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Distracted Driving Accident in Knoxville Seriously Injures Local Competitive Bicyclist

The life of a local competitive bicycle racer completely changed on day after a speeding vehicle, traveling on Foothills Parkway, collided with the his left leg and sent him 50 feet through the air, according to Knox News. The rider suffered a number of fractures from the Knoxville bicycling accident. He doesn’t know if he’ll ever be able to ride again.

Our Tennessee injury attorneys believe that the punishments for these types of accidents are not often tough enough. Currently, the most severe punishment that a driver faces for injuring a bicyclist is a Class C misdemeanor. This is really only for violating a state law that says that motorists must give cyclists a safe passing zone of at least three feet on all roadways. The penalties for a Class C misdemeanor in this case are merely a $50 fine and 30 days behind bars.

But that’s not the case for much longer. A stricter statewide law will be taking effect that will make these incidents a class A misdemeanor. The amended law, sponsored by Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, and Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, would make the penalty for distracted driving accidents that result in bicyclist or pedestrian injury a maximum of a year in jail, a $500 fine and revocation of a driver’s license.

“We’re trying to make sure rules of road apply to everyone whether on a bicycle or in a vehicle,” Berke said.

Accidents that seriously injure or kill a bicyclist or a pedestrian could mean jail time six months, revocation of the violator’s driver’s license for up to six months and a $250 fine. It’s at least a start.

The law was first drafted back in February by Bike Walk Tennessee, a statewide organization advocating for bicyclist and pedestrian rights. The organization started drafting the law after discovering a number of reports of bicyclists and pedestrians who were killed by drivers.

“We’ve seen people get run over and killed with no consequences. This law brings criminal consequences and increases the possibility of having a civil lawsuit as well,” said Caroline Cooley, a Knoxville member of the board of directors for Bike Walk Tennessee.

The law aims to tackle a common excuse of vehicular homicide: “I didn’t see you.”

“I didn’t see you means I took the driver’s course and got my driver’s license but I didn’t understand what the ramifications of getting behind the wheel could really mean,” says Competitive Knoxville bicycle racer Steve Hancock.

After the accident, Hancock spent more than a month in the hospital undergoing physical therapy. He moved back to South Knoxville in June. He spends most of his time in a wheelchair now.

Distraction.gov reports that nearly 5,500 people were killed in the United States in 2009 because of accidents that involved a distracted driver. Another 448,000 people were injured in these incidents. Nearly 20 percent of these accidents reported the use of a cell phone as the main contributor to driver distraction. Motorists who use hand-held devices behind the wheel are four times as likely to get into an accident that causes serious injury.

“Distracted driving is a huge issue these days as we have more and more electronic devices taking up our lives. Motorists need to understand this,” said Kelley Segars, Metropolitan Planning Commission’s bicycling coordinator.

If you or a loved one is injured or killed in a bicycle or pedestrian accident in Tennessee, contact Knoxville Accident Attorney Mark Hartsoe for a confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call (877) 472-5657.

Additional Resources:

The laws of motion: Drivers to face stricter penalties for striking bicyclists, pedestrians, by Suzanna McCloskey, Knox News

More Blog Entries:

Increase in Fatal Car Accidents in Tennessee includes more Fatal Pedestrian Accidents, Tennessee Injury Attorney Blog, February 11, 2011

Pedestrian Accidents a Common Danger in Knoxville and Maryville, Tennessee Injury Attorney Blog, January 8, 2011

Knoxville Car Accidents, Tennessee Pedestrian Accidents a Risk With Early Darkness, Tennessee Injury Attorney Blog, November 13, 2010

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