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Sleeping California driver strikes and kills rider in bike lane

Truck driver fatigue is a common issue among commercial vehicle operators, but tiredness can affect any driver. Driver alertness is compromised when you rush out the door half-awake or drive home after a long work day. Sometimes fatigue is linked to a health issue or intoxication. An inattentive driver is a dangerous one for other motorists, bike riders and pedestrians.

Police in Santa Cruz said a driver who fell asleep was responsible for a bicycle accident that cost the rider his life. Witnesses told the California Highway Patrol the driver appeared to be texting before the fatal bike crash. Troopers later learned the 63-year-old driver operator was asleep when his car crossed over into an oncoming traffic lane.

The car went up and down an embankment on Highway 1 before settling on a straight course along a wide, designated bike lane. The vehicle struck and killed a 40-year-old bicyclist, a member of a group of riders spread out along different areas of the road. None of the other bicyclists saw the accident take place.

Police determined the driver had not been under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The man was not arrested, although troopers said charges were being considered.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports hundreds of cyclists die each year in vehicle accidents across the U.S.; tens of thousands of other riders suffer injuries. Seventy percent of bicyclists' deaths in 2008 accidents were due to head injuries. Bicycle crashes make up a small proportion of nationwide traffic deaths, but the injury rate is high because bicyclists - even with protective gear - are vulnerable to mistakes made by car and truck drivers.

Driver inattentiveness and tiredness are preventable conditions. A fatigued motorist may be accountable for accident injuries and deaths in criminal court, as well as civil court, where a defendant's negligence determines whether victims receive damage awards.

Source: santacruzsentinel.com, "CHP: Dozing driver struck, killed bicyclist north of Santa Cruz" Stephen Baxter, Nov. 04, 2013 

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