Maybe there will be justice for Debra Deem after all.
According to CdM Today, a misdemeanor charge of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence has been filed against 84-year old Irvine resident Robert James Anderson, the driver who took her life in a Newport Beach collision last August.
The site reports the case was filed last Friday, and he’s expected to be arraigned on February 3rd.
Deem was riding west on East Coast Highway just east of Newport Coast Drive at 4:28 pm on August 28th when she was struck by a white minivan driven by Anderson.
The van as traveling in the same direction as Deem; however, it’s not clear if her bike was struck from behind or if he turned into her. Police merely say Anderson made an unsafe lane change that resulted in the collision.
Several people who ride through the area suggest that the design of the intersection, with a dangerous transition from the shoulder bike lane through the freeway-style interchange, may have contributed to the collision.
According to the Daily Pilot, the charge carries a maximum sentence of one year in county jail.
To be honest, though, as much as I believe in justice for all cyclists, I’m not sure what good there is in sending an 84-year old man to jail. The real benefit may simply be getting a driver who may be too old to drive safely off the roads.
Then again, that probably should have been done long before the collision that took Debra Deem’s life.
Thanks to Amy Senk and Jeffrey for the heads-up.
Update: More information from the Orange County Register; for a change, the story isn’t locked up behind their paywall.
The paper reports neither speed or alcohol appeared to be a factor in the collision. In an interview, Anderson says he has only received on traffic citation in his life, oddly, for another improper lane change in 1966.
According to his lawyer, witnesses to the collision said Deem left the bike lane when she was cut off by another driver, placing her bike in the path of Anderson’s van. The lawyer says he never saw her. Or rather, never had a chance to see her.
Reading between the lines, it sounds like prosecutors will argue that if Anderson hadn’t made the illegal lane change, Deem’s bike wouldn’t have been in front of him. Or at the very least, he would have had a chance to see her and react.
Then again, her bike should have been clearly visible in the bike lane before any of this unfolded.
And the tragedy is compounded by the heartbreaking effect it’s had on her husband.
“My initial thought was ‘accidents happen,’ “ he said. “People get in a hurry. I’ve been in a hurry. Fortunately I’ve never killed anybody.”
But he keeps thinking about the unfairness of the situation. He lost his wife and later, he said, his house.
“I’m not quite sure what Mr. Anderson’s losing in this thing,” Deem said. “He doesn’t lose his house. If I sue him for wrongful death, he files for bankruptcy and keeps his house and life goes on. I’ve lost my life. … From a justice standpoint, I’ve lost everything.”