Location: Topeka

"Isn't it bad enough he has to live with the guilt of what happened?"

In response to a newspaper article explaining that the death of Tim Roberts is still under investigation, and that Tim’s family is considering a suit against the driver, a commenter writes:

I have to say, I believe a civil suit is wrong in this case… [snip] I do believe it was an honest accident. For the family loss I am sorry, but think about it if the shoe was on the other foot… If you had an honest accident where you hit and killed someone, would you want to be sued? Isn’t it bad enough he has to live with the guilt of what happened?

Isn’t it bad enough he has to live with the guilt of what happened?

No, it’s not.

“Feeling bad” about killing someone with your car isn’t “enough”. Not remotely.

No doubt that the collision was unintentional, but the driver bears responsibility, both criminal and civil, for taking Tim’s life. “Accident” doesn’t mean “no consequences”.

As for the issue of whether sun glare played a problem (raised by a number of commenters), check out this photo (courtesy of the Topeka Capital-Journal), taken shortly after the collision occurred:

Scene of collision that killed Tim Roberts

The photo is taken from the same vantage point the driver would have had, looking west, toward the small hill. Shadows are clearly visible, but would have been much less so at the time of the wreck. The sun would have been higher in the sky, posing less of a problem.

But even if glare was an issue, the photo clearly shows that the driver had ample opportunity to notice the bicyclist. The road is straight, there are no obstructions. Trees do not overhang the road, so Tim would not have been hidden in shadows in the right-hand lane. Reports mention no other traffic being a factor.

The driver had a substantial distance to recognize the bicyclist and pass safely — several hundred feet at a minimum, probably much more, judging by the photo.

If sun glare really was a problem, the driver would have had to have driven that same distance, blindly.

Is that the proper response to sun glare? Can a driver just assume that no one is on the road ahead of him?

Isn’t continuing to drive, when you can’t see the road, completely irresponsible and reckless behavior?

Seems that behavior, resulting in the death of another person, should have significant consequences, more than just “feeling guilty”…

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About The Author

By Randy Rasa, editor/webmaster at Kansas Cyclist, the web’s premier Kansas cycling information site, featuring authoritative guides to Kansas cycling clubs, bike shops, organized bike rides, touring, trails, and much more. [learn more]

7 responses to “"Isn't it bad enough he has to live with the guilt of what happened?"”

  1. Eric B. says:

    Unintentional has a different meaning than accidental. An accident means that nothing could have been done to prevent the crash. In this case (as in most bike-car collisions) a more attentive driver could have easily avoided the crash.

    Unintentional does not mean that there should be no consequences.

    I long for the day when Kansas and Missouri have vulnerable road user laws to put some teeth to the traffic laws an protect cyclists by punishing those who can’t seem to drive safely.

  2. Cassie T says:

    I really appreciated the response to “Isn’t it bad enough he had to live with the guilt of what happened?”.

    You know, there are many things one does not know until they are in the situation themselves. What if it were your dad? Not to mention there are other things involved here. How dare one judge the family when the entire story is not known? And it’s not. The media has failed to do their research in blaming the sun when clearly anyone with half a brain could drive out there and see for themselves the sun was not an issue.

    Again, don’t judge. You don’t know all the facts and in truth it’s not your worry.

  3. lindsay roberts says:

    I am a daughter of Tim Roberts, the man killed in this “accident” and i just wanted to say thanks for posting this article. My family and I really appreciated it.

  4. Randy says:

    So sorry for your loss, Lindsay. Prayers for you and your family.

  5. jayhawks22 says:

    Lindsay, my family unfortunately suffered the loss of my Dad in a similar situation. He was struck & killed from behind while riding his bicycle November 4th, 2009 in Stafford County. Criminal charges were only filed the last week of September 2010. Thus far the only charge filed was for leaving the scene of a fatality accident. Our family had never even contemplated suing anyone until this accident happened. We have filed a civil suit and even though no amount of money is worth the taking of my Dad’s life I am sure that it will bring him some peace in knowing that even though my Mom and family are struggling with this tragedy there will at least be some financial security provided for her. Our thoughts and prayers are with you, your family and especially your Mom. If talking with someone who has been through this would help you in any way I would be glad to contact you via email. I know my Mom would be willing to do the same with your Mom if it would help.

  6. Sean says:

    It’s unfortunate that these things have to end up in civil court when the right thing would have been for the government to find a means to punish the motorist and to keep them from behind the wheel for a specified period of time. Make these people cycle for transportation for a year or two, and perhaps they’ll learn why a fatality from careless behavior isn’t really an “accident”– it’s stupidity.

  7. jayhawks22 says:

    Sean, I agree with your comments that punishment should be more severe for motorists who hit cyclists, especially when it is found that the cyclist was obeying all traffic laws. There does however need to be a civil side to this case if the Robert’s family so chooses. Mr. Roberts was still a relatively young man with many years of earning potential to help provide for his family. His family has suffered an unexpected tragedy. Given the situation the last thing they should have to worry about is long term financial stability.