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California driver's sobriety during crash did not lower charge

Motorcyclists are aware they are among a group of road users, like bicyclists and pedestrians, most vulnerable to crash injuries. Most vehicles on California roads are bigger than motorcycles and, by far, outweigh them. Bike riders also lack the protective shell cars and trucks offer, which increases the risk and severity of damages.

A 22-year-old female driver lost control of a Dodge Durango in October on an East County Road. The woman was not impaired, but witnesses said the SUV was racing along at a speed well above the posted 5 -mph limit. One of the drivers who noticed the Durango was a Border Patrol agent, who passed the vehicle and turned around after seeing evidence of a crash.

The witness and, later, an investigating officer from the California Highway Patrol, testified at a reduction of charges hearing. The driver was hysterical and distraught. The driver admitted she had been driving fast and lost control after the SUV's wheels struck dirt alongside the road. The Durango swerved into oncoming traffic and collided with a motorcycle.

A 37-year-old U.S. Forest Service firefighter was riding the bike the SUV hit. The man died at the crash site from multiple broken bones and lacerated organs. Accident reconstruction crews confirmed the Durango's speed was 73 mph just before the motorcycle accident.

A judge denied a defense request to reduce a felony charge of gross vehicular manslaughter, punishable by a potential six-year prison term, to a misdemeanor. The defense argued the driver had not been intoxicated and that her actions did not qualify as gross negligence. The prosecutor said the driver purposely ignored multiple signs along the winding highway cautioning drivers to slow down and use care.

Negligent and reckless drivers can be held accountable for motorcycle accident injuries and deaths in criminal and civil courts. Plaintiffs may receive settlements or damage awards for losses created by a defendant's disregard for safety.

Source: U-T San Diego, "Trial ordered for woman in head-on crash" Dana Littlefield, Mar. 21, 201 

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