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  1. #1
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    More Bike News

    High court overturns decision Mass. woman allegedly hit cyclist while using GPS
    By JAIME CONE / Reformer Staff


    Tuesday August 24, 2010
    BRATTLEBORO VT-- In the case of a 19-year-old Massachusetts woman who hit a 71-year-old bicyclist while allegedly checking her GPS for a place to eat, The Vermont Supreme Court ordered that a charge of grossly negligent operation be reinstated.

    According to court documents, witnesses saw the vehicle of Cherish Carlin, now 20, strike Bradford Greene, of Dummerston, from behind while he was riding his bicycle between the fog line and the edge of the roadway on Route 5 in Dummerston.

    The accident took place the morning of April 18, 2009. Greene sustained life-threatening injuries, including severe head trauma.

    Carlin was charged with several offenses including careless or negligent vehicle operation and reckless endangerment.

    The most serious charge against her was gross negligent operation resulting in serious injury, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $15,000 fine. On Aug. 10, Judge Karen Carroll granted the defense’s motion to dismiss that charge; on Dec. 18, Judge Katherine Hayes upheld Carroll’s decision.

    After the charge was dismissed by the Windham Criminal Division of the Vermont Superior Court, the Windham County State’s Attorney’s Office appealed to the Vermont Supreme Court in Montpelier.

    On June 23, Carlin’s attorney, Theodore Kramer, of Kramer Law Office, P.C., in Brattleboro, argued in front of five supreme court judges that the court made the right
    decision by dropping the charge. His client’s two seconds of inattention from the road did not, in this case, constitute "gross negligence," or "a failure to exercise even a slight degree of care," he said.

    But David Tartter, representing the State’s Attorney’s office, ultimately won the argument. The Supreme Court decision was announced Monday; the court reversed the dismissal of the charge of grossly negligent operation, explaining in its written decision that there are many more facts to take under consideration aside from the amount of time Carlin diverted her attention from the road.

    "Although this is a close case, the State presented more evidence in support of the gross negligence charge than (Carlin’s) two seconds of inattention," the decision states.

    "(Carlin) was driving on a straight stretch of road in which the bicyclist would have been clearly visible prior to the accident," it continued.

    The charge will be sent back to criminal court in Windham County, where Carlin will potentially face a jury trial, as the supreme court found that under the circumstances a jury could conclude that Carlin’s decision to take her eyes off the road at such a crucial moment amounted to gross negligence.

    "It is precisely in close and fact-dependent cases such as this one where the jury, and not the trial court judge, is in the best position to weigh the facts and render a decision," the court’s decision states.

  2. #2
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    I see both sides of that. It was (I think) clearly an accident. Sucks for everybody. Being distracted while driving is a horrible mistake to make, but I don't feel as strongly as I would if she was high or something.

    also weird that it was the 19 year old driver hitting the 71 year old cyclist. You'd think it would be the opposite in most cases.
    You have no excuse for driving to work
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  3. #3
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    Nope, this was the right call -- using a GPS to find a restaurant first of all, and being so engrossed in that that you hit a cyclist?

    There is such a thing as pulling over to look fro your next friggin' meal.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CommuterBoy
    I see both sides of that. It was (I think) clearly an accident. Sucks for everybody. Being distracted while driving is a horrible mistake to make, but I don't feel as strongly as I would if she was high or something.

    also weird that it was the 19 year old driver hitting the 71 year old cyclist. You'd think it would be the opposite in most cases.

    I wonder what tunes the old guy was listening to.

  5. #5
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    touche
    You have no excuse for driving to work
    (unless you don't have studded tires)
    (no excuse for that either)

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    As I recall the driver was so distracted that she hit him with the left front bumper of her car, not the right, so it was not just a little swerve.

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    Wow, that's a seriously distracted driver. Don't those GPS things talk to you? What was she doing?
    You have no excuse for driving to work
    (unless you don't have studded tires)
    (no excuse for that either)

  8. #8
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    Whoa- the LEFT bumper rolling over the fog line? It takes some time to get that far off track. Surprised her GPS didn`t tell her to renavigate, too.

    Life threatening injuries? MtbX, do you know how it turned out for the rider?
    Recalculating....

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtbxplorer
    As I recall the driver was so distracted that she hit him with the left front bumper of her car, not the right, so it was not just a little swerve.

    So you're saying that not listening to music wouldn't have helped the cyclist at all, right?
    You have no excuse for driving to work
    (unless you don't have studded tires)
    (no excuse for that either)

  10. #10
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    Initial reports just said critical, but his wife testified at the legislature recently on the texting ban bill. From an article about that it sounds pretty bad:
    Omitted from the bill, he said, will be a broader ban requested during the most emotional testimony of the day. Eva Greene, a Dummerston woman, recounted the horrifying injuries her husband suffered while cycling along Route 5 in southern Vermont.

    Bradford Greene, according to police documents, was struck from behind after a woman driving the vehicle became distracted by her handheld electronic device. Greene urged lawmakers to push for more expansive legislation that would ban the use of any handheld electronic device by a driver.

    "What you're doing takes a lot courage, but I'm going to ask you to go step further," Greene said. "It's going to be difficult, but I ask you to be courageous and go further than just a ban on texting while driving."

  11. #11
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    If a state (or town, or the whole coutry, for that matter) goes as far as banning one kind of toys, it does make sense to ban them all. Banning text messaging or phones without banning GPS or whatever else is out there or on the way makes about as much sense as banning Marlboros in restaurants.
    Recalculating....

  12. #12
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    Maybe he was listening to "On the Road Again" by Willie Nelson, or "Bicycle Race" by Queen, "She'll have Fun (Until Daddy Takes her T-Bird Away)" by the Beach Boys, part of a his play list of tunes labeled "Suitable listening for being hit while riding a bike in Vermont on Route 5".

    I can relate to the cyclist all too well. I can testify to the fact that a vehicle you have seen/heard is about to overtake you doing 40-50 mph higher speed, suddenly crosses the rumble strip between you and the fog line, you don't have time to do squat if they are alongside or just behind. (Think: Rumble.. S**T!..Thunk, Splat.) If they have stayed in their lane as they approach like they are in control of the vehicle, you suspect nothing. The drivers behind this truck and trailer who would witness a side swipe, so argue against it being purposeful, so I think it was a similar distraction as the GPS. Maybe lighting a Marlboro because they couldn't smoke in the restaurant? The idea that it is bad timing to do something that might affect vehicular control like hands off the steering wheel when right beside/immediately behind a cyclist is common sense that isn't common enough. I'll never know if he got it hauled back in time because of my lights and vest, or the rumble vibration, the passenger screaming, or angelic intervention. Given the above incident, we were both just darn lucky he got if back on course and I was over further right and coming back when I checked over my shoulder. The trailer had about 16 tons of round bales on it: talk about your haymakers! - road pizza time. How ignominious would that be? Steam rollered by a load of cattle fodder destined to be...

    Returning to the topic at hand,: It is all pretty sad, with the cyclist's survival keeping it from being worse. Other than hanging up the bike, there isn't much you can do.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by CommuterBoy
    Don't those GPS things talk to you? ...
    Yup. And usually the first thing they do is tell you not to operate them while driving!

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