The family of a 17-year-old laid him to rest last month after police say a 22-year-old driver, distracted by an electronic cigarette, struck the teen, who was riding his bicycle in Orlando.
The driver told investigators he had fumbled with and then dropped his e-cigarette while driving on Trevarthon Road when he struck the bicyclist, knocking him off his bike. The teen was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver then said he panicked and fled the scene. At first when questioned by troopers about the damage to his car, he told them he’d run into a tree. However, authorities said he soon confessed. Witnesses would later say he was traveling at a high rate of speed.
He had valid insurance, a valid driver’s license and was apparently on his way to work at the Orlando International Airport when the incident happened. He expressed remorse to troopers, but, as one sergeant told a reporter, “It’s too late.”
Now, he is one of the growing number of people who find themselves facing criminal charges for hitting a bicyclist. According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, hospital admissions due to bicycle injuries nearly doubled between 1998 and 2013.
The cohort to see the biggest increase in cycling injuries were those over the age of 45. The number of children injured in bicycle accidents, however, has dropped steadily. This is good news, but clearly there is more than needs to be done.
The issue is especially problematic in Florida, which has the highest rate of bicycling fatalities of anywhere else in the country.
Of 733 bicyclists killed in the U.S. in 2013, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports 133 of those happened in Florida. California actually had a few more than that – 141 – but when we factor in population, it wasn’t even a close comparison. Florida had 6.80 bicycle accident deaths per 1 million people, compared to California’s 3.68.
In Orlando, we have a higher rate than most areas because we have a higher population and a large number of tourists. A 2004 study by Metroplan Orlando found there were 885 bicycle-versus-motorist crashes in 2003 and 2004 in Orange, Seminole and Osceola Counties. The majority of these occurred on the roadway (as opposed to the sidewalk) and more than a third involved motorists either overtaking the cyclist or failing to yield.
Unsafe choices was cited as a top factor for motorist-cyclist crashes.
Another problem for many bicycle accident victims is that motor vehicle drivers fail to stop after a collision. Not only is this illegal, it puts the cyclist in a vulnerable position of not receiving immediate medical care. It also complicates efforts to collect compensation for injuries. Bicyclists should know they are entitled to uninsured motorist coverage through their own carrier for bicycle accidents, so long as the coverage is listed on their regular auto insurance policy.
In addition to the recent case of the 17-year-old killed in a bicycle-versus-car hit-and-run in Orlando, there was another case even more recent case in Kissimmee. A driver reportedly struck and killed a bicyclist, a pole and then another car before fleeing. A 51-year-old male bicyclist was pronounced dead at the scene. He had been pedaling in the bicycle lane at the time of the accident.
The driver reportedly got out of his vehicle and fled on foot. Fleeing the scene of a fatal accident is a felony that now carries a mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison – same as four DUI manslaughter.
Injured bicyclists or survivors of those killed should speak with an experienced Orlando injury lawyer to determine how best to proceed.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
Manhunt underway after fatal hit-and-run, FHP says, Aug. 25, 2015, By Stephanie Allen, Orlando Sentinel
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