[Update: on 9/1/2010 the driver was cited Case Number: M-1442-TR-201001097, Somerton Municipal Court]
Cyclist Doug Flynn was killed, and at least one more rider injured, in a head-on collision last year (Sept 24, 2009) by a driver trying to pass a large farm tractor on a two lane roadway.
[for a line-item on each fatality since 2009; follow this link]
A tribute to Doug posted on the YBC’s website reads “Yuma Bike Club is shocked and saddened by the tragic loss of our founder, friend, and competitor, Doug Flynn, who was struck down in a horrific accident while on the club ride the morning of September 24th. He was a very, very good man, husband, and father”
According to an article in the Yuma Sun, Someton police spokesman “…said the vehicle, driven by a 25-year-old Somerton woman, tried to pass a tractor pulling a farm implement in a legal passing zone.”
I believe this is the approximate location of the collision [google maps], apparently Madison Street is the same as W County 15th St. The cyclists were westbound approaching Somerton Avenue.
The collision occurred in Somerton in the 300 block of E Madison Street, Somerton, AZ. The investigation was conducted by the Somerton Police Department. I obtained a copy of the report; the report and investigation appears to be of good quality.
A warrant was obtained to do a blood draw on the driver, though no impairment was suspected. Ultimately the Yuma County Prosecutor declined to press criminal charges based on negative blood test results and on 2/24/2009 the case was closed by SPD. (so, 5 months, which is probably about average).
The mechanics of the collision appear to be beyond dispute — The driver of an eastbound car was following a large farm implement and decided to pass. Soon after she entered the oncoming lane she collided with one or more westbound cyclists. From the report:
“[the driver]stated that there was a right to pass and so she did. [she] stated that while she was attempting to pass the tractor that the glare from the sunlight began to get in her face but that she did not see anyone. [She] stated that as she was passing in the left lane she began to press on the gas pedal when she saw the bicyclist (Flynn) right in front of her.”
Under section 19 of the Arizona Crash Report, “violation/behavior” the investigating officer (correctly, and consistent with the narrative) noted that the cyclist was “no improper action” and the motorist was “other unsafe passing”.
Somerton police have inexplicably declined to cite the driver, despite what appears to me to be readily apparent evidence that she is responsible for violating some civil traffic law. There is a one-year time limit to file a civil traffic citation (§28-1592), Doug was killed on 9/24/2009, and I began contacting Somerton PD in mid-July 2010. [Update: on 9/1/2010 the driver was cited Case Number: M-1442-TR-201001097, Somerton Municipal Court]:
§28-725. Limitations on overtaking on the left
A person shall not drive a vehicle to the left side of the center of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction unless the left side is clearly visible and is free of oncoming traffic for a sufficient distance ahead to permit the overtaking and passing to be completed without interfering with the safe operation of any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction or any vehicle overtaken. The overtaking vehicle shall return to the right-hand side of the roadway before coming within one hundred feet of any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction.
Sun glare — I couldn’t find sunrise tables for Yuma, but in Phoenix that day sunrise would have been at 6:18a. The collision occurred at 6:40a, thus it was not nighttime. Sun glare was undoubtedly a factor, but it does not relieve anyone of their responsibilities.
In crash analysis literature this is referred to as LBFS (or LBFTS), “looked but failed to see“, causation. Defined as “the involved road users having looked in the appropriate direction(s) but failed to see the person or vehicle with whom/which they collided”, from e.g. this British Dept. for Transport study.
If the driver was so blinded by the sun glare; she obviously could not tell whether or not the left side was “clearly visible” (as it was clearly not), and she obviously, as is self-evident from the tragic outcome, “interfered with the safe operation” of oncoming traffic.
If illegal passing isn’t indicated for some reason that I am not appreciating, Arizona’s basic speed law is very broad:
§28-701. Reasonable and prudent speed; prima facie evidence; exceptions
A. A person shall not drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the circumstances, conditions and actual and potential hazards then existing. A person shall control the speed of a vehicle as necessary to avoid colliding with any object, person, vehicle or other conveyance on, entering or adjacent to the highway in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of all persons to exercise reasonable care for the protection of others.
The driver obviously did not control her speed, since she could not avoid colliding.
“The driving of an automobile at such a speed that motorist cannot stop his automobile within range of his vision is negligence as a matter of law.” Campbell v. English (1941) 56 Ariz. 549, 110 P.2d 219. “We affirm that rule as the correct and salutary law of the road. An automobile in motion may be a most powerful instrumentality of destruction to life and property, and one using it must do so in such a manner that he can control its actions within the limits of his vision.”
The driver of the tractor did not stop. It is not clear if that is because he was unaware or just what; furthermore, the police report makes no mention of this. It seems like he would not have been hard to locate. Weird.
In any event, it appears the tractor was not (directly) involved in the collision, so would have no duty to stop, that is to say there was no hit-and-run; or at least from what I make of it.
Another sun-glare obscured vision death in OH
Ohio bike lawyer Steve Magas notes this 2018 low-angle sun combined with an excessively fogged windshield led to a plea of guilty to (misdemeanor) vehicular homicide. See Hudson man pleads guilty in Stow bicyclist’s death . Steve writes: “As the Police Chief notes in the story Ohio law REQUIRES YOU TO STOP IF YOUR VISION IS IMPAIRED. You don’t just go tootling down the road while blind. You pull over and fix it – or wait it out – NOW.”
Another sun-glare obscured vision death in ME:
Assured Clear Distance Ahead
Always a good idea; basic speed law, or sometimes referred to as…
… Assured Clear Distance Ahead (ACDA) is a legal term which refers to the distance ahead of any [vehicle driver], within which they should be able to bring the device to a halt. It is one of the most fundamental principles governing ordinary care and the duty of care for all methods of conveyance, and is frequently used to determine if a driver is in proper control and is a nearly universally implicit consideration in vehicular accident liability — wiki