As distributing as the title implies, in this article we discuss the tragic unfairness of bicycle laws that simply allow for drivers to hit and kill a cyclist with little to no punishments. So what happens if you hit and kill a cyclist in Arizona? I can tell you from years of personal experience representing the surviving family members of killed cyclists that it is hardly a fair experience under the current law. In most cases the it feels like the driver isn’t even cited for any number of possible traffic violations. Sometimes the police even sympathize so much so for the driver that they find a way to inappropriately cite the killed cyclists on an imaginary or misunderstood traffic law. The usual result is that the driver may get a traffic ticket and a fine for nor more than $250. Yep. That’s it, $250.
In a very tongue and cheek sort of a way many of us have joked in the past that if you want to kill your enemy in Arizona don’t you dare shoot him! it is much better to put him or her on a bicycle and run them over. It’s the only way you can literally get away with murder. I know that sounds extreme. And I agree it is. But in all seriousness this is not exactly a fair playing field for cyclists. Most drivers are truly annoyed at cyclists on the road and really do think that cyclists deserve to get hit if they are stupid enough to ride on the same road as vehicles. That is absurd to me. But I deal with it daily. I have the most insane conversations with insurance adjusters and police officers on a daily basis who have literally said this to me, or in the very least consistently imply it with every false citation, unjustified excuse for the driver, and more.
Most traffic violations in Arizona are strictly civil matters. If a driver is actually cited and found responsible he or she is generally subject to a fine of not more than $250 (§28-1598); and of course no jail time is possible. There is one other set of added penalties when specified specifically by the type of traffic violation. For example, the “Three foot rule” (§28-735) includes increased financial penalties of up to $500 or $1000 if a motorist seriously injures or kills a cyclist when unsafely passing them. Except these enhanced penalties do not apply if a bike lane is “present and passable”. Sort of sounds like a joke.
Of course these financial penalties exclude the criminal traffic violations (but even then those are so minor they’re disgusting). I’ll discuss those in a moment because they seem to be insulting to anyone who has ever lost a loved one in a bicycle crash. One quick example is that it is typically not criminal to negligently hit and kill a cyclist but it is criminal to litter within 20 yards near a highway ( littering near a highway §28-7056.) Are you serious? What is wrong with our society and what we value?
A small group of traffic violations are specified as criminal (surprise surprise not hitting and killing a cyclist) and they include for example reckless driving, DUI, and excessive speed. To add a bit of context, even if a driver is cited under one of these criminal statutes they are typically minor crimes and carry very small penalties with little to no jail time and small fines. What Arizona doesn’t have is a vehicular manslaughter crime on the books. And to my knowledge we are only one of 3 states who still doesn’t have such a law.
Now after all of that, there is still one more Arizona law that makes certain negligent driving behaviors criminal if serious injury or death occurs: §28-672. The very specific criminal negligence examples are all listed below. Sadly, I wonder just how often the police even use these. I can tell you that none of my cases have ever involved this statute but many of them could have justified it:
- §28-645(A)3(a): Running a red light
- §28-729: failure to drive in one lane
- §28-771: failure to yield to vehicle on the right (generally applies to uncontrolled intersections)
- §28-772: Bad left
- §28-773: drive out at stop sign (see also, 855B, below).
- §28-792: Running down a pedestrian in a marked OR UNMARKED crosswalk
- §28-794: Not exercising due care around a pedestrian
- §28-797 subsection F, G, H, or I: Disobeying various school zone rules
- §28-855(B): Running a stop sign
- §28-857(A): Disobeying school bus stop signs
One last final note on the criminal part of this; there are a couple of related laws that do actually increase the severity of the penalties. They are: §28-675 and §28-676. They apply to the same exact same list of violations listed above in A.R.S. §28-672, BUT ONLY APPLY if the driver’s license has been revoked for a cause relating to previous illegal bad driving.
