other party had a duty of care at the time of the fateful incident at the intersection of Sternberg Crescent and Ashley Drive.
Defence lawyer Michael Kukulies-Smith argued the cyclist should have given way to the turning car and slowed down approaching the intersection.
But the prosecution submitted the 36-year-old driver should have taken more care while overtaking the cyclist and turning the corner.
Magistrate Lorraine Walker ultimately found Wilkins, having seen and overtaken the cyclist, had an obligation to keep a watchful eye out for the other party.
The defendant was suspended from holding a driver's licence at the time.
The ACT Magistrates Court heard Wilkins, who was not under the influence of alcohol and was not alleged to have been speeding, was travelling west on Sternberg Crescent on January 29.
The defendant told the court he was on his way to the shops and spotted Mr Keenan riding his bike close to the curb towards the Ashley Drive intersection.

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Wilkins said he moved to overtake the bicycle, indicated, slowed and turned left on to Ashley Drive.
At some point before turning the corner he lost sight of Mr Keenan.
''I felt something, I looked in my rear-view mirror, and I saw a guy tumbling over the road,'' he told Ms Walker at an earlier hearing.
But the magistrate noted Wilkins never mentioned looking behind him, in his rear-view mirror or over his left shoulder as he prepared to negotiate the turn.
She said it was open to infer, on the evidence before her, the cyclist was travelling close behind the overtaking car when Wilkins took the corner. She was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt the driver failed to keep a lookout and fell below the duty of care expected of a prudent driver.
The defendant is expected to appeal. Wilkins is on strict bail conditions, which include banning him from driving a vehicle.
He is due back in court for a sentencing hearing in August.

Do we need to change some of our Laws?



Freedom Cyclist said...

So sad - a tragic story.

We 'lucked out' big time when governments across Australia failed to act upon the recommendation twenty years ago to educate motorists about sharing the road with other road users - that would have cost significant money and it was easier and cheaper to pass on the cost to the cylist by passing laws to compel them to wear helmets. The gesture of looking over your shoulder as you perform the 'same-side-of-the-road-you-drive-on' turn is visibly noticeable in Europe - it's a life-saving action...

...shame on our governments.

Paul Martin said...

Shame indeed. At least this driver was punished but it shouldn't have to get this far before anyone listens (honestly, will most motorists even hear about this story....?).

If it was made clear from the day you are born that might is NOT right and any injuries you inflict will be your fault unless you can prove your innocence, then we will not see a change in behaviour.

We need many things to make cycling normal and this is another BIG one.

Anonymous said...

"Shame indeed. At least the driver was punished"??? I doubt the driver intentionally aimed to kill the cyclist.

BHRF Supporter said...

I, like most other cyclists, regularly have motorists overtake me then immediately turn left. Even though I'm trying to go straight on, I'm forced to turn left to avoid a collision.

Sadly, in this tragic case, it looks as if the driver didn't manage to make the turn.

Education is vitally important, to teach all drivers that they should not overtake cyclists when approaching an intersection where they want to turn left.

I also suspect that increased Safety in Numbers from repealing the helmet law would help.

Since its launch with 450 bikes in September 2009, Dublin’s city bikes have been used more than 2 million times with 33,643 long-term subscribers and 55,231 total subscriptions. The scheme has increased to 550 bikes and averages 4848 hirings per day. Compare that with Melbourne’s 600 bike scheme that struggles to get 400 hirings per day. Many comments about the failure of the scheme cite helmet laws as the main reason they don’t use it.

Dublin’s bikes are safe. So far, only 2 injuries required hospitalisation and both cyclists were out of hospital within 24 hours. I suspect Melbourne’s cyclists would also be safer if, instead of helmet laws, there were an extra 5,000 odd cycle trips per day on city bikes. It would remind motorists to look out for cyclists, and not overtake then only to veer into their path by turning left.

Without helmet laws, there may also be scope for public bikes to fit in with public transport linking the different suburbs in Canberra. Sadly, we’ll never know unless our cycling organisations are enlightened enough to read the statistics and work out that, presumably because of risk compensation and reduced safety in numbers, injuries per cyclist actually increased after helmet laws were introduced than would have been expected without helmet legislation.

Or should I say, unless our cycling organisations become enlightened enough to read the stats and present this information to governments, together with estimates of lost health and environmental benefits of a law that continues to discourage cycling, in a way that governments can’t ignore.

(Sources of information: and ) )

Peter said...

As a driver I also have been guilty of passing a cyclist then turning left and I have heard other drivers tell me the same thing. It is so easy to do without being educated to be careful about this from the beginning. In this I refer to cultures that have stronger laws protecting cyclists. In many N. European countries the cyclist has right of way and from personal experience drivers drive very differently around them than is the case here. They are literally taught from the beginning that there are cyclists on the road and you have to be carefull around them. Cyclists were not even mentioned when I got my drivers licence in Victoria.
I have strongly suspected for a while that we could have had those laws but were prevented by the same motoring lobby groups that promoted helmets. Since helmet law there has been no advance in law regarding care for bicycle users on our roads and very little advance in the creation of separated infrastructure either.

Ben said...

Important post...
I must say I am impressed with the small warning note on the car inspection sticker. While probably inefficacious, it reflects a political momentum of the cycling community, which might be why the driver you mention was found guilty. Rarely does this happen in the States.