1 dead, 1 injured after car hits bicyclists; riders were owners of Havasu bike store

Near spot of double-fatality outside of Lake Havasu City
Near spot of double-fatality outside of Lake Havasu City (photo dated Dec 2015). Closeup on shoulder and rumble strip; note the strip is continuous.

Wednesday, 7/1/2015, ~ 0705am; Lake Havasu City bicyclist Deborah Robison was killed and bicyclist Lawrence Smith was seriously injured when struck by a driver on SR-95 south, near SARA Park. [update: Smith died 7/5/2015 Second bicyclist dies after SR 95 collision in Lake Havasu City]

The nature of the road in that area is a  high-speed rural, not limited-access highway [ this guess as to location is the WRONG location: with one lane in each direction  sample on Google street view ] For the exact area of the collision, which is further out of town than I had guessed, see below in the Crash Report section which has details.

 

Updated fatality tracking scheme for azbikelaw: beginning with 2014, in addition to the fatality grid, each incident will have an article attached and linked in the grid and the article will be tagged with a year, e.g. this incident is tagged 2015-cyclist-fatality.

1 dead, 1 injured after car hits bicyclists; riders were owners of Havasu bike store
Today’s News-Herald | Updated 5 hours ago

A Lake Havasu City couple who was well known in the cycling community were identified as victims in a fatal collision on Wednesday morning on State Route 95.

Arizona Department of Public Safety officials said in a news release that a Lincoln passenger car driven by Erica Etten, 31, of Havasu, struck Deborah D. Robison, 60, and Lawrence F. Smith, 63, while they were biking south [the crash records say North] on the highway, causing them to lose control. The accident happened shortly after 7 a.m. near SARA Park, according to Lake Havasu City fire officials.

Robison was pronounced dead at the scene and Smith was flown to a Las Vegas hospital for treatment of serious injuries, DPS officials said. Etten was not injured in the crash.

Troopers with the Arizona Department of Public Safety are still investigating the crash, but they said they don’t believe impaired driving was a factor. Etten has not been charged in the incident… Smith and Robison, both avid cyclists, are the owners of AZBuilt Sports on Swanson Avenue.

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Crash Report

This is ADOT incident=2972937 (sorry, you won’t be able to click on that link). The database is consistent with the news reports except the news had the direction wrong. I will also point out the CollisionManner has been overridden, the crash report says REAR END (as would seem to make logical sense) but the database says OTHER; see #clouds for more on data fiddling / fudgery of this field.

There are specific measurements of all the travel lanes (about 12′ each) and shoulders. The northbound shoulder is paved, 7’4″ — though no mention of rumble strips (seems an odd omission). The cyclists were riding single file “along” the fog line. The rear-cyclist was using a powerful, daylight visible (the collision was 1 and 1/2 hours after sunrise) red flashing light. The witness, who was following just behind the involved-driver stated she saw the flashing lights for an estimated 1/2 to 1 mile away (and earlier estimated 1 to 2 miles away).

The driver swerved right, just as she was passing the cyclists; explained in her statement that “she reached for her cell phone charger at which time she struck the bicyclists… (she) said over and over that she never saw them”. That statement and the swerve is consistent with what she told the witness immediately after the collision.

Alcohol / drug impairment is not suspected.

Just some estimated calculations, the most conservative distance estimated by the witness, 1/2 mile, for seeing the flashing red light, at a closing speed of 45mph (65mph minus a guesstimated 20mph bicyclist speed) means 40 seconds went by where the driver, for whatever reason, failed to detect the bicyclists.

According to the report, the driver was cited (not sure exactly when? I would find it troubling if she was cited on the spot — infractions and potential charges for any serious collision should be thoroughly vetted) for the basic speed law, 28-701A; I’m not sure who, if anyone (especially, a prosecutor?) reviews these further. In terms of infractions, the enhanced penalty of 28-735 (possibly two count?), the three foot minimum passing law, should have (also) been cited.  Hypothetically, as an example where further review might turn up something else, had the cyclists been traveling on a shoulder when struck, for example, a failure to keep proper lane infraction could have applied, in which case the 28-672 misdemeanor charge should have been sought.

Edge-riding is not illegal, and the report did not suggest it was. Although edge-riding is not recommended, it’s not at all clear controlling the lane would have likely helped. It appears this may well have been massive driver inattention in the minutes before the crash coupled with driver-error (reaching for something inside the vehicle), with the cyclists being in the exact wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time.

