A "teaching moment" arrives
An incident on NC 110 on Thursday evening June 20 provides us with a “teaching moment” that extends beyond cycling and into a larger realm of accountability that is often not anticipated but, nevertheless, can have dire consequences.
Similar to a pebble tossed into a pond, the ripples of accountability and consequence can extend well beyond the initial splash point. In this case and, unfortunately, for the second time within four months, a local cyclist has been assaulted while riding along the shoulder of NC 110.
On this occasion, the full license plate was recorded and Haywood County Sheriff’s Department personnel were able to bring in the driver of the vehicle involved in the assault. The interesting twist on this particular incident is that the vehicle was a taxi owned and operated by a local company.
The offender in this situation was a passenger in the hired vehicle and represents our “pebble thrower.” The nature of the object thrown from the vehicle is not important because any object thrown can cause disastrous results by causing the cyclist to lose control of their vehicle. Most often, assaults on cyclists occur from behind and the cyclist has no warning until they are hit. Potential outcomes include swerving into traffic or off the road resulting in death or injury. We’ll call this Ripple #1. The taxi driver failed to stop to offer aid to the cyclist, which may not have been required legally but certainly falls into the higher standard of ethical behavior, or to cooperate with law enforcement in identifying the perpetrator.
We now have unanticipated accountability kick into our "teaching moment." The taxi driver could now be facing “obstruction of an investigation” charges and loss of license to operate a taxi given that N.C. law requires taxi drivers to observe “certain legal and ethical rules”. (Ripple #2).
Additionally, legal authorities inform me that the taxi company and driver could both be sued in civil court for damages to the cyclist. (Ripple #3) Notice that to this point, our “pebble thrower” isn’t facing any consequences for the criminal behavior of assault. The taxi driver chose not to cooperate so it is unlikely that the perpetrator will ever face the consequences of their actions.
Regardless of the ultimate ending to this incident, a couple of lessons can be learned. Operators of vehicles, whether commercial or private, are legally responsible for the actions of their passengers. That responsibility can play out in criminal and/or civil courts. Lesson number two is that Haywood County Law Enforcement officials take assault on cyclists and pedestrians seriously and they will follow up and arrest those perpetrators that can be identified.
On behalf of local cyclists and pedestrians, please allow me to express our thanks to the Haywood County Sheriff and his deputies for taking this situation seriously and taking steps to fully investigate it. Let me also send out thanks to the vast majority of Haywood motorists, who willingly share the road with fellow citizens utilizing other modes of transportation.
For more information, visit http://gr8smokieszeke.blogspot.com and www.bicyclehaywoodnc.org . You may also link to Zeke’s Great Smoky Mountain 2 Wheeled Adventures under Opinion on the Mountaineer’s website.