Hugh Pickens writes:
The Los Angeles Daily News reports that the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined to press charges against a sheriff’s deputy who fatally struck cyclist Milton Olin Jr. while he was apparently distracted by his mobile digital computer. “Wood entered the bicycle lane as a result of inattention caused by typing into his (Mobile Digital Computer),” according to the declination letter prepared by the Justice System Integrity Division of the District Attorney’s Office and released Wednesday. “He was responding to a deputy who was inquiring whether the fire investigation had been completed. Since Wood was acting within the course and scope of his duties when he began to type his response, under Vehicle Code section 23123.5, he acted lawfully.”
To establish the crime of vehicular manslaughter, prosecutors would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Wood was criminally negligent. While Wood was texting shortly before the collision, there was no evidence he was texting or doing anything else that would have distracted him at the time of the collision. Olin’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the county, the Sheriff’s Department and the deputy, alleging driver negligence and seeking to obtain more information about the incident. “Just because the law allows someone to do something while driving doesn’t mean they are allowed to do something unsafely while driving,” says Eric Bruins. “Hitting someone from behind is very clear evidence that whatever was going on in that car was not safe and should have been considered negligent.”
Update: A day after prosecutors declined to file charges against a distracted sheriff’s deputy who fatally struck a cyclist in Calabasas in December, an official with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department said it is launching its own administrative probe into the deputy’s behavior.
The first part of the system that needs fixing is the part that lets people who kill bicyclists by not pay attention to where they are piloting their multi-ton chunks of metal get off without being punished.
Sounds a bit like deathmatching on one of those instant-kick-for-your-first-teamkill servers when a teammate walks in front of you right as you try to snipe someone. BOTH parties should be aware of what's going on. If I was a biker, I would assume that at all times everyone around me is actively trying to kill me. Hell, I drive a car and I feel like that half the time anyway.
That being said, this cop was clearly at fault for not paying attention and wandering into the bike lane. After the bombardment of ads about not texting/talking while driving he really has no excuse at all.