Conversely, some will invariably say that had the cyclists been traveling on the shoulder; perhaps this collision would have been avoided… This is always a possibility and of course unprovable one way or the other. But conditions likely ruled out using the shoulder: Here is a google street view (dated 2012) of the spot where the collisions occurred. A better photo (dated Dec 2015) is at the top of this article, with a close-up of shoulder; showing the general conditions in the area at the time of the northbound lane (the right side of the photo), where the collision occurred. The (old style, by the way, no gaps) rumble strips are plainly evident, and note there were multiple overlays, making would-be travel conditions on the shoulder difficult. In other words the 7’4″ shoulder noted on the crash report as “free of any defects” have very little usable space. The cyclists were both experienced and intimately familiar with this road, its shoulder, and the surface conditions; they more than likely actively chose not to ride on the shoulder for good reasons.

Check out some references to “Looked but failed to see” (sometimes abbreviated LBFTS or LBFS) causation, here; also check out the somewhat related term Highway hypnosis. Had the driver, e.g., been sleeping the witness very likely would have noticed the driver “drifting” but no mention of that was made, only the sudden swerve. Another possibility would be a sleeping driver in a car with semi-automated driving technology of “lane keeping“; such a vehicle observed from behind by a witness would appear as normal — according to the wiki article, the Lincoln MKZ does have lane keeping but not until the 2013 model year; the car in the crash was a 2008.

Anyway,  below is the full narrative of the ACR, prepared by AZ DPS, with names other than the parties to the crash (whose names were in the news story) redacted, and some other commentary was added in [square brackets]:

INCIDENT DETAILS:
 THIS REPORT IS IN REFERENCE TO A VEHICLE VS TWO BICYCLIST COLLISION THAT OCCURRED ON 07-01·2015, AT APPROXIMATELY 0705 HOURS, ON NORTHBOUND SR95, AT APPROXIMATELY MP 171.1

INITIAL OBSERVATIONS:
 ON 07-01-2015, AT APPROXIMATELY 0705 HOURS, I WAS NOTIFIED BY FLAGSTAFF DISPATCH THAT A VEHICLE VS 2 BICYCLE COLLISION WITH A POSSIBLE FATALITY COLLISION OCCURRED. I RESPONDED TO THE COLLISION FROM I-40 MP 48, TROOPER [...] AND TROOPER [...] WERE THE
 FIRST TROOPERS TO ARRIVE ON SCENE AT 0725 HOURS.

WHEN I ARRIVED ON SCENE, I NOTED THE LOCATION TO BE SR 95 MP 171.1. I OBSERVED A WHITE PASSENGER CAR WITH RIGHT SIDE FRONT END DAMAGE PARKED ON THE NORTHBOUND EMERGENCY SHOULDER. THERE WAS BICYCLE DEBRIS IN THE DIRT TO THE EAST OF THE ROADWAY , AND THERE WAS A SUBJECT COVERED IN A YELLOW BLANKET TO THE EAST OF THE ROADWAY IN THE DIRT. ADOT WAS ON SCENE DIRECTING TRAFFIC, I SPOKE WITH OFFICER [...], WHO TOLD ME A MALE SUBJECT, WHO WAS IDENTIFIED AS LARRY SMITH, BY A SUBJECT THAT STOPPED ON SCENE, WAS TRANSPORTED TO LAKE HAVASU REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER PRIOR TO MY ARRIVAL [...] TOLD ME THE FEMALE SUBJECT WHO HAD NOT BEEN OFFICIALLY IDENTIFIED WAS DECEASED UPON ARRIVAL [...] TOLD ME THE DRIVER OF VEHICLE #1 WAS AN ERICA ETTEN WHO WAS STANDING BY. OFFICER D. SHED WAS OBTAINING A WITNESS STATEMENT FROM THE SOLE WITNESS OF THE COLLISION.

