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Driver charged in accident that injured off-duty bike deputy

Valerie Rowell/ STAFF
FILE Emergency responders help off-duty Columbia County Sheriff's Office bicycle deputy Mark Benson, who was hit by a truck Jan. 7.
Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013 11:09 AM
Last updated 7:47 PM
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An Evans woman has been charged in a Jan. 7 accident that seriously injured an off-duty Columbia County Sheriff’s Office bicycle deputy.

Emergency responders help off-duty Columbia County Sheriff's Office bicycle Deputy Mark Benson, who was hit by a truck Jan. 7.  JIM BLAYLOCK/FILE
JIM BLAYLOCK/FILE
Emergency responders help off-duty Columbia County Sheriff's Office bicycle Deputy Mark Benson, who was hit by a truck Jan. 7.

Kathy Howle, 38, was charged with driving too fast for conditions, according to South Carolina Highway Patrol Lance Cpl. Tony Keller.

Police say she was driving her Ford F-150 truck along Furys Ferry Road in McCormick County about 3:15 p.m. when she hit off-duty Deputy Mark Benson, who was riding his bicycle on the edge of the road.

Benson, 60, of Augusta, is in good condition at Medical College of Georgia Hospital, according to a hospital spokeswoman. A 16-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, Benson is assigned to the Special Operations Division Bike Patrol, according to sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris.

A motorist traveling behind Howle’s truck said several other vehicles passed Benson, but Howle’s truck hit him. Benson was airlifted to the hospital for treatment.

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Fiat_Lux
15005
Points
Fiat_Lux 01/16/13 - 12:33 pm
13
2
Very sorry to read this

I have to wonder how anyone knows she was driving too fast for conditions if she wasn't clocked breaking the speed limit.

It is entirely possible, even likely, that Ms. Howle had no idea what "the conditions" actually were until the vehicle in front of her moved over to avoid the cyclist, probably leaving her without enough time to miss him herself, even if she was driving exactly as she should have been for the conditions and the law.

As much as I wish the deputy a speedy and complete recovery, I still maintain it is foolhardy to ride on roadways right along with high-speed (ie, over 20 mph) traffic. What's currently "legal" is just a set up for totally avoidable, dangerous encounters where the driver always ends up a criminal and the cyclist always ends up maimed or dead.

I'm Back Again
307
Points
I'm Back Again 01/16/13 - 12:46 pm
0
1
You must be a nut case.
Unpublished

Just because you don't agree with the current law, doesn't mean it can't be inforced. In order for their to be an accident, somebody somewhere somehow or something went wrong. The driver was charged with too fast for conditions. That does not mean the driver was speeding. It simply means she was driving faster than she should have been, given the conditions. The conditions are obviously heavy traffic, and a legal cyclist riding down the road. You said yourself when the other vehicles passed him she didn't have time to react. Guess what? That's why!!!
If the speed limit on the interstate is 65 mph, and it's snowing, and you're driving 45 mph and you hydroplane, you will be charged with too fast for conditions. Not for soeeding, but for driving faster than you should be given the comditions. It doesn't matter what the law says you can do. Even laws can't combat stupidity.
Get well soon deputy!!!!

rocketserve
280
Points
rocketserve 01/16/13 - 01:34 pm
8
2
Lets be honest
Unpublished

Would this even be a story if it was not a police officer that this women accidentally hit? I know Mark and he is a great guy and a great officer, but if she had just hit one of the other 100's of cyclist that are riding at any given time on a road where CARS are designed to travel, this would be a non story. Get well soon Mark.

Dudeness
1543
Points
Dudeness 01/16/13 - 01:35 pm
9
2
This charge sounds like a

This charge sounds like a real stretch to find something to pin on her. Based on the article detailing how a driver behind her saw other cars in front of her drive around the guy, it sounds to me like she was driving within a pack of vehicles. This tells me they were all going at about the same rate of speed, which I'm guessing was not all that fast since none of the others were driving too fast for conditions.

Little Lamb
44927
Points
Little Lamb 01/16/13 - 01:35 pm
8
1
Good Points

Yes, there is way too much subjectivity in the "too fast for conditions" charge. It may be just a professional courtesy gesture to the officer. If she contests it, the charge will likely be dropped and everyone will be happy.

griff6035
3944
Points
griff6035 01/16/13 - 01:41 pm
9
0
To fast for conditions

If she was driving to fast for conditions, then the other drivers must have been also as it seems they were following each other. no charges for them. Glad the officer is doing well.

I'm Back Again
307
Points
I'm Back Again 01/16/13 - 01:47 pm
0
1
Charges weren't filed against
Unpublished

Charges weren't filed against the other drivers because the other drivers did not him him. Duh. You guys should research OCGA 40-6-180. It will explain the law to you. Then you can come back and delete your stupid comments.

itsanotherday1
41409
Points
itsanotherday1 01/16/13 - 01:47 pm
6
3
The too fast for conditions

The too fast for conditions is a catch-all when they have to charge you with something, but no other specific law was broken. In this case, the condition was the presence of a bicycle on the roadway. Unless he swerved out in front of her, which I highly doubt, she should also be charged with following too closely since this bicycle was legally in the roadway. Would the circumstances be any different if it had been a piece if highway dept machinery going slow?

kiwiinamerica
934
Points
kiwiinamerica 01/16/13 - 01:51 pm
0
1
Broad daylight, three in the
Unpublished

Broad daylight, three in the afternoon. The guy is wearing a bright, multi-colored cycling outfit. She still doesn't see him.

