47-year-old Walter Berg was struck and killed during a charity cycling event Saturday morning, November 16, 2013. Investigators are now questioning whether distraction may have lead to the driver's failure to notice Mr. Berg and the group of brightly-attired cyclists.
Mr. Berg was heading up a large group of cyclists in a fundraising ride down U.S. 341, just before 11:00am Saturday morning. The ride was to benefit the Atlamaha River Organization. Traveling ahead of the pack, in a trio, Mr. Berg was struck from behind by a northbound Dodge Caravan.
The Caravan driver, Joshua Westberry, reportedly told police he "looked down for a second and when he looked up there was the bicycle."
News reports of the tragic Griffin cycling accident have been quick to note that Mr. Berg was traveling in the traffic lane at the time of his accident. However, Senior Trooper Robbie Jump reminds drivers that Mr. Berg "was entitled to be in the traffic lane. The law changed a few years ago to treat bicycles just like a vehicle."
Further, Mr. Berg was traveling during daylight hours, with two other cyclists, ahead of many more, and dressed in bright yellow at the time of the crash, safety precautions intended to make him clearly visible to all alert drivers.
Unfortunately, this tragedy comes during an epidemic of fatal cycling accidents attributed to distracted drivers. Cyclist and Pedestrian Rights advocates and personal injury attorneys at The Murray Law Firm are now questioning whether distraction played a role in this latest cycling tragedy:
- Why did the driver fail to notice three cyclists, dressed in brightly colored clothing? Was the driver engaged in a distractive device, such as a cellphone, GPS or radio, at the time of the crash?
- Mr. Berg was traveling ahead of a much larger group of cyclists. The northbound driver must have passed this large group prior to reaching Mr. Berg's trio and, thus, have been aware of cyclists in the area. As such, why did the driver take his attention from the road fully knowing the likelihood of cyclists in the area? The prior group of cyclists should have served as a warning to slow down and take extra care to share the roadway. If the driver failed to notice this first group as well as the second, it may be an indicator that the distraction time lasted longer than "a second", as stated.
Unfortunately, in pedestrian and cycling accidents, the media often turns a finger of blame on the victim, in this case chastising a cyclist who was clearly obeying traffic rules and taking all available safety precautions. Distracted driving is just as inexcusable as impaired driving and it is time Georgia drivers learn to share the road with our cyclists and pedestrians.
Should the driver in this incident be found at fault for distracted driving and the wrongful death of Walter Berg, Mr. Berg's family may elect to hold the driver civilly liable for their loss. Such a substantial claim will not only remind drivers of the perils of distracted driving, but demand local officials re-evaluate and improve cycling safety conditions in the area.
The Murray Law Firm works tirelessly to protect victims and families of tragic cycling accidents, such as this, and we offer our legal expertise, if needed.
Our prayers and sincere condolences are with the family of Walter Berg. Anyone seeking further information on this accident is encouraged to contact us at 404.842.1600 or toll free at 888.842.1616.