INVESTIGATION:

ENVIRONMENTAL AND ROAD FACTORS

SR 95 IS A HIGHWAY WHICH DOES NOT HAVE CONTROL LED ACCESS. THE LOCATION WHERE THE COLLISION OCCURRED, THERE ARE TWO LANES OF TRAVEL SOUTHBOUND DIVIDED BY A WHITE DASHED LINE, AND SOLID WHITE FOG LINE SEPARATING THE SOUTHBOUND LANES FROM THE EMERGENCY SHOULDER TO THE WEST, THERE IS ONE NORTH BOUND LANE DIVIDED FROM THE SOUTHBOUND LANES BY A SOLID DOUBLE YELLOW LINE, AND A SOLID WHITE LINE SEPARATING THE EMERGENCY SHOULDER TO THE EAST. THE WEST SIDE EMERGENCY SHOULDER IS APPROXIMATELY 8'4", THE #1 AND #2 SOUTHBOUND LANES ARE 12'0', THE #1 NORTHBOUND LANE IS 12'2",
 AND THE EAST EMERGENCY SHOULDER IS 7'4". THE ROADWAY AND SHOULDERS, ARE CONSTRUCTED OF ASPHALT AND APPEARED TO BE FREE OF ANY DEFECTS.
 [I would add: from what i can see in google maps/streetview, there appear to be rumble strips on both shoulders, about 1 to 2 feet into the shoulders]

THE WEATHER CONDITIONS AT THE TIME OF THE COLLISION WERE CLEAR AND SLIGHTLY BREEZY. THERE WAS A STORM EARLIER IN THE NIGHT, BUT THE ROADWAY WAS DRY.

VEHICLE INFORMATION :
TRAFFIC UNIT #1
VEHICLE ONE (V1) WAS A WHITE 2008 LINCOLN MKZ 4 DOOR SEDAN BEARING ARIZONA [...] WITH A VIN OF [...], REGISTERED TO AN ERICA ETTEN (D1) OF LAKE HAVASU CITY ARIZONA. ETTEN WAS IDENTIFIED AS THE DRIVER BY HER VALID ARIZONA LICENSE. ETTEN WAS THE SOLE OCCUPANT OF THE VEHICLE AT THE TIM E OF THE COLLISION. V1 SUSTAINED DAMAGE SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE TO THE RIGHT FRONT CORNER HEADLIGHT AREA AND RIGHT SIDE OF THE WINDSHIELD. V1 WAS REMOVED FROM THE SCENE BY A&G TOWING OF YUCCA ARIZONA.
D1 REPORTED NO INJURIES AT THE SCENE AND WAS GIVEN A RIDE TO HER RESIDENCE BY OFFICER [...].

TRAFFIC UNIT #2
VEHICLE TWO (V2) WAS A BLACK TREK ROAD BIKE. THE RIDER OF V2 WAS IDENTIFIED AS DEBORAH DAWN ROBISON (D2). D2 WAS IDENTIFIED FROM HER WORK WEBSITE, LICENSE PHOTOS OBTAINED FROM LAKE HAVASU CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT. V2 SUSTAINED SEVERE DAMAGE TO THE ENTIRE BICYCLE. V2 WAS TAKEN TO THE KINGMAN DPS OFFICE AND PLACED INTO PROPERTY.
D2 WAS WEARING A CYCLE HELMET AT THE TIME OF THE COLLISION. D1 [should be D2, D1 is the vehicle driver] SUSTAINED FATAL INJURIES DURING THE COLLISION. TWO MOTORISTS, [...], A SURGICAL TECHNICIAN AND DOCTOR [...] STOPPED TO ASSIST AND STARTED CPR ON D2, THEY WERE RELIEVED WHEN MEDICAL PERSONNEL ARRIVED ON SCENE. D1 [should be D2] WAS PRONOUNCED DECEASED AT THE SCENE BY MARTY PORT OF THE LAKE HAVASU FIRE DEPARTMENT WHO HAD BEEN IN CONTACT WITH THE LAKE HAVASU REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER AT 0728 HOURS.
NEXT OF KIN WAS MADE BY OFFICER [...] AT 1215 HOURS TO [...]

TRAFFIC UNIT #3
VEHICLE THREE (V3) WAS A BLACK TREK ROAD BIKE. THE RIDER OF V3 WAS IDENTIFIED AS LAWRENCE FRANK SMITH (D3), D3 WAS IDENTIFIED FROM AN UNKNOWN SUBJECT WHO STOPPED ON SCENE, HIS WORK WEBSITE, AND A LICENSE PHOTOS OBTAINED FROM LAKE HAVASU CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT.
V3 SUSTAINED SEVERE DAMAGE TO THE ENTIRE BICYCLE. V3 WAS TAKEN TO THE KINGMAN DPS OFFICE AND PLACED INTO PROPERTY.
D3 WAS WEARING A CYCLE HELMET AT THE TIME OF THE COLLISION. D3 SUSTAINED SEVERE INJURIES DURING THE COLLISION. D3 WAS TRANSPORTED TO LAKE HAVASU REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER BY RIVER MEDICAL. D3 WAS LATER FLOWN TO UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER WHERE HE WAS TREATED FOR HIS INJURIES. ON 07-04-20 15 AT 1014 HOURS D1 [should be D3] SUCCUMBED TO HIS INJURIES.
NEXT OF KIN WAS MADE BY THE UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER STAFF TO [...]

