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.
Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning road.cc - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.