Looking at Fatal Bicycle Accidents and Remembering a Horrific Crash

Bicycling is a wonderful activity, one that can be a hobby, a mode of transportation, and a fitness activity all at once. Bicycling is also a great "green" choice that helps protect the environment, both locally and globally. We applaud people who choose two wheels over four. Unfortunately, all too often drivers fail to stay alert on the roadway and either fail to see riders or fail to respect a bicyclist's right to be on the roadway by infringing on their space. When bicycle fatalities occur in Northwest Florida, our Panama City bicycle accident lawyer is proud to help the families of the fallen riders seek needed monetary compensation in civil court. We also hope these claims wake up those drivers who aren't committed to safety as its own goal, prompting them to start sharing the road with bicyclists and keeping all travelers safe.

Driver Who Hit and Killed Bicycle Rider Back in Court

A probation violation has put the driver responsible for one of the more disturbing bicycle fatalities in recent memory back in the news. WJGH recently reported that probation officials ordered 38-year-old Leona Miller to return to court late last week for a probation violation hearing. The violation comes 2 years into her 14-year probationary period. It brings attention back to a horrific accident that claimed a life in 1998, an accident that we know the victim's family will never forget.

Miller was released by the Department of Corrections in October 2011 after serving 13 years of a 16-year prison sentence for the death of Chad Dunbar. On April 6, 1998, Miller got behind the wheel after drinking all night. At the same time, 30-year-old Dunbar was riding his bicycle to his job as a dive instructor at the Naval Support Activity Panama City on St. Andrew Bay in Panama City Beach. Miller hit Dunbar at approximately 6:30 AM, severing one of the bicyclist's legs in the collision.

Despite the Thomas Drive collision, Miller continued to drive to a Waffle House located about a mile away at the base of the old Hathaway Bridge. When police arrived, there was little doubt as to the perpetrator - Dunbar's severed leg was lodged in the windshield of Miller's vehicle. Her blood alcohol content was double the legal limit. Miller pled guilty to DUI manslaughter and received a prison sentence. (Update: Miller received 250 community service hours and a $100 fine for the probation violation, which involved travelling to the Bahamas without requesting prior approval.)

Statistics on Bicycle Fatalities

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported on Bicycles and Other Cyclists (including non-motorized cycles, tricycles, and unicycles) as part of their overall report on Traffic Safety Facts: 2011 Data. According to the report, a total of 677 cyclists were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes during 2011, with 48,000 additional riders suffering injuries. This represents a 9% increase in fatalities from 2010, when 623 cyclists died in traffic accidents.

A majority (69%) of the accidents leading to cyclist fatalities occurred in urban areas. A smaller majority (59%) of fatal cyclist accidents occurred outside of intersections. Bicyclist fatalities occurred most often in the late afternoon/early evening hours, 30% between 4 and 7:59 PM and 21% between 8 and 11:59 PM. More than 37% of fatal cyclist accidents involved alcohol use by either the rider (23% of riders killed in 2011 had a BAC over .08), the driver, or both.

Legal Rights of Families Following Fatal Panama City Bicycle Accidents

Sadly, Florida had the nation's highest number of cyclist deaths in 2011, as well as the highest rate of cyclist deaths (6.56 per million population). When a cyclist death is the result of driver negligence, the surviving relatives may have a wrongful death claim against the driver. Such a claim can exist even if the cyclist shared in a portion of the fault (i.e. if the rider was travelling in the wrong direction when hit by a drunk driver making a turn without looking for traffic).

Our hearts go out to the families behind the statistics, families like the relatives of Chad Dunbar, who are left mourning a loved one killed in a bicycle accident. Attorney Pittman is a skilled and experienced attorney and is proud to serve as a lawyer for Panama City bicycle crash victims. An initial consultation is always free, and most injury and wrongful death claims are handled on a contingency basis, which means you don't pay unless you recover damages.

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