Price of a cyclist's life? $42 in Washington State

Teenage driver who killed cyclist after hitting him twice fined for 'unsafe lane change'… victim's family sue

by Tony Farrelly   October 17, 2011  

Broken bike (CC licensed image by garryknight,

The family of a cyclist killed in Washington state in July have filed a lawsuit against the teenage driver involved in the fatal incident after it emerged that he would not face criminal charges and had been fined just $42 for making an unsafe change of lane.

John Przychodzen, aged 49, nicknamed “Uncle Safety” by his cycling friends, had been riding to his brother’s house for dinner when he was struck from behind by a pick-up truck being driven by an unnamed 18-year-old male, reports Seattle-based KOMO News. During the fatal incident Mr Przychodzen who died at the scene, was struck not once, but twice by the driver as he was riding on the shoulder of the road (the equivalent of the hard shoulder in the UK) where he should have been protected from other vehicles on the road.

The family believe that the driver may have been texting on his mobile phone prior to the incident, but claim that police have not examined his service provider’s records to discover whether this was indeed the case. That is something they are seeking to find out through their civil action against the driver who will be required to explain on oath what he was doing at the time of the crash and why his account of what happened differs from those of so many of the witnesses to the incident.

"They don't understand how an innocent man can be killed by a driver ... and only get off with a $42 traffic ticket," explained lawyer Chris Davis, who is acting for the family. "It's incomprehensible to them," he added.

"He was riding on Juanita Drive NE in Kirkland. He was well within the shoulder. He was legally in an area where he was allowed to ride his bicycle."

According to Mr Davis, the victim was hit twice by the 18-year-old’s pick-up truck after the driver apparently misjudged a bend and veered onto the shoulder. Mr Przychodzen died from his injuries.

"The police claim that they've done a thorough investigation," Mr Davis continued. "They have determined that this accident does not rise to the level of criminal conduct or responsibility. In their view they do not believe this was a reckless collision which would warrant criminal charges."

"The police did not request or obtain the cell phone records, so I have no idea how the police could rule out that this driver was not using a cell phone at the time of the crash," he went on.

He added: "We intend to subpoena the driver's cell phone records to find out whether or not he was actually using the cell phone. We've spoken to several witnesses who saw what happened."

Mr Davies maintained that in his experience, the incident was in line with the driver having used a cellphone while at the wheel, and said: “This lawsuit really is about the Przychodzen family wanting to know the truth."

He revealed that the victim’s family was "dumbfounded, shocked and angry" that the only action the police had taken was to issue the $42 ticket.

9 user comments

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Very disturbing...and terribly sad. Just, WRONG

Joe Mizereck
"3 Feet Please" Campaign

joemizereck's picture

posted by joemizereck [17 posts]
17th October 2011 - 18:58

1 Like

Wrong wrong wrong

so unfit, I'm not even fit for nothing!

posted by Izaak30 [117 posts]
17th October 2011 - 19:14

1 Like

I am surprised the judge did not say he contributed to his own death beause he was cycling on the road. Just goes to prove the value of a cyclists life is the same all over the world - I hope this family successfully sues this guy and the police department for nigligence.

posted by pato779 [6 posts]
17th October 2011 - 20:42

1 Like

sadly the case never even got to a judge pato779, although you're right human nature is the same the world over, reading through the comments on the KOMO News website while the vast majority abhor what happened there are a few who do say that it was the victim's fault for being on the road… just like over here then.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4201 posts]
17th October 2011 - 21:03


So if a man is killed by someone in a ton plus of metal driving unsafely it is not "reckless"? What is it then, just a bit of bad luck. Sickening. RIP.

whizz kid

posted by whizzkid [76 posts]
18th October 2011 - 22:29


I also just noticed the 18 year old male was unnamed. I can think of a few......

whizz kid

posted by whizzkid [76 posts]
18th October 2011 - 22:31


Angry This is sickening. In Honolulu the police will ticket pedestrians who cross just the second the cross sign starts blinking (the "yellow" light signal) yet ignore drivers taxiing up to 30 mph through RED lights to make right turns. It is truly a sad situation.

posted by Kim Chee [30 posts]
19th October 2011 - 2:28

1 Like

Disgusting, how is this justice in any way?

posted by Karbon Kev [683 posts]
19th October 2011 - 9:12


What excatly would need to have happened for the Police to investigate this properly. Someone was killed FFS?!?!?!?
I'd be willing to bet if this accident involved 2 motor vehicles and the occupants of one ended up being killed the driver of the other vehicle would be looking at a rather lengthily stay in prison by now.....

My thoughts are with the family, lets just hope their lawsuit brings them the answers they are looking for.

posted by bassjunkieuk [32 posts]
10th November 2011 - 17:27