A Boise man pleaded guilty to misdemeanor inattentive driving in August, finally settling the case of a cyclist’s death that’s been getting attention since 2013. The case was resolved as an inattentive driving charge after the driver agreed to plead to that instead of facing a jury for misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter. The driver had previously been tried for felony vehicular manslaughter, but that trial ended in a hung jury in 2015.
While some might not be happy with this resolution, the Ada County District Attorney’s office seemed satisfied with the plea agreement. We share the hope of all cyclists that cases like this one—where there is a chance for significant punishment for drivers—will bring more awareness of bicycles to motor vehicle operators and reduce the chance of serious crashes in the future.
This particular case centered on whether the driver, Gavin Haley, was aware that he’d struck the cyclist, Victor Haskell. Haley’s account and forensic details were not in full alignment. What’s clear is that Haley struck Haskell on the early morning hours of September 27, 2013, knocking him into a hole in an under-construction sidewalk. Haley, who later turned himself in, also admitted to drinking earlier.
What is in dispute is whether the driver ever saw the cyclist (whose bike had no lights) and whether he stopped to check on the victim as he claimed (and which witnesses confirmed). Haley’s story is that on that rainy morning in the dark, he saw nothing after leaving his car, and so, after briefly examining the scene and finding no one, he drove on. Haskell’s body was not discovered until the next morning. The original jury was unable to agree on whether Haley had intentionally left the scene or legitimately failed to see Haskell because of his position and the weather conditions.
A 2015 analysis of seven years’ worth of Idaho Transportation Department data showed that during that time period, there were nearly 1,200 car crashes involving bicycles, leading to eleven fatalities (including Haskell).
The author of that analysis compared the public and official responses to bicycle crash deaths to that of the ongoing Takata airbag problem: Over a longer time period, only seven deaths were linked to faulty airbags, yet that led to congressional hearings and a recall which has now affected more than 100 million vehicles. Do the dangers cyclists face deserve more attention than they’ve been getting?
The site of that fatal 2013 collision was marked with a ghost bike, a memorial intended to recognize the reality of what happened there and, it’s hoped, draw attention to the dangers bike riders face on shared roads. The issues in this case were complex, and included inattentive or distracted driving and leaving the scene of an accident.
When you are the victim of any kind of motor vehicle accident, including as a cyclist struck by a car, give Craig Swapp & Associates a call. Whatever the details of your accident, we can help. Our team understands bicycle accident law, and we offer a free consultation to discuss the specifics of your case. You can reach us by calling 1-800-404-9000 or completing our contact form below. The LiveChat feature of this website can also answer some of your questions right now.