A Los Angeles police officer struck and killed a bicyclist while driving distracted by his in-car “Mobile Digital Computer” (MDC). But in a twist of the law, it looks like the officer won’t face any criminal charges.
Driving distracted is a growing problem across the nation. Over 3,000 people die in distracted driving accidents each year. To curb the threat, 44 states have banned texting while driving and 12 prohibit any handheld cell phone use at all. Michigan is one of them.
California bans texting while driving, so when Deputy Andrew Wood hit Milton Everett Olin, Jr., while he was riding in a bicycle lane, people expected the officer to face criminal charges. Olin was a former executive for A&M Records and Napster, and a famed entertainment lawyer. The outcry reached as far as the Business Insider.
According to the District Attorney’s “charge evaluation worksheet,”the officer drove into the bike lane when he took his eyes off the road at the very moment the road curved slightly to the left. He hit Olin from behind at about 45 miles per hour. Olin died on the scene.
So if the deputy was distracted by his MDC, why isn’t he being charged? The California law has an exception for emergency services personnel in emergency vehicles. The officer was driving a police car and responding to another deputy’s question about a fire investigation he was leaving. That means he falls into California’s exception.
That’s not to say he won’t be held responsible for his actions. Olin’s family has already sued the officer, the Sheriff’s Department, and the county for wrongful death. The Sheriff’s Department’s policies also require officers to use “defensive driving techniques” and calls distracted driving “inherently unsafe.” That could help Olin’s widow and family to get some compensation for the officer’s conduct.
Driving distracted can cause serious, even fatal accidents. What is lost when a text message causes a crash cannot be brought back. But the experts at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan, can help the victims of these accidents and their families, receive compensation for their injuries and expenses. If you or someone you love has suffered from a distracted driving accident, contact David Christensen and his team for a free consultation.