Cyclists' accidents spark debate over criminal chargesPosted: Updated:
MESA, Ariz -- We hear the horror stories all too often. A car plows into a cyclist and the driver pays only a fine. Now, one Valley cyclist who's learning how to walk again after being hit wonders why these accidents aren't considered crimes. And he's not alone.
An avid runner and cyclist, Brent Holderman is well aware of the risks associated with training.
"It's always something that's in the back of your mind, that hey, I'm out here and I really hope these people can see me, are paying attention and know that I'm here," Holderman said.
But in April while biking with two friends, Holderman's biggest fear came true.
"We were just riding and everything went black," he said. "No screeching of tires, no horns, no nothing, it was just instant impact."
"The nurse called and said he was there and his friends were there, too, so I knew right away they were hit by a car," Holderman's wife, Sandi, remembers. "'All I can tell you is he's alive and he's awake,' so that's all I knew."
The husband and father of two was lucky he survived. But his injuries were extensive.
"The doctor came in and said, 'OK you've got broken bones in your neck, your back, your ribs and four bones in your pelvis,' and I just couldn't believe it," Holderman said.
According to a Maricopa County Sheriff's Office report, a woman driving her white SUV along McDowell Road had become distracted while trying to operate her GPS.
Sterling Baer advocates for victims through his organization Not One More Cyclist Foundation.
"The woman almost hit a couple that were walking their dog before she actually hit the three cyclists," Baer said. "So she was distracted not once but twice."
Baer believes laws need to be tougher and criminal penalties imposed.
"If you don't make something stiff enough then behavior won't change," Baer said.
MCSO cited the driver for an unsafe lane change and three counts of causing serious injury, which are misdemeanor offenses. Whether or not that results in jail time remains to be seen. Just weeks before Holderman's accident, another cyclist riding in Scottsdale, Shawn McCarty, was killed. The driver reportedly only paid a fine.
"It's a travesty," Baer said. "It sickens me personally."
"Should it be classified as a criminal offense? You know, I think maybe it should," Holderman said.
It's been nearly three months since Holderman's accident. His road rash is still healing. As far as managing his pain, he's taking medications every few hours. Holderman's physical recovery has been grueling. Lifting weights are also part of the daily routine. While he focuses on taking one step at a time. Whether or not he'll get back on a bike is still undetermined.
"Will I be able to win that mental battle, you know, and will I be able to get back on a bike and brave the traffic again and try to put my trust in the general public again?" Holderman asked. "I just, I don't know, I just think that's something time will just tell."
MCSO finished its report this week. It's now up to the court to review the case and determine if it will pursue criminal charges.
For information about Not One More Cyclist, visit http://notonemorecyclist.com.