The past two years have been AWFUL in Ohio as far as traffic safety – especially for the most vulnerable roadway users- cyclists & pedestrians.
In 2020, nobody was driving – the pandemic was in full swing – workers were home – there was no place to go – and yet, despite billions of fewer miles traveled, cyclists were mowed down by cars at an alarming pace. There were 20 fatal crashes in Ohio in 2020.
Ohio had a horrific TWENTY-EIGHT cyclists killed in 2021, a “record.”
In 2022, so far, we have had only 5 deaths from January 1 – July 31. These are summarized below. However, this is not unusual. We typically have a few fatalities leading up to the time school is out and summer arrives and then peak riding season starts. We tend to see a cluster of fatalities through the summer and again in September, when darkness comes earlier but the weather remains fantastic for riding. September is also the time of year when the sun is in its most “East/West” position so the sunrise and sunset present the most significant danger on Ohio’s East/West roads…
Nationally, IIHS reports that 932 cyclists were killed in 2020 – a 9% INCREASE over 2019, when EVERYBODY was driving.
Folks who follow me regularly know that I have studied the crash stats in Ohio for a long time – I was a math major in college and that Math Brain stuck with me through law school and my career. Ohio has averaged 16-17 fatal crashes for many years. The past decade or so, however, has seen us trending UP, like the rest of the country.
Since 2010, cyclist deaths nationally, have increased by 25%.
So what happened?
Personally, I think at least part of this rise in fatalities is distraction related… caused perhaps by the sudden invention of a device that you can hold in your hand and scour the internet, take photos, read restaurant reviews, watch football highlights, download faxes, type letters… it’s an amazing device really, the “smart” phone.
But add to the “smart” phone the absolute skyrocketing of social media and you’ve got a real recipe for distraction disaster.
I mean, it’s hard to believe there was a time when folks DIDN’T check their phones constantly and update their Facebook pages every 27 minutes… but there was… that era ended around 2008-2009 when Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all the rest just TOOK OFF… and along with this blast off was the “smart” phone…
Ohio’s five fatalities in 2022 include:
RONALD BRABHAM – Killed 3/5/22 when motorist Elsie Martin made a left turn across his path on Jarvis Road in Summit County. According to the Summit County Sheriff, Ms. Martin was found to be driving despite a suspended license. She was charged with Vehicular Homicide, a 4th degree felony based on the “aggravating factor” of the license suspension. The indictment was filed June 1 and her case, State v. Elsie Martin, is pending in the Summit County Common Pleas Court, Case Number CR 2022-05-1909.
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On March 25, 2022, Robert Kuba was killed as he rode his bike along the Kubler Trail. This crash also occurred in Summit County. Mr. Kuba was attempting to cross US 224 around 8:15 pm. The crash report lists the conditions as “Dark” and “Rain.” He crossed over two lanes, going south to north, and was struck by a 2017 Honda Accord operated by Christopher Wines. The crash report indicates that Mr. Wines tested positive for alcohol and blew a 0.149% BAC per the report.
On April 20, 2022, the grand jury returned an indictment charging Mr. Wines with Aggravated Vehicular Homicide in the death of Mr. Kuba and the case of State of Ohio v. Christopher Wines, Summit County Case Number CR 2022-04-1330 is pending before Judge Susan Ross in the Summit County Common Pleas Court. The docket indicates that Mr. Wines has retained counsel and the case is in the very early stages at this point.
I would point out that the crash report states that the cyclist was “outside the marked crosswalk” for the trail crossing. While that certainly played no role in the “cause” of Mr. Kuba’s death, you can be certain that the defense will stick to this fact like a fly to flypaper… However, this is a trail crossing a roadway – is a cyclist required to use the crosswalk? I’m not sure the law is all that clear on that point… the sketch from the crash report is also inconsistent with the Google Earth imagery. We have requested the full report, which would include any crash reconstruction. Since the motorist has been charged aggressively I suspect there is a lot of data on that point…
We will keep you posted on both of the criminal cases as soon as we receive additional data.
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On April 14, 2022 a truly tragic crash occurred in the parking lot at 2847 Donnylane Blvd in Columbus, Ohio. From the crash report it appears that a 4 yr old boy was riding his bicycle and was struck by a big 2008 Silverado pickup owned by Hers Commercial Installations and operated by Elmer Suazo-Hernandez. The report says that after hitting the boy, the motorist put the boy in the truck and drove him to Riverside Hospital, where he died.
There is very little information available about this crash. It appears the boy’s name was Jarsi Hafinf, age 4, who lived in the area. The motorist was 38 years old and also lived in the area. This story indicates that the truck came into the parking area and hit the boy. I’ve seen no follow up stories in the media and could not find any indication in local court records that the driver was ticketed or charged.
The story also indicates that the boy had recently moved to Columbus from Afghanistan… such a tragic story…
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On June 20, 2022, 70 year old David Landsaw was riding his bicycle along Franklin-Madison Road in Warren County. The bike was “modified with a small gas-powered motor to run the rear wheel” according to this story. As Mr. Landsaw was turning into his driveway he was passed by a motorist, 46 yr old Michelle Miozzi. The OSHP spokesperson stated “Not knowing that he was being passed, the gentleman on the bicycle made a lefthand turn into traffic to go into a driveway and end up being struck by one of the vehicles passing…”
This statement is very troubling to me. The man was on the road in the lane. There was only one lane each way, and a double yellow line in the middle. Passing was not permitted unless certain conditions were met. The posted speed was 45 mph.
This is obviously a very narrow, tight roadway.
We have requested all the public records on this crash [as we do for EVERY fatal bike crash in Ohio] but have not received them. I will be interested in seeing how OSHP analyzed this crash. What was this “bike” Mr. Landsaw was operating? Was it a legal vehicle? How fast was he going? Did he signal? He is permitted to move left/right in the lane, and permitted to make a left turn without getting mowed down by other traffic. There was no effort by OSHP, in the early moments following the crash, to try to analyze the behavior of the passing motorists… well see where this one goes.
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The 5th fatal bicycle crash of 2022 occurred a few weeks ago, on June 26, in Columbus, Franklin County. Around midnight a car was coming off I-71 onto E.Dublin-Granville Road. A cyclist, 59 year old Craig Harper was riding on E Dublin-Granville and was struck by the car, which did not stop. The cowardly felon fled the scene and left Mr. Harper on the side of the road to die. She/he drove westbound and then cut through a parking lot before driving off. CPD continues to look for the driver.
According to this story, “Police said the vehicle drove away from the scene heading westbound on East Dublin Granville Road and then north through the Self Storage business parking lot while dragging the bicycle. The vehicle was last seen heading north on Boardwalk Street.” This criminal clearly knew he had hit someone and was fleeing the scene intentionally…
Let’s hope that 2022 improves… that we see FEWER crashes – FEWER deaths – FEWER Hit & Run crashes… ZERO is the goal, aspirational… right now we have to reverse the Upward Trend…
For now, our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Craig Harper, David Landsaw, Robert Kuba, Ron Brabham, and little Jarsi Hafinf.