WITNESS INFORMATION :
[...] OF LAKE HAVASU CITY ARIZONA. WAS THE SOLE WITNESS TO THE COLLISION. ROSE PROVIDED A WRITTEN STATEMENT AND STATED THE FOLLOWING: SHE HAD BEEN TRAVELING BEHIND V1 SINCE PARKER AND WAS HEAD ING NORTH TOWARDS LAKE HAVASU CITY. THE WRITTEN STATEMENT ADVISED THAT SHE HAD BEEN TRAVELING AT APPROXIMATELY 55 MPH AND THAT SHE COULD SEE THE SUBJECTS ON THE BICYCLES ALONG WITH A FLASH ING RED LIGHT FOR 1-2 MILES PRIOR TO THE COLLISION . I SPOKE WITH [...] ON 07-02-2015 ASKING HER ABOUT THE COLLISION. SHE TOLD ME SHE WAS ABLE TO SEE THE BICYCLES FOR APPROXIMATELY 1/2 TO 1 MILE AND SHE AND V1 WHO WAS IN FRONT OF HER WERE TRAVELING AT APPROXIMATELY 65 MPH, [...] STATED THE BICYCLES WERE RIDING IN THE LANE OF TRAVEL AGAINST THE FOG LINE. AS V1 APPROACHED THE BICYCLES SHE WAS STILL ABLE TO SEE THE FLASHING LIGHT ON THE BICYCLE. SHE SAID V1 SWERVED TO THE RIGHT STRIKING BOTH OF THE BICYCLES. [...] TOLD ME D1 ADVISED HER, SHE HAD BEEN REACHING FOR HER CELL PHONE CHARGER AND NEVER SAW THE BICYCLISTS.

DRIVER STATEMENT:
THE DRIVER OF V1 ERICA ETTEN TOLD ME AT THE SCENE. SHE WAS NORTH BOUND ON SR95 COMING HOME FROM WORK IN PARKER. [Parker, AZ is ~ 30 miles away from the scene] SHE TOLD ME SHE NEVER SAW THE BICYC LISTS. AND SHE REACHED FOR HER CELL PHONE CHARGER AT WHICH TIME SHE STRUCK THE BICYCLISTS. I ASKED ETTEN HOW FAST SHE WAS TRAVELING, SHE TOLD ME 65MPH. ETTEN SAID OVER AND OVER THAT SHE NEVER SAW THEM.

INVESTIGATION:
BASED ON EVIDENCE AT THE SCENE. AND DRIVER/WITNESS STATEMENTS THE FOLLOWING OCCURRED. V1 WAS TRAVELING NORTHBOUND IN THE ONLY LANE OF TRAVEL. V2 AND V3 WERE RIDING ALONG THE WHITE FOG LINE IN THE NORTHBOUND LANE. V2 HAD A RED FLASHING LIGHT ON THE BACK OF THE BICYCLE. THE DRIVER OF V1 REACHED FOR AN OBJECT IN HER VEHICLE CAUSING V1 TO SWERVE TO THE RIGHT STRIKING V2 AND V3 . THE AREA OF IMPACT WAS INDICATED BY DEBRIS AND BICYCLE TIRE STRIATIONS ON THE FOG LINE TO THE NORTHBOUND LANE. THE DRIVERS OF V2 AND V3 WERE THROWN TO THE NORTH EAST OFF OF THEIR BICYCLES AND CAME TO REST IN THE DIRT NORTHEAST OF THE AREA OF IMPACT. BICYCLE DEBRIS WAS LOCATED IN THE ROADWAY AND TO THE NORTHEAST OF THE COLLISION.
ALL DEBRIS IN THE ROADWAY HAD BEEN REMOVED PRIOR TO LAW ENFORCEMENTS ARRIVAL. V1 CAME TO A CONTROLLED STOP TO THE NORTH OF THE COLLISION ON THE EMERGENCY SHOULDER.
DURING THE INVESTIGATION, D1 WAS ON SCENE FOR NEARLY 2 HOURS, DURING THIS TIME THERE WAS NO INDICATORS OF IMPAIRMENT BY ALCOHOL AND OR DRUGS DETECTED BY MYSELF OR OTHER OFFICERS ON SCENE.
D1 WAS CITED FOR (28-701A) SPEED NOT REASONABLE TO AVOID A COLLISION
I SPOKE WITH [...] A FRIEND OF D2 AND D3 WHO HAD STARTED THE CYCLE RIDE WITH D2 AND D3 THE MORNING OF THE COLLISION. [the friend] WAS CONTACTED AFTER CHECKING THE CYCLE SHOP OF D2 AN D D3 WHERE I WAS GIVEN HIS CONTACT INFORMATION. I MET WITH AT HIS PLACE OF RESIDENCE IN LAKE HAVASU CITY [he] WAS ABLE TO CONFIRM THE BICYCLES TO WHICH D2 AND D3 WERE RIDING AND TOLD ME D2 ALWAYS RODE IN THE BACK AND SHE HAD A RED FLASHING LIGHT TO THE REAR ON HER BICYCLE. [he] SAID D1 AND D2 HAD STARTED THEIR RIDE ON SR95 AT APPROXIMATELY 0615 HOURS. D2 AND D3 TURNED AROUND AT CATTAIL COVE TO HEAD HOME FOR WORK.
PHOTOGRAPHS WERE TAKEN BY OFFICER [...], AND MEASUREMENTS WERE TAKEN BY MYSELF AND SERGEANT [...] WHO WAS ON SCENE. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION SEE SUPPLEMENTAL REPORTS FROM OFFICER [...], OFFICER [...]. AND SERGEANT [...].