SO are you ready to learn what actually happens if a driver is criminally cited under §28-672? Remember, I don’t personally know of any cases involving bicycle crashes where this statute was involved – I’m sure they exist somewhere but it is pretty infrequent. Remember, most will simply not even get a citation and those drivers who do get cited will simply pay a $250 fine. HOWEVER, just in case the police start getting a little sharper in their investigations and the prosecutors actually start bringing charges under §28-672; here is what a driver would get in terms of “punishments”:
- The driver must attend and successfully complete traffic school, and the court may order the driver to perform community restitution. Wow – way to really bear down on killing a cyclist AZ. Again, super disappointing. We all know that traffic school is literally a waste of time.
- The court will report it to the MVD. The 1st violation will be a license suspension of not more than 90 days for serious injury, and not more than 180 days for a death. The 2nd violation within 3 years the MVD will suspend a license for 90 days for a serious injury and 180 for a death. WHAT? Are you kidding me? So the 1st time offense is a suspension of NOT MORE THAN 90 or 180 days, while the 2nd offense is guaranteed 90 or 180 days. Super disappointing.
- If the license is already suspended then this license suspension of 90 or 180 days will simply be tacked on. Yep, lets not skip out on a few more weeks of suspension, way to make sure that it just gets added to an already suspended license! Yikes. This is disturbing.
- If the driver fails to complete the traffic school or community restitution then the court can promptly suspend the driver’s license until proof of completion. I love how focused they are on license suspension. Why not just throw some jail time in there? Clearly suspending a license doesn’t really prevent anyone from driving.
- Restitution can’t exceed $10,000. Um, obviously way too low.
- It’s a class 3 misdemeanor and only carries a $1,000 fine. Uh, yeah – again, way too low. Someone just died and the driver has to pay a fine of up to $1,000 and restitution of up to $10,000. Very, very, very disappointing.
- Lets not forget my favorite part of the criminal penalties here for gross negligence: §28-672(F): Essentially, if before the completion of the trial the seriously injured party comes before the court and “acknowledges receipt of satisfaction for the injury, on payment of the costs incurred” the whole crime simply gets dismissed and the state is barred from bringing the prosecution ever again. WHAT?! So if I was a shrewd criminal defense attorney then I would simply subpoena the settlement from the injured party’s personal injury case and compel the cyclist to come to court and acknowledge that the medical costs incurred were satisfied out of the settlement and then my criminal client walks free! So angry about this. I really hope we can bring this sort of awareness to the knowledge of our legislature and get some real change going here.
How would this be different if it were a car on car crash instead of a cyclist getting hit and killed by a car? That is best saved for another article to be written soon; but let me wet your appetite with the simple thought that the police investigation alone would be drastically different and much more involved if two vehicles were involved as opposed to one vehicle and a cyclist. Disclaimer: I do not hate cops. I believe their role is absolutely vital to our society. However, I do wish that more and more of them would be better trained and would care a bit more about investigating bicycle crashes. Especially those involving fatalities.
Bicycle crash and bicycle accident lawyer Ben Dodge
A bicycle crash is not always an accident. If you, or someone you know has been injured in a bicycle crash or accident caused by a road hazard or dangerous road condition, hire a personal injury attorney who is experienced and has a successful track record. Ben Dodge, a licensed bicycle accident lawyer in Arizona, has dedicated his entire firm to one purpose: representing cyclists. Bicycle accident cases are the only cases Bike Accident Attorneys, PLC handles. Home based out of the great state of Arizona, Ben can still help cyclists in the entire United States. Ben also founded Bike Accident Attorneys Network, a national network of attorneys who focus on representing cyclists. He can find you help anywhere in the country.
Ben Dodge has represented and assisted bicycle accident victims across the entire United States. As an avid and competitive cyclist himself, Mr. Dodge currently participates in national and local cycling events all over the country. It isn’t uncommon to spot him in early morning hours out riding his bike. Having competed in 8 Ironman triathlons, numerous local and national cycling races, and a successful finish in the Race Across the West 2016, he really knows what it’s like to ride and race a bike. The day he fell in love with his job was the day he devoted himself completely to bicycle accident cases.