Prolly yapping on the phone or texting.

allhans
23471
Points
allhans 01/16/13 - 02:16 pm
3
4
Maybe...keep your vehicle

Maybe...keep your vehicle under control at all time. ( or something like that)

I'm Back Again
307
Points
I'm Back Again 01/16/13 - 03:34 pm
0
0
How about this: Dont try to
Unpublished

How about this: Dont try to pass a bicycle on the road unless you can do it safely. Problem solved

Riverman1
81441
Points
Riverman1 01/16/13 - 06:23 pm
9
2
How do we know the bike

How do we know the bike didn't swerve into the truck as the rider was struggling to keep his balance or something? We've all ridden bikes and understand the precarious balancing aspect.

I'm Back Again
307
Points
I'm Back Again 01/16/13 - 06:54 pm
0
0
Riverman
Unpublished

It wouldn't matter even if that were the case. Passing a bicycle on the roadway is the same as passing a vehicle. The law states the bicycle has the same right to be on the road as a vehicle. I'm not sure why so many people on here are faulting the guy on the bike. If he were wrong, or at fault, he would have been charged. It doesn't matter if he is a cop or not.

Newsflash
1881
Points
Newsflash 01/16/13 - 08:11 pm
3
0
In good hands......

Looks like Deputy Mark Benson is in good hands . Get well soon !

Guy from a civilized society
27
Points
Guy from a civilized society 01/16/13 - 11:54 pm
4
4
Civilization

In many other states, this driver would also have been charged with Improper Passing, Failure to Yield Right of Way, and Following Too Closely. In cities and states where people have respect for other road users, this is the norm. And to answer the question of how this was "too fast for conditions," it's quite simple - if there is another legal road user in front of us, like a bike, tractor, moped, slow moving truck, RV, etc, and we run into it, then we were going too fast for the "condition" of someone or something being in front of us. None of us are so important that everyone should move out of our way; as the person in back, we have the responsibility of passing in a safe manner. Additionally, if this driver was so close to the vehicle in front of her that she couldn't see a cyclist on the edge of the road, then she was following too closely - again, we are required to keep a safe enough distance to be able to react in time to unexpected changes in traffic. What if the same thing happened in a school zone? Say someone is driving behind another car so closely that they don't see your child riding her bike legally on the edge of the road and they hit her as they take a bend slightly too wide - would you have the same sympathy for the driver then? I doubt it. But get this: they are exactly the same situation legally, and drivers have exactly the same responsibility in both.
Here's the thing: cycling is not going away. In fact, it's still growing in popularity. And it's legal on most roads, and that will not change anytime soon, if ever. As drivers, everyone has the responsibility to drive safely and take into account all potential hazards. I'm certain that this officer was obeying the rules of the road, which is why other cars were able to avoid him. Unfortunately for him, one person too many simply wasn't being a responsible driver.

ymnbde
9524
Points
ymnbde 01/17/13 - 07:25 am
2
1
accidents like this will continue

and continue, and continue, and continue...
cars and physics and bikes and law just don't mix
and narcissists don't mix with anything...

Guy from a civilized society
27
Points
Guy from a civilized society 01/17/13 - 09:52 am
3
2
OK

Wanting to exercise does not make someone a narcissist. You, as a driver, still have no more right to the road than anyone else. The fact that you think you do makes you a narcissist. But then again, I would expect that in a society of people who take no blame for living on fast food and cigarettes while weighing down our medical care programs and jacking up insurance premiums, because hey, it's your right to live how you want no matter how it affects other people, right? Get over yourself already.

Fiat_Lux
15005
Points
Fiat_Lux 01/17/13 - 10:29 am
4
0
Sorry Guy FACS,

but you're just spitting in the wind. I would love--LOVE!--to ride my own very expensive, custom-made English racer (a Mercian) everywhere I go.

I'm not, however, an idiot or a fool. Being right wouldn't impress a car, or help a driver who doesn't see me or can't avoid me, for whatever reason. It certainly would not protect me or provide for my family if I got killed exercising my right--MY rights, by golly!--to ride my 14 lb bike in motorized vehicle traffic.

I've got responsibilities to and for other people, which means I must use good judgment in exercising my rights. It is a hallmark of maturity.

Riverman1
81441
Points
Riverman1 01/17/13 - 11:09 am
2
0
It's interesting that many of

It's interesting that many of us have bikes and don't ride them on highways. I will put my bike in the back of my truck and drive to a safe place to ride. Where that officer was injured was a flat out highway with no shoulder. You just have to use common sense.

