"Open Season On Cyclists"
Since midsummer, nine cyclists in the Tampa Bay area have died in crashes with vehicles.*
“Unfortunately in the Tampa Bay area, the roads were not designed very well to handle bicycle traffic,” said Alan Snel, a Tampa resident and the director of the South West Florida Bicycle United Dealers. The growth in Florida's major cities has made it even worse. (and the sad part is there are no plans to improve them)
In 2008, the most recent year for which federal statistics are available, 11.1 percent of the pedestrians killed in the United States died in Florida. The state also accounted for 17.4 percent of the bicyclist fatalities. By far, Florida led the nation in the number of bicyclists killed with 125 in 2008, which is the most recent year for which national data is available
(I know there are those who wanted to have an idea about some of the riders that were killed)
Unusually High Rate of Bicycle Accident Deaths Reveals Florida Has Most in Nation
As a Weston bicycle accident attorney, I know Florida has a high rate of bicycle crashes. But until the St. Petersburg Times examined the issue Dec. 6, I didn’t realize Florida had literally the most fatal bicycle accidents of any state, and the second-highest rate of fatal crashes per million of population. The newspaper examined the issue after the Tampa area saw nine fatal crashes since late July. It did not break down fatalities within the state, but said Florida had 125 bicycle accident deaths in the most recent year evaluated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That worked out to 6.82 deaths for every million people, a rate exceeded only by Delaware at 6.87 per million. In Tampa, 22 bicyclists were killed in 2009 and 30 in 2004.
A bicyclist told the newspaper that Tampa roads are not well designed to encourage sharing space between cars and bicyclists, but agreed with others that both groups need to treat the other with respect. In the nine cases from this year, the newspaper said, some were blamed on the rider and some on the driver. No serious charges were filed in any of the nine cases, although cases are still open in at least two cases, one with a hit-and-run driver. In the first of the series, 75-year-old LeRoy Collins Jr., whose father was once governor of Florida, was hit as he rode through a crosswalk in Tampa. The driver said she didn’t see him and no charges were filed. In another, 30-year-old Kayoko Ishizuka died in Tampa after being struck by a hit-and-run driver. That driver was charged with leaving the scene of the accident.
Those charges, and a few others described in the article, concerns me as a Pembroke Park bicycle accident lawyer. There may be more information about the case involving Collins, but if the driver “didn’t see” him because she failed to watch the road, criminal charges might be reasonable. Similarly, the driver in Ishizuka’s** death is facing only a leaving the scene charge, not that charge plus vehicular homicide. (It took over a week, for police, to find the motorist) A third victim, a 41-year-old math teacher, was rear-ended in Dade City by a motorist who apparently faces no penalties. It’s possible that all of these drivers truly had no way to avoid the crashes, but situations where that’s true are not common. What is common, in my experience, is bad driving caused by distractions, sleepiness, intoxication and other conditions under which no one should drive. It’s surprising that prosecutors didn’t feel they had evidence to bring charges in any of the nine cases. (Is there no justice?)
Fortunately, grieving families don’t have to rely on the decisions of the State’s Attorney’s office in order to get justice. Instead of or in addition to criminal charges, families can pursue bicycle accident lawsuits in civil court, with the help of the experienced attorneys. (Little consolation to the grieving families)
* Since December, 3 more have died bringing the death toll to 12
** A brillant medical researcher at USF who was on a bicycle lane and following all traffic laws.