Ben represents cyclists injured in bicycle accidents, at the police station, with insurance companies, and in the courts. He advocates for the rights of all cyclists, not just his clients. He teaches police about bike laws and bike safety, he educates drivers about the rules of the road, and he trains cyclists and clubs to ride more safely.
A consultation with experienced Arizona bicycle accident attorney Ben Dodge is free
In recent years there has been approximately 700 bicycle fatalities in the United States every single year. Approximately 2,000 bicycle accidents are reported in Arizona every year. Approximately 30 fatal bicycle accidents are reported in Arizona every year. Bicycle fatalities are terrible and horrific tragedies that affect the lives of too many families and friends to count. Understanding your rights and obligations as a cyclist can bring clarity to your specific accident situation. It will always be in your best interest to be represented by an attorney who knows the bicycle laws and has a successful track record of winning bicycle accident cases. The negotiation tactics and strategies of winning a case are extremely important, but should always take a back row seat to the litigation experience and knowledge of court room rules, local, state, and federal rules of civil procedure that can have significant impact on your bicycle accident case. It is wise to be represented by someone well versed in bicycle accident law, local and state bicycle ordinances, rules, regulations, policies, and laws. You should hire someone very familiar with negligence and tort law, civil procedure, and the rules of evidence as they all relate specifically to bicycle accident cases.
Ben Dodge always offers a complimentary in person consultation to all local cyclists and a complimentary phone consultation to any cyclist injured in a bike accident. Typically the consultations are schedule from 30-60 minutes depending on the severity of the accident. You can expect to get answers to questions, clarity, information, and reassurance of your personal bike accident liability and potential for recovery. In your free consultation you can generally expect to discuss such topics as:
- your specific bike accident details, diagrams, and pictures from your perspective and then from the perspective of your bike accident attorney.
- the applicable local, state, and federal laws underlying your case.
- your rights as a cyclist, obligations, and any potential liability.
- the process, procedure (in and out of court), and the time frame required to conclude your case.
- the value of your case and what you might expect as compensation.
You can call Arizona bicycle lawyer Ben Dodge of Bike Accident Attorneys, PLC at 1.855.663.3922. Mr. Dodge’s staff is standing and ready to accept your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every single day of the year. Ben will personally return your call within 24 hours. There is never an obligation past a complimentary consultation with Mr. Dodge. His passion is in representing cyclists and his entire office stands ready to serve with kindness and patience.
Bike Accident Attorneys, PLC
Call Ben Dodge, the Bicycle Lawyer today at 1.855.663.3922. Reach him by fax at 1.800.958.8902.
Mr. Dodge can also be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
His main Arizona offices are located at:
Mesa Arizona (home base office)
4824 E. Baseline Rd., Suite 124
Mesa, Arizona 85206
Phoenix Arizona office
2415 e. Camelback Rd., suite 700
Phoenix, Arizona 85016
Tucson Arizona office
One South Church Avenue, 12th Floor
Tucson, Arizona 85701
Mr. Dodge represents cyclists in the entire state of Arizona including but not limited to mesa, phoenix, tucson, yuma, gilbert, peoria, glendale, scottsdale, ahwatukee, tempe, chandler, prescott, sedona, flagstaff, surprise, kingman, page, lake havasu city, payson, goodyear, buckeye, queen creek, paradise valley, show low, winslow, maricopa, nogales, globe, avondale, cave creek, fountain hills, apache junction, carefree, wickenburg, pinetop-lakeside, strawberry, anthem, safford, and more. Ben Dodge is currently involved with bicycle accident cases all over the country and has founded a national network of independent bicycle lawyers that can assist in representation in all 50 states.