|Bike Jeffco Meeting Minutes: December 10, 2019
Jefferson County Administration Building
100 Jefferson County Parkway, Golden CO
Attendees: Charlie Myers, Mike Raber, Yelena Onnen, Dick Stoll, Megan Hottman, Jack Todd, Dave Hammond, Stan and Jenny Sunderwirth, Sam and Lois Riggs, Peter McNut, Capt. James Lucas, Diane Short, Gary Harty, Dallas Cox, Gary Peterson, Chris Satriano
Megan Hottman, The Cyclist- Lawyer
Megan will be speaking on her recent crash, the legal aspects and implications for sentencing careless drivers in future cases that involve the Vulernable Road User Law.
Delores Marquez is a client of Megan’s and has had to deal with a lot after she was hit by a vehicle.
Guest Speaker, Megan Hottman
Megan’s Crash and Experience with the Vulnerable Road Users Bill
Megan had a recent incident in which she was hit by a car in a bike lane just a few hours after the new Vulnerable Road User (VRU) law was passed. The intent of the law is if a driver is convicted of careless driving causing serious bodily injury (SBI) to a vulnerable user. Cyclists, pedestrians, and authorities or workers on the side of a road are considered vulnerable users. Megan had a head injury and a knee injury, both requiring MRIs. The head injury affected her ability to work. Her orthopedic doctor at Panorama made a judgement that both the injuries were SBI, but when the case went to court, the Jeffco District Attorney disagreed with the doctors assessment and only gave the driver only a careless driving charge, resulting in 4 points on her license. The new VRU law was not used. The driver had a $150 fine, and no revocation of her license. If the VRU was used, her license would have been revoked for 30 – 60 days, possibly 6 months. This would provide justice. Megan believes the police are getting it right now, but the courts are not in regard to using the VRU law. DAs have large caseloads, so careless driving reduces the risk the case would go to trial.
Bicycle advocates should be pushing for both better infrastructure and laws to protect vulnerable users. Megan’s recommendation is to get to know the potential DA candidates and back one in the next election that will be more willing to use the VRU law. Goal is for drivers to know that if they hit a cyclist, they lose their license. DA Pete Weir in Jeffco is term limited and will be out in November 2020. DA Michael Dougherty in Boulder is more proactive toward cyclists than the Jeffco DA.
What about the Distracted Driver Bill? Legislators don’t want it because it is hard to prove if the driver was distracted. The VRU law is not the same because you don’t have to prove the driver was distracted, only careless as evident from the result of the crash. But the VRU bill is usually not used because the DA’s position is that drivers are remorseful and should not be severely penalized. Megan said that in her case, the Jeffco judge was very good, but the DA made her feel like she was on trial rather than the driver.
Civil vs. Criminal Case
The VRU bill is a criminal law. Megan works on the civil side of a case. Her role is to get compensation for the victim in a civil case as opposed to a criminal case. She speaks with the police and the DA and advocates for the victim to get compensation from insurance companies. Civil cases deal with negligence. For a criminal case, a jury trial may result that would require unreasonable doubt and all 12 jurors agreeing to prosecute. This is not a likely outcome in a traffic case like Megan’s. Traffic case results are not admissible in court on a civil case.
Bike Jeffco can help by getting the word out to cyclists, possibly a video, Megan would like us to call connections to her and some clients in a room with Pete Weir to talk about why this matters and how cyclists lives are impacted by crashes. Also, identifying and meeting with potential DA candidates.
Also, all cyclists need to know how to get crashes elevated to the VRU status. Make sure and injuries are evaluated for SBI. Unfortunately, concussions are not considered SBI by the law. Megan has a free class every week for what cyclists do when they are hit. Invite DA candidates to Bike Jeffco meetings.
Regarding bike crashes not involving a car, only homeowners policies can be used to compensate the victim
If you have car insurance, set your med-pay to cover your health insurance deductible. If you get hurt in a bike accident, med-pay will cover your medical expenses. So say if your healthcare deductible is $7000, get med-pay for $10,000 on you car insurance policy. Only need on one car.
Un-insured motorist (UM), underinsured motorist (UIM) policies are another good extra policy to have.
Also Umbrella policy is recommended if you have any assets worth protecting.
Jack Todd, Bicycle Colorado
Bicycle Colorado initiatives:
- New communications person
- Gearing up for legislative session – hands free bill
- Megan working with Senator Foote on right of way legislation
- Bike rebate bill
- Rails to trail study
- Share the road license plates may be changing
- CDOT Strategic Transportation Safety Planning process
- VRU emphasis
- DRCOG Vision Zero
- Working with recent victims of bike crashes
- Colorado Gives Day is today, so contribute!
- Bike map with low stress routes for riding
Bike Blue.org and the Distracted Driving Bill – Chris Satriano and Gary Peterson
The Bill has been drafted and will be posted on bikeblue.org. Language of bill is much improved. If a cell phone is in hand, you are considered distracted. It will be a Class 1 offense and will help establish accountability for drivers hitting cyclists. Cyclists need to actively support this bill. We have incredible political power, but do not use it! Bike Blue will go to every bike shop in the state and spread the work.
Mike Raber has been part of the legislative process and he wants to make sure texting is a Class 1, not Class 2 offense.
Capt. James Lucas
Capt Lucas announced that he has been transferred out of the Patrol Division and will no longer attend Bike Jeffco meetings. Lt. Greg Gompert will assume Jim’s role as Jeffco Sherriff’s liaison with Bike Jeffco.
Charlie recognized Capt. By stating the following:
Jimmy, you have been such an important member of Bike Jeffco for well over a decade. Getting the Sheriff’s Office perspective on so many of our discussion topics was vital to our understanding the issue and reaching a sound decision. You deserve another plaque of appreciation. Thank you and good luck with your new position and endeavors. Remember, you can always attend a Bike Jeffco meeting as just an interested cyclist.