To The Editor,
I was surprised and rather shocked to see the article entitled, “Police clear truck driver in fatal bike collision” that was written by Angie Francalancia and published (I believe) in early February. I only became aware of the article this week or I would have written sooner.
Assuming that the quotes attributed to Sgt. Richard Jacobson are accurate, my primary complaint is with him because his comments were insensitive and contained implications that were at best, inappropriate. However, I think more editorial care and attention should have caught these statements and realized that they could bring pain to other people, especially the family of the accident victim. For example, Jacobson said “The bicyclist was totally at fault.”, and “The guy should have slowed down,…”, and “If he was in a car, would it be proper for a car to pass on the right? No.”
As the father of the bicyclist, I was very offended at the offhanded manner in which officer Jacobson coldly referred to “The guy…”, by the use of the words “totally at fault” in describing an accident where at best, fault is shared, and by his bizarre example of a car passing on the right. Let me explain.
Perhaps Sgt. Jacobson was/is not aware that at the intersection where the accident occurred, on Del Harbor Drive (onto which the truck was turning), there was a clearly visible international traffic sign showing a large truck surrounded by a red circle and crossed by a red diagonal line. I have photos to prove it. In other words, “No Trucks Allowed.” Thus, the truck driver was in the process of making an illegal turn when the accident occurred and my son was killed. Was Adam “totally at fault” and is there a reason justifying why no charges were filed against the driver? I don’t think so, unless the traffic laws in Delray say it is perfectly OK for truck drivers to ignore certain traffic signs while bicyclists have to strictly adhere to poorly marked on-again and off-again bicycle lanes along Rte. A1A. Jacobson also dismisses the obligation of the truck driver to be sure that he was not turning into a person or vehicle by stating that due to the height of the truck, the driver was unable to see if he was turning into anyone/anything. Sorry, but this problem of limited vision provides all the more reason for extra caution on the driver’s part. Was Adam “Totally at fault”? I don’t think so. Let me make clear that I and my family are not making any accusations against the truck driver. This “accident” occurred as most accidents do, as an unintended and unfortunate outcome of a set of circumstances and the actions of both parties. No one was “totally at fault” despite Sgt. Jacobson’s claim otherwise.
Jacobson’s example of cars passing on the right is frankly, ridiculous. Does Jacobson assume that bicycles should be operated only in the full traffic lanes, in positions between cars and other vehicles, starting and stopping and keeping up with the speed of vehicular traffic? Nowhere does such a rule exist, and if it did, it would be unsafe. Insofar as passing on the right is concerned, imagine a bicyclist approaching a line of cars stopped at a red light or stop sign. Is a bicyclist supposed to stop at the tail end of that line of cars and wait for traffic to move, or is it legal to move along the side of the road where bicyclists are supposed to ride, moving ahead to the light or stop sign? Of course it is legal for a bicyclist to ride along the side of the road and to pass stopped cars in the process. This is nothing like passing on the right. Were there a stop sign at the intersection, then any bicyclist on Rte A1A would have to come to a full stop. However, there is no stop sign at the intersection of Rte A1A and Del Harbor Drive. Was Adam under an obligation to stop or was the truck driver under an obligation to wait to turn until he was sure it was safe? If a safe turn was required, then the fault is to be shared.
Nothing will change what happened. My son was killed in an accident and that was a tragedy. But he was not just “a guy”. His name was Adam, he was a son, a brother, a father and a friend to many, and he will be missed. And he was not “totally at fault” no matter how Sgt. Jacobson interprets the letter of the law. I hope that Sgt. Jacobson never has to deal with the loss of a child in an accident and then hear some insensitive official make categorical and inappropriate statements of blame that bring pain to him and his family. I also hope that no newspaper would again print such statements.