(Creative Commons Photo By Jan Zimmermann)
The sad and unfortunate state of affairs is that traffic accidents are so common they just aren't considered news generally unless someone dies and or there is freeway congestion to plan commutes around. Even then, coverage is generally a token sound byte more akin to is it going to rain outside. Reporting on all the traffic accidents effecting cyclists in Los Angeles is beyond the scope of this blog, but I thought I would report on the recent hit-and-run case in Santa Monica at Arizona Avenue and 20th Street on Saturday the 17, since that is only blocks away from where I live.
This case probably would have disappeared into the abyss of traffic statistics if it were not for the victim being loosely connected to a famous individual who was willing to put up a $10,000 reward to find the hit and run driver. The victim, 33 year old Daniel Seeck, hospitalized with critical injuries, was the cousin of the co-manager of Ty Pennington (from some ABC show called Extreme Makeover). Details are loose, but a red SUV was spotted near the scene apparently. If you see a vehicle around with a large dents, scratches or possibly a broken windshield, you may have found a clue worth a lot of money, but most importantly, justice. My guess is by now any damage to the vehicle has been repaired or is in the shop, but be on the look out for anything suspicious and if you know this person, please turn them in, or if you are that person, do the right thing and turn your self in.
An important lesson to take from this incident as a cyclist, is the importance of safe riding. Seeck was at least partially negligent in this case due to a blood alcohol level and lack of lights while night riding. From a statistical stand point riding late after a few drinks with no lights is serious bad news, dangerous to one's health, and it diminishes your chances of finding the other party entirely liable even if they broke the law. Being hit from behind while a car is overtaking is rare (it is not clear in the details from which angle Seeck was hit), comprising 1.3% of all automobile and bicycle accidents. In 11% of those cases the motorist was drinking, but in 17% of those cases the cyclist was also drinking [Bicycling & The Law]. So don't drink and ride, or if you must, have front and rear lights (which you should have anyways), don't be a tipsy lightless person with a black hoodie no one can see, whom make up a significant chunk of all car on bike collisions.
However, in the event of an accident where someone is hit, it is a duty and an obligation, not a suggestion, for a motorist to stop and render aid to the victim(s), and to violate that duty is a serious crime, violated far too often. I think it is high time we started demanding higher standards for receiving a drivers license. The DMV test is more concerned with checking mirrors and parallel parking then the very serious duties and obligations a driver has in the event of an accident, as well as glossing over the whole bicycles on the road business. Equally important considering most car on bike accidents involve underage riders, I think we need to include mandatory traffic education in school as the Dutch have done.
My best wishes to Daniel Seeck on his path to recovery, and may the heartless driver be found and brought to justice. Anyone with information about the hit-and-run is urged to contact SMPD investigator Chris Dawson @ (310) 458-8427, or the We-Tip hotline at (800) 782-7463.
More details on the story can be found in this issue of the Santa Monica Daily Press, starting on the front page lower left corner.