Last October, in Jackson County, two experienced women bicyclists are riding on the shoulder strip of their local road, when they get ran into from behind by a very old driver. The women both die. After a half year grace period, the driver is finally charged. Here is the story related by Mlive this April:
A 76-year-old man has been charged with two misdemeanor counts for his role in an October crash that killed two bicyclists.
The man, who lives in the Brooklyn area, is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday, April 4, in Jackson County District Court. He is accused of committing a moving violation causing death, Jackson County Prosecutor Jerry Jarzynka said. This is punishable by a maximum of one year in jail and a $2,000 fine.
He was driving a Mercury Sable east about 4:45 p.m. Oct. 7 on Wamplers Lake Road when the car struck friends Mary Massengill and Deborah Patterson, believed to be lawfully riding east on a shoulder.
Initial information showed the car crossed the white line at the right edge of the driving lane on M-124, southeast of Brooklyn, the Jackson County Sheriff's Office earlier reported.
Jarzynka said it is prosecutors' intention to argue the car hit the bicylists because the man made a lane violation, allegedly by failing stay inside the lines. If it is somehow shown the women were outside the bike lane, prosecutors will contend he was traveling at a speed that prevented him from stopping "within the assured, clear distance ahead," Jarzynka said.
When asked why it took more than five months to charge the man, Jarzynka said the crash required the involvement of a officers specially trained in accident reconstruction. These investigators take measurements, look at markings in the road and make various calculations and observations.
This was an especially lengthy process in this case, at least in part, because there were no independent witnesses, Jarzynka said. Only the Sable driver could give his account. "You want to make sure you are accurate and complete and so, that takes time."
Undersheriff Chris Kuhl said the sheriff's office had to wait on results from lab testing, as is typical. He knew of no other delays.
Massengill, 66, died at the scene. Patterson, 62, went by helicopter to Ann Arbor, but did not survive.
Both were experienced riders, wearing helmets and traveling on a wide road with a marked bike lane not far from their neighboring homes near Wamplers Lake. [End article]
A 12-01-2016 Mlive article said the Undersheriff finished their investigation in November, and Prosecutor Jarzynka asked for additional accident reconstruction information; there was no charge given to the driver at that point. The shoulder on this state highway is not how it is claimed in early reports, a "dedicated bike lane". As you can see in the photo above taken on the day of the accident, the shoulder is at best between 2'-3' and crumbling; it doesn't get any better where the emergency vehicles are at, as seen below using Google maps, they would have been traveling up the road:
In such a situation, and even when there are actual dedicated bike lanes, bicyclists are under no duty to ride on them; they have full use (of the furthest right part) of the highway lane should they wish, and often have to decide whether to travel on an unsafe shoulder or use the roadway. Most cyclist on a road like the one above would be traveling between the 'tar' lines for their own safety, straddling the 'fog' line.
You will note in the previous two pictures that the area the accident occurred was in a "No Passing Zone". The law says that: " The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass at a safe distance to the left of that vehicle...". If bicyclists have the same rights as a to-be-passed vehicle, when a car hits bicyclists from behind it should be prima facie evidence that they weren't passing at a safe distance. That's whether they are on or off the shoulder. When a collision happens in a NPZ like this, it should carry weight as a traffic violation which caused death.
Back when the prosecutor received the initial report from the Jackson County Sheriff's Office, this should have been a 'slam dunk' for prosecuting. Two bicyclists fatally hit from behind in a no-passing zone. Reportedly, the driver has not disputed the accident reconstruction, he may have even recounted the most likely scenario that he was passing them as he crested the hill before he saw a car coming from the other side, and saved his own life by going back into his lane-- which wasn't wide enough for him and the women.
That would explain the loud boom noticed by those in the vicinity, and could be corroborated by pictures of the man's car and other evidence showing guilt, but the police, press and prosecutor, in their wisdom, decide that the public would be ill-served in knowing all of this and the implications that should have had this man charged almost immediately rather than six months later, or as happens most times-- not at all.
Justice is ill-served when the rights of the vulnerable users of the roadway are diminished to the point that when they do get killed by motorists, the motorist almost always get a free pass with anonymity unless they run and/or are chemically impaired. It is nothing other than a denial of a pedestrian's, bicyclist's or motorcyclist's Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection under the law when we consider what happens when two motorists collide.
I am impressed they even bothered to do a reconstruction, that is not typical. Their families must have put some real pressure on the police and had some pull somewhere.
If I were writing a book on how to get away with murder I would suggest the murder weapon be a car and the target be on a bicycle or a pedestrian. From what I've read and learned about in the past 6 months indicates the drivers get little to no punishment and typically they find a reason to blame the cyclist or the pedestrian even in hit and run situations.