In April 2013, a world-class athlete was commuting to work by bicycle in King George County, Virginia. Following all the riding rules, he had a helmet, was visible, and was keeping to the right. Nonetheless, a woman driving a Crown Victoria hit him.
Because this athlete was in superb physical condition, he survived the accident. However, since that day he has been in a coma and has been moved to long term care.
Last week, the woman who nearly killed him faced the traffic court judge. Despite the police officer's very able testimony and photos, and despite the testimony of a witness, the woman who ruined the athlete's life received 10 days in jail (suspended), and $250 fine.
The officer testified that at the scene she admitted she hit him. Yet, she pled "not guilty". Further, the officer testified that he asked for her cell phone and verified that at the time of the accident she had sent a text.
Here's where it gets really disheartening.
The prosecutor subpoenaed the cell phone records. The records for April were erased. The prosecutor did not follow through to subpoena those records from the woman's service provider, which would have corroborated the police officer's testimony, and made it possible to pursue a more serious charge.
My friend, who was a teammate of this athlete in Adventure Racing, was at the hearing and reported that at best, the prosecutor seemed unprepared. As a former prosecutor, I listened to the description and thought "incompetent." The athlete's parents came down from Buffalo, NY to observe this travesty of justice. The woman who nearly killed their son, and might as well have done so, never spoke to them, never expressed any sadness or remorse. She just paid her fine and left.
So, world class athlete Scott Pleban lies in the twilight of life for however long his body continues. Ironically, at the time he was hit by this selfish, incompetent, texting driver, he was a cover story for Orienteering North America (May/June 2013), skiing for the US at the World Championships in Kazakhstan.
When will local jurisdictions -- from police officers, to prosecutors, to judges, take injury to bicyclists seriously and prosecute as if it matters?