Overseas News: Motorist, distracted by electronics, not charged

From LJnews.com November 14, 2008:

“Criminal charges will not be filed against a motorist who was distracted by electronics when he struck and killed a Douglas County sheriff’s lieutenant who was riding his bicycle, District Attorney Charles Branson announced Friday afternoon.

Lt. David Dillon, of Eudora, a deputy for the jail operations division of the sheriff’s office, died in the June 28 accident. Dillon, 44, was off-duty and riding his bike between Lawrence and Eudora when he was struck from behind by a 2003 Oldsmobile driven by Kyle Van Meter, 21, the Kansas Highway Patrol said.

“Van Meter admitted to being distracted by his radio and told authorities he did not see Dillon until he hit him,” Branson said in a news release.

A highway patrol report said Van Meter, of Eudora, also was distracted by a cell phone during the accident, which occurred in the 1900 section of North 1400 Road, just one mile west of Eudora on a road commonly referred to as Old K-10. The report indicated inattention and failure to yield the right of way were contributing circumstances in the wreck.

Branson said his office has returned the case to the highway patrol, suggesting the state agency issue citations for unsafe overtaking/passing, following too closely and failure to wear a seat belt. Branson said he met with Dillon’s family this week to discuss the results of the investigation.


No information as to whether there were any cycle paths the cyclists could use.


2 responses to “Overseas News: Motorist, distracted by electronics, not charged

  1. After complaing to Branson’s office here is the repsonse I got.

    I understand your anger and frustration in the death of Lt. David Dillon. He was a friend and colleague of mine and he is sorely missed. Unfortunately, the Kansas Legislature and Kansas Courts have plainly stated that bicycles and motorcycles share the same status as any other vehicle on the road, and again unfortunately, they do not receive any special consideration given their delicate nature versus a 3000 lb. machine.

    Mr. Van Meter will be cited for the traffic offenses he committed. However, due to Kansas law and Supreme Court interpretation, his actions by law are not criminal. Traffic infractions are not considered criminal offenses. The Supreme Court has determined that there has to be more than mere negligence on the part of a driver to be held criminally liable for the death of another. It is not a matter for me to agree or disagree but apply the law as I am sworn to do.

    Below this email is a copy of the leading Supreme Court case dealing with this type of issue. It has a good discussion of the inherent problems with how our law is written. It should be of great interest to those in the bicycle and motorcycle community and hopefully with its publication can become a discussion tool for how our laws should be changed.

    Sincerely yours,

    Charles E. Branson
    District Attorney
    Douglas County, Kansas
    111 East 11th Street
    Lawrence, Kansas 66044-2909
    PH: (785) 841-0211
    FAX: (785) 832-8202


  2. Cycledudeks

    Thanks very much for contacting him and emailling to all of us his quick response. I was impressed that he provided you with a personal and human response.

    Clearly he is devastated by this too and just as peeved at the weaknesses of the law.

    Cyclist do need to stand up to this and take action.

    The law must do more to encourage cyclists by protecting them with a better law.

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