24 HOUR HISTORY:
ON 07-08-2015 SERGEANT FELLOWS AND I MET WITH THE FAMILY OF D3 IN LAKE HAVASU CITY. [...] I WAS TOLD THAT EVERY MORNING EXCEPT FOR SUNDAY THEY RIDE THEIR BICYCLES STARTING AT APPROXIMATELY 0600 AND THEN GO TO WORK AT THE CYCLE SHOP FROM 0900 TO 1700 HOURS . THIS WAS THE ROUTINE THE DAY PRIOR TO THE COLLISION AND WAS THE PLAN FOR THE DAY OF THE COLLISION. NO OTHER INFORMATION WAS ABLE TO BE GIVEN ABOUT THE DAY PRIOR TO THE COLLISION, LEADING UP TO THE MORNING OF TH E COLLISION.

 

Just a random factoid: Although the Lincoln MKZ is a relatively large car; its width including mirrors is only 7 feet (83.3 inches according to Lincoln)

Some Notes about Distraction and the updated Crash Form

The ACR was updated in 2014 with some additional fields and boxes. The footer of page 2 says “01-2704B1 R05/2014b”; previously and still widely in use “01-2704B R07/2010” (e.g. the Phoenix PD was still using the 2010 version in 2015).

In this particular crash, the crash form and database agree for the driver: OTHER_ACTIVITY_ELECTRONIC_DEVICE which is consistent with the narrative. In the database, both cyclists are listed as “UNKNOWN DISTRACTION” however unit #3 (the male cyclist) is additionally listed as “NOT DISTRACTED”. There is nothing in the narrative to suggest either of the cyclists were distracted, and is probably just the wrong box checked. It also doesn’t make sense to combine the two boxes, in other words it’s not possible to both have no distraction, and an unknown distraction.

Here is the list of new fields added with the 2014 updated version:

  • Incident table: Offset Direction , Secondary Crash Flag (The latter seems to not have a def’n?)
  • Unit table: Distracted Driving (code, and text description)

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Current ADOT rumble strip standard drawings.

Current pattern(s) along subject segment of AZ 95 predate these drawings:

M

M-22 (1/3)

Longitudinal Rumble Strip Groove, Pattern and Location Details

June 2014

M

M-22 (2/3)

Longitudinal Rumble Strip Exception Details

June 2014

M

M-22 (3/3)

Centerline Rumble Strip Groove, Pattern, And Location Details

June 2014

Source:  Signing and Marking Standard Drawings

Reaching for a cup of coffee

This April 14, 2017 crash along US 60 at milepost 136.1 (twitter: “Reaching for Cup of Coffee Leads to Horrific Crash“) where DPS said the at-fault driver was “reaching for a cup of coffee”, immediately reminded me of the double fatality in this article, where the at-fault driver was reaching for a cell-phone charger, causing a sudden swerve.

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