I’ve got some news from across the big pond. Having contacted the Attorney General’s Office of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for the first time about two years ago, as some of you might remember – in fact, some of you contacted that Office yourself -, having sent reminders and having visited the Office last June (yes, I realise this is a rather long introduction to what is about to come, but please hang in there), I received a phone call from their Chief of the Criminal Bureau who told me that having studied the case closely she found that the investigation into the accident was not biased and that the decision of the Brewster Police Department not to prosecute or even cite the driver of the truck that hit Pádraig was – the correct one!!!
There are official Massachusetts court instructions on OPERATING NEGLIGENTLY SO AS TO ENDANGER. In those, I found several reasons why, in a general case, someone who, undisputedly, attempts to overtake a cyclist on a narrow country road, with indications that he might have broken the speed limit, with an oncoming car on a direct collision course, not keeping the cyclist in sight all the time, might act with negligence, i.e. that he might fail to use “due care”, not “acting in a way a reasonable person would act”, doing what a “reasonable person would not do under these circumstances”. (Found in: http://www.mass.gov/courts/docs/courts-and-judges/courts/district-court/jury-instructions-criminal/5240-operating-negligently.pdf) Obviously, and with good reason, I am sure, the Attorney General’s Office did not see it that way in the specific case of Pádraig’s accident. Supporting, instead, the view of the Brewster Police Department who issued a press statement within hours of the accident pre-empting the results of their own investigation still to be conducted, putting the full blame of what happened squarely on Pádraig himself.
I am not a lawyer and, of course, do neither have the background nor the expertise of the Attorney General’s Office, but in my mind, and generally speaking, if you overtake a bicycle on a narrow country road (with a well-known history of it being a traffic black spot), with oncoming traffic on a direct collision course with you, with speed, one of two things is going to happen: you either crash into the approaching car (and get badly hurt yourself) or you hit the unprotected and (to your truck) non-threatening cyclist. (It is ironic to read the police report on Pádraig’s accident where not the vehicle on a direct collision course with the truck, but Pádraig on his bicycle, is labelled as a ‘threat’ to the truck.) So in my mind, and I admit that I might, in my innocence, and because of my lack of legal expertise, be completely wrong, in my mind, a reasonable person would not choose to overtake a bicycle at that point, but would slow down instead – which is, by the way, what the driver of that truck later said he will do in the future.
Tragically, too late for Pádraig.