A recent fatal bicycle incident near Bad Axe in the thumb area of Michigan illustrates why both the police and the press need additional training in reporting on traffic incidents involving vulnerable users of the road (bicyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians, whom we call BMPs).  A seasoned bicyclist is riding on the dedicated bike path shoulders of a main road, a driver at a stop sign of an intersecting road steals the bicyclist's right-of-way by pulling out in front of him causing the fatal crash, where the victim is dragged under that vehicle's trailer for some distance.

The Michigan State Police conduct an investigation and issue a press release on the incident, it is first reported on by the Huron Daily Tribune, which titles their article "Bicyclist dies after being hit by trailer in Bad Axe".  It relates that the bicyclist "was traveling eastbound on the eastbound shoulder of the road when he struck the utility trailer being hauled by a vehicle".  It begs the questions: 'Who hit who?' and 'Who was at fault?'.

Local TV station WJRT reported:  "The bicyclist was riding on the eastbound shoulder of the road when he struck by the utility trailer being towed by a vehicle." in their article titled:  "Police: Huron County bicyclist hit by trailer and dragged."  The article and headline is more consistent in this case, but neither of these initial two reports indicate fault or the mechanics of what transpired, other than the bicyclist was going east on the eastbound side of South Van Dyke Road (which confusingly goes east-west at that intersection).

Surprisingly, these two news agency's coverage was much better than what came out eventually on the Saginaw and Bay City News as reported on MLive where a 'journalist' called Winter Keefer appears to have written his own story which seems to conflict with the two earlier articles and even the MSP press release in defaming the victim and muddling the actual facts of the incident, this follows:

Bicyclist dies after being dragged under utility trailer in Huron County

HURON COUNTY, MI (MLive)-- A 52-year-old Bad Axe man died after striking and becoming lodged under a utility trailer behind a vehicle Wednesday, police said.

Michigan State Police Caro Post responded to a traffic crash just before 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, June 23, at the intersection of North Van Dyke Rd and Barrie Road in Huron County’s Colfax Township, just west of Bad Axe.

After stopping at a stop sign, a vehicle hauling a utility trailer drove south across the intersection of North Van Dyke Road and Barrie Road, according to a Michigan State Police news release.

The bicyclist, traveling east on the eastside shoulder of North Van Dyke Road, struck the utility trailer, police said.

Upon impact, police said the bicyclist became lodged underneath the trailer for some distance before becoming dislodged.

The victim, whose name has not been released, was pronounced deceased on scene from his injuries.

The vehicle pulling the trailer left the scene of the crash but was later located.

The driver of the vehicle, a 38-year-old male from Ruth, was unaware the crash occurred, police said. [END article].

Neither of the earlier articles stated the driver was driving south, it was basically understood they were driving north for the mechanics of the accident to occur.  Consider the bike's path (green), a southbound driver's path (thin red) and a northbound driver's path (thick red), all heading east (up the picture of that intersection as seen above, north is left, south is right).  

Had the driver been going south, the driver would never have been in the path of the bicyclist; on the off-chance the trailer did a wide arc and struck the bicyclist on the shoulder, it's almost impossible to have left the person lodged under the trailer.  If the driver was northbound, he would have had to cross the shoulder the bike was on and if he crossed it right in front of the bicyclist, where they could not prevent the crash, there are lots of ways they could get lodged on the trailer.

The article stresses that the driver stopped at the stop sign-- but did not suggest they did that action before pulling out directly in front of a user of the road driving lawfully and undeniably having the right-of-way.  This was a moving violation that caused the death of another, this would undeniably be a crime had the victim been driving another car, due to the prejudices of our police and justice system.

Winter Keefer, who apparently believes that using one sentence paragraphs is a proper style for news articles,  blames the victim for striking and getting lodged in the trailer in his first sentence.  Pushes a theory that stopping at a stop sign is good enough for establishing the driver properly yielded to oncoming traffic, after misstating the driver's path in his third sentence.  Emphasizes again that the bicyclist struck the trailer in the fourth sentence, while also claiming there is an eastside shoulder on an east-west road when that's just silly.  We also find out that the vehicle pulling the trailer left the scene, as if the vehicle is the entity that left the scene of the accident.

The press release of the MSP seems to have used language that absolve the driver of any fault for causing this death by pulling out in front of a lawful user of the road, a misdemeanor.  A prosecutor does not have to show intent in this case, only that the death was linked to a violation of the Michigan Vehicle Code.  The MSP seem to be looking only at the crime of driving away from the scene of an accident, something that may be problematical as it seems feasible that the driver may have been unaware that an accident happened-- even though his negligence caused the fatal accident. 

When MSP Trooper Chad Wolf appeared to have helped cause his own dragging death while riding on his motorcycle, MSP investigators went out of their way to try and prosecute a man they could not prove had violated any law, nor prove the driver knew that an accident happened behind him when it was dark out.  Here they have a clear violation causing death, but the victim isn't one of their own, so they write off the death as just an accident caused by a vehicle, not a living person who clearly violated the law and then may have left the scene of an accident. 

'Journalists' like Winter Keefer (seen below) should develop some sense of empathy with the victims and their families in these incidences and become the voice for the voiceless, but maybe she's just blinded by all her pride this month to think about anybody other than herself.

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Replies to This Discussion

Madison and Sixth is a two way stop with signs on Sixth St. only, there is no stop sign going north on Madison from Oxy, see picture below.  Except during OXYchem's shift change, Sixth Street has a lot more traffic than Madison at that point.  I think that a traffic study would show that the stop signs would be better placed on Madison than Sixth Street.  It's more of a T-intersection with what amounts to little more than a private drive heading south. 

FYI, I did a couple of informal traffic studies myself of that intersection in the past.


You are right! It is two-way stop on Sixth only. I like those stops that tell you "two-way" or "all-way" with a little sign under the stop. Itstill seems like a weird and dangerous intersection that one can make the turn coming down the hill going south on Madison while the guy has to sit on Sixth and wait.


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