Last week, my daughter’s 31 year old high school math teacher, Carolyn Girod, was struck and killed by a car while cycling in Washington. At the time, Girod was riding with her boyfriend on what is reported to be a fairly rural and straight stretch of road. According to the Washington State Patrol, the driver of the vehicle that caused the accident “was not paying attention and drifted onto the shoulder where the couple was biking.” The car hit the boyfriend, pushing him into Girod and pushing her into the active roadway. The boyfriend, who survived with minor injuries, was thrown into the embankment beside the road.
Needless to say, this is a tragedy and of a type that happens all too often. Cyclists are hit by cars frequently in the US. Many motorists refuse to recognize that in most states bicycles have the same rights on most roads that cars do. While cyclists certainly aren’t faultless in some instances, it’s the casual (or inebriated) tossing around of two tons of vehicle that’s usually found to be at fault.
Furthermore, it seems like there is little other than lip service being paid to fixing the problem. Signs posted here and there, rhetoric now and again (especially when an accident like this happens) and a new law passed, but not enforced, once in a while. This case is a perfect example, as reported in the article about accident:
“. . . the State Patrol rarely arrests drivers who are merely “inattentive” in their driving, “even if they kill someone” through their inattention.”
What? I’m not responsible for my lack of attention to my driving even if I kill someone? As a licensed driver of a vehicle, am I not responsible for all my actions behind the wheel? Isn’t attentiveness the responsibility of a driver? Geez, I don’t get it. As long as we don’t hold people responsible for their actions, we just condone their behavior.
The comments to the article even better represent the problem. Some comments predictably and incorrectly blame the cyclists. But more disturbingly, one woman sympathized with the driver saying something to the effect, “we all have fished around on the floor of our car searching for a flashlight or CD player.” Really? While moving? Once again, we show how a driver’s license is a right instead of a privilege in the US.