Karen Johnson succumbed to her injuries and passed away following a head on collision in Magna, Utah, between herself and a Dodge pickup truck on October 19, 2010. According to KSL News, a 17 year old was driving down the street in Magna with a pickup full of balloons and a windshield mostly covered with paint in celebration of her 17th birthday. By reports, she was driving on the opposite side of the road and above the speed limit as Karen Johnson and a fellow cyclist, coworker, were approaching her. The two cyclists appeared to have split, with the male cyclist going to the right of the pickup truck, off the road and Karen veering to the left. At the point she veered, however, the pickup truck driver suddenly corrected and veered right into the path of Ms. Johnson, striking her head on. She died on the way to the hospital. Both of the cyclists were wearing helmets at the time.
Video Courtesy of KSL.com.
I send my deepest condolences to the family of Karen Johnson and those that knew her and loved her. By reports, she was an avid cyclist, doing rides of up to 500 miles. I’m quite certain that she’ll be missed by those in the biking community as well. I also feel for the motorist, for the anguish, remorse and guilt she’ll keep with her the rest of her life for her role in taking out an innocent cyclist.
From a legal standpoint, the driver of the pickup was certainly to blame for this tragic, completely avoidable collision. From looking at the pictures, I can tell that the paint on the windshield was not legal and most likely helped obscure the view of the road. Balloons in the cab of the truck certainly didn’t help and may have caused a distraction as they shifted and moved about in the truck. At any rate, whatever the exact reason for her being on the opposite side of the road was, it was illegal under Utah law. We saw from this crash the type of outcome that can come to innocent persons and to the community at large from those that break the law as this woman did by driving on the wrong side of the road. That being said, I’m sure she didn’t mean to run down this woman. However, she cannot say it was just an “accident” that this happened. Drivers have choices when they drive, and from the news report, it appears that she may have chosen to drive the vehicle while being overly distracted.
I’m a little sensitive to this type of collision since I myself am a regular road biker and have had some close calls myself and know that cyclists (as well as motorcyclists) often are not seen by others on the road. But driving your car on Utah’s roads requires that you are attentive to conditions around you – at all times. If you cannot be attentive, or if the surroundings are overly distracting to safe driving, then you shouldn’t drive.
From a legal standpoint, a claim could be made against the driver of the truck, as well as the owner of the truck since the driver is under 18 years of age. There are some small PIP insurance medical and death benefits that are available through the motorists insurance company.
The information and opinions expressed above are provided as a public service and should not be used in place of legal advice from a qualified Utah wrongful death attorney.
Ron Kramer is a Utah personal injury and accident lawyer practicing throughout the state. Call the Kramer Law Group today at 801-666-3959 for a free consultation if you are in need of a Utah bike accident attorney.