Guy from a civilized society
27
Points
Guy from a civilized society 01/17/13 - 11:13 am
2
2
Logic

By that logic, Fiat, you probably shouldn't even leave your house then, since many of the things you do put you in more danger than cycling does. You're far more likely to die while driving your car, in fact. That being said, in 30+ years of cycling all over the world, Augusta is the first place I've ever felt like people were actually targeting me. It's a cultural thing; stiffer penalties for hitting a cyclist (in some places it's akin to hitting a pedestrian in a crosswalk) would make people take it less lightly. As of now, there's an attitude in Augusta that cyclists deserve to be hit - I've never seen that anywhere else after incidents like this. Accidents happen, of course - they happen in all aspects of life. It's just that in other aspects there isn't this vitriolic "he deserved it" nonsense that Augustans have towards cyclists. The answer is not to tell cyclists not to ride on the roads; it's to modernize the culture to be considerate of, rather than feel inconvenienced by, other people.

itsanotherday1
41409
Points
itsanotherday1 01/17/13 - 11:38 am
1
1
Riverman

You obviously don't ride a lot if "swerving into the truck" is a possibility you really believe. (you and 8 others) This man rides his bike for a living with the Sheriff's dept and has for a number of years. He is a pro and would be very aware of road hazards that he may have to deal with, as well as a very keen awareness that traffic was passing. You only get into an imbalance situation when going very slow, and only then if you are not an experienced rider. The faster you are pedaling, the more stable you are from the gyroscopic action of the wheels. That is why you can ride hands free when at speed; but of course, you know that.

No way to prove it of course, but I would bet a large sum of money this woman had a phone in her hand or was otherwise distracted.

ymnbde
9524
Points
ymnbde 01/17/13 - 12:11 pm
2
1
get over yourself?

Ha! No, wanting to exercise does not make one a narcissist.
But you can be a narcissist and want to exercise.
Sane, rational, and humble people also don’t have any problems with someone wanting to exercise.
Know what sane people do have a problem with?
Being three feet from a tractor trailer going 65 mph.
Know what rational people do have a problem with?
Thinking the laws of physics will be altered because they have a RIGHT to be in the road three feet from a tractor trailer going 65 mph.
Know what humble people do have a problem with?
Thinking the laws of physics will be altered because, doggone it, you have the RIGHT to be in the road three feet from a tractor trailer going 65 mph and the mean old cars and tractor trailers won’t harm you and if they do harm you they are going to be in trouble cause you are king of the civilized society and if they say you’re not king and they make you think before you ride and evaluate the safety of the area you ride then it isn’t a civilized society! Reality conforms and bends to your will !
So, guy from a civilized society, you might be a narcissist, if…

thauch12
6387
Points
thauch12 01/17/13 - 12:34 pm
4
0
Delusions of Civilization

@guy, noone is arguing that the cyclist did not have a right to be on the roadway because he did. I'm saying it is a downright foolhardy decision to ride your bike on a road where the speed limit is 55, taking the risk that someone may not have time to swerve out of the way.

As for your example about the kid in the school zone, it's really quite silly (for lack of a stronger word) to think any parent with an IQ above room temperature would allow their child to ride their bike on the edge of a busy road...

Fiat_Lux
15005
Points
Fiat_Lux 01/17/13 - 12:45 pm
2
0
@ Guy

Nobody is saying (or likely thinking) that this deputy deserved to get hit. What an absurd thing to put out there. IMO, you must have a very biased and skewed view of people around here to even think something like that.

Also, it appears that this collision between the deputy and the truck was AN ACCIDENT, and nothing even remotely resembling a targeting of the cyclist. Your anger and hostility over this event seems to indicate you believe otherwise and that drivers are guilty until proven otherwise.

You aren't helping the cause for cyclists' interests here, including mine.

Guy from a civilized society
27
Points
Guy from a civilized society 01/17/13 - 01:06 pm
1
0
Nevermind.

Nevermind.

Riverman1
81441
Points
Riverman1 01/17/13 - 01:16 pm
1
0
IsAnotherday1

Sure, I get what you mean about the increased speed of a rider helping him keep his balance, but it sort of makes my point if he has slowed down for any reason, he may have a problem with balance that makes him swerve. We simply have no way of knowing when a motor vehicle is passing a bike and they collide which vehicle moved into the other.

You think the woman may have been on a cell phone or something, but there are a myriad of reasons a bike rider can become unattentive as he works hard pedaling...if we are going to use conjecture.

itsanotherday1
41409
Points
itsanotherday1 01/17/13 - 11:25 pm
1
0
" myriad of reasons a bike

" myriad of reasons a bike rider can become unattentive as he works hard pedaling...if we are going to use conjecture."

Not when there are 5000lb vehicles passing within a couple of feet.

oldredneckman96
5032
Points
oldredneckman96 02/07/13 - 08:26 pm
0
0
Bikes and cars
Unpublished

No matter how liberals wish it were so, the laws of physics can not be bent. The legislators who wrote the current bicycle laws most obviously hate bikes. If bicycle riders were allowed to ride facing traffic, like all other pedestrian traffic, most would still be alive and uninjured. Argue with that! What you can not see will kill you!

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