Distracted Driver Mows Down Tandem Team in Illinois… (Follow-Up)

With a tip of the hat to our friend John (of John & Sonya) who pointed out the article to me via an Email today…

Here’s the first follow-up I’ve seen since the news coverage that followed the March 7th incident where Errol Maul mowed down and killed 53-year old Cindy Combs and put her 51-year old husband David in the hospital where his condition has improved from critical to fair condition (photo below).

As you can see in some of the highlighted sections of the article, Illinois Attorney General, there have been efforts made to stiffen penalties where motorists involved fatalities result from cite-able traffic offenses and it’s noteworthy that local authorities did, in fact, cite Maul for traffic offenses which opens the door for a possible revocation of his driver’s license.

Baby steps, to be sure, which flies in the face of the steady increase in distracted driving incidents. Negligence laws for motorists are the missing piece given how well-defined reckless-driving is.

Again, a very sobering incident for us.

Driver enters plea in fatal bicycle collision

Mon, 04/18/2011 – 12:00pm | Mary Schenk
URBANA — A rural Tolono man who hit a Champaign couple on a tandem bike, killing a woman, has pleaded guilty to two petty traffic offenses.

Errol Maul, 31, pleaded guilty Monday morning in Champaign County Circuit Court to failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident and to unsafe overtaking of a bicycle.

He was fined $1,000 for each of the offenses, the maximum penalty he could have received.

The pleas came in connection with the March 7 accident that claimed the life of Cindy Combs, 53, and critically injured her husband David Combs, 51. The accident happened at about 4:30 p.m. on County Road 500 E near 1800 N, north of Bondville.

State’s Attorney Julia Rietz said a crash reconstruction specialist determined that Maul was driving 56 mph in a 55-mph zone when he hit the Combs’ tandem bicycle from behind.

“There is no bike lane or shoulder. They were about three feet into the roadway,” Rietz said. “Maul reported that he looked over at paperwork on his passenger seat, looked up and saw the bicycle and tried to stop but was unable to in time to avoid hitting them.”

Mrs. Combs was pronounced dead at the scene. Mr. Combs was listed in fair condition Monday at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana.

Rietz said she recently added the count involving unsafe overtaking because “I thought it was a better charge.”

Reitzs said she had received several emails from concerned citizens about the accident. “Sheriff Dan Walsh and I and Rep. Chapin Rose and Sen. Mike Frerichs met with some local members of the bicycling community and Ed Barsotti, head of the (League of Illinois Bicyclists), on Friday. The conversation centered around legislation regarding options for prosecuting traffic fatalities, including crashes involving vulnerable users of the roadway, especially bicyclists and pedestrians.”

Rietz said she has worked with Barsotti in the past on legislation to try to enact a negligent vehicular homicide bill that did not pass.

“Friday, we discussed a new law that was passed that focuses on bicyclists but continues to require proof of recklessness on the part of the vehicle driver. The sheriff and I explained we did not have proof of recklessness here,” Rietz said.

Under a new law effective Jan. 1 concerning conviction for traffic offenses that result in death, the Secretary of State could revoke Maul’s license, Rietz said. The Champaign County Circuit Clerk’s office will have to send the necessary paperwork to Jesse White’s office to get that done, she said.

Rietz said Maul had no prior convictions, including traffic. An earlier report indicated Maul may have been looking at a map, but he got a map out after the accident to determine and report his location, Rietz said.

Maul’s plea had been negotiated by attorney Robert Kirchner, who died on Sunday, and Assistant State’s Attorney Sam Rosenberg. Kirchner’s associate, Ruth Wyman, appeared on Monday with Maul.


About TG

I've been around a bit and done a few things, have a couple kids and a few grandkids. I tend to be curmudgeonly, matter-of-fact and not predisposed to self-serving chit-chat. Thankfully, my wife's as nice as can be otherwise we'd have no friends. My interests are somewhat eclectic, but whose aren't?
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3 Responses to Distracted Driver Mows Down Tandem Team in Illinois… (Follow-Up)

  1. Allen says:

    Sad. No matter what precautions we take, it can happen at any moment. Let’s be careful out there.

  2. MSRW says:

    The conventional wisdom is that a bicycle getting rear ended by a car is highly unlikely; however, this seems to be happening more and more, as the use of cell phones–and worse–texting while driving are becoming more prevelant.

    A few years ago, my wife and I discovered by accident that a daylight visible, flashing red tail light dramatically reduced the incidents of near misses, annoyed drivers etc when we were riding. I think we’re at an inflection point in riding in which it makes sense for bicyclists to make use of some device like this when riding during the day, as a means to catch the attention of distracted motorists.

    There are only a few truly daylight visible tail lights on the market. The best–and most expensive–is the Dinotte. We have Dinottes permanently mounted on the rear of all our bikes. The Niterider is also fairly good, but isn’t waterproof, and has a very heavy, proprietary battery. The Planet Bike turbo is ok, but less bright and the batteries don’t last more than a couple of hours, whereas the Dinotte with the 4 AA battery pack, lasts about 10-12 hours in flashing mode.

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