Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Husband, Father Of Two Killed Riding Bicycle To Work By Driver Who May Have Disobeyed Stop Sign

Efrain Diaz-Torres with his two children
Courtesy ABC 7 News
When the weather was nice Efrain Diaz-Torres road his bicycle to work so his wife and two small children could use the car, family friend Joanie Recchia told ABC 7 News.  Yesterday he bid his family goodbye, hopped on his bicycle and began his two mile ride to his manufacturing job.  It was a pleasant spring morning.  He never made it to work.

The driver of a white van, Edward Kowalski of 129 Rosemont Avenue in Roselle, struck and killed Mr. Diaz-Torres at the intersection of Rosemont Avenue and Roselle Road early yesterday morning, according to Telemundo Chicago.  As of yesterday, authorities were investigating the scene in an apparent effort to reconstruct the crash.  It is not entirely clear how the collision occurred but here is what is known so far:

  • Mr. Diaz-Torres lived in the 1800 block of Roselle Road.  To reach the intersection of Roselle and Rosemont he would have had to travel south.
  • Mr. Kowalski was traveling eastbound on Rosemont just prior to the crash and was attempting to make a left to travel north on Roselle when he collided with the bicyclist.
  • Video and still photos of the crash scene taken by several news outlets showed rescue personnel attempting to extricate the cyclist and/or his bicycle from underneath the van which was stopped on the east side of Rosemont.  The vehicle was stopped at an angle as one might expect from a vehicle in the midst of making a left turn.
  • Mr. Diaz-Torres was familiar with the area and was an experienced cyclist.
  • A stop sign controlled Mr. Kowalski's direction of traffic at the intersection of Rosemont and Roselle, a t-intersection adjacent to Turner Park.
  • No traffic control device controlled Mr. Diaz-Torres's direction of traffic.

It has not been reported whether Mr. Diaz-Torres was riding on Roselle Road or on the adjacent sidewalk before the collision.  However, it should be emphasized that he would have been well within his rights to do either.  This is an important point.  In Roselle, as is the case throughout Illinois, cyclists have all of the same rights to use the roadway as drivers of motor vehicles.  If Mr. Diaz-Torres was riding on  Roselle Road he was in compliance with the law.  Also, in Roselle cyclists are permitted to ride on the sidewalk, so long as there is so official prohibition against doing so.  This is consistent with the Illinois Vehicle Code.  A review of the location of the crash reveals no such prohibition.  If Mr. Diaz-Torres was riding on the sidewalk before the crash he was in compliance with the law.  Given how vulnerable cyclists are to injury and death caused by inattentive drivers in their much heavier, faster motor vehicles, it makes sense for them to have more than one safe legal navigation option.  Regardless of which option Mr. Diaz-Torres chose, Mr. Kowalski had a duty to stop at the stop sign at Rosemont and Roselle and look for all vehicles before proceeding.

In the various media reports about this sad event some issues have arisen that I find troubling.  First, virtually every media outlet has found it necessary emphasize that the driver appears not to have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash, as if that somehow abrogates his responsibility to some degree.  It does not.  I am not sure why there has not been more emphasis on the fact that the driver had a stop sign.  Secondly, there has been some speculation (perhaps reasonable speculation) that the sun obscured the driver's vision as he traveled east on Rosemont upon his approach to the intersection.  Let us assume that it did at around 6:10 a.m. yesterday.  The rising sun should not have greatly affected his view left (to the north) and right (to the south).  He should have been able to see Mr. Diaz-Torres despite any glare from the east.  In any event, it is a fundamental rule of the road that a driver who cannot see should not proceed.  Looking and failing to see what should be seen is no defense.  It is an indictment.  

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