Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Motorist Who Struck Mary Robicheaux In Anchorage Crosswalk Has A Previous DUI; Bicyclists Often Viewed As Prey In Anchorage

Update October 22nd: Nearly $19,000 was collected in two fundraisers for Mary Robicheaux over the weekend of October 19-21; update on Mary's medical condition in this post.

Anchorage Police are investigating a collision that took place between a motorist and a bicyclist on August 28th, 2012, to determine if the motorist was either distracted or impaired, and the Alaska Court System database indicates the motorist has a previous record of traffic offenses, some of them alcohol-related. One of them is a DUI.

Around 8:00 P.M., 21-year-old Jordan Tuttle was headed westbound on Northern Lights Blvd. when he encountered a pedestrian crosswalk south of Nichols Street. The crosswalk was displaying the flashing red lights that indicate a pedestrian was crossing. The pedestrian was 13-year-old Mary Robicheaux, a student at Winterberry Charter School who was biking south across the crosswalk; she was wearing a helmet. According to witnesses, Tuttle noticed the flashing red light, but too late to stop in time; he struck the girl, who was severely hurt. Paramedics rushed Robicheaux to Providence Hospital, where she was listed in critical condition. She is now said to have brain trauma, multiple broken bones in both legs and a possible spinal injury.

On August 31st, Robicheaux's condition was upgraded from critical to serious. Police are not awaiting the results of Tuttle's blood test to determine how to proceed next.

A support website for Mary Robicheaux has been set up:

Police are still investigating and have not yet ruled on any specific cause. But on a hunch, I entered Jordan Tuttle's name into the Alaska Court System database, and I found he has a history of four offenses between 2007-2012, three of them alcohol-related. Most significantly, Tuttle pleaded no contest to DUI in October 2007 (Case No. 3AN-07-08808CR).

The fact that Tuttle has a past DUI is no guarantor that he was impaired this time; it is equally possible that he may have been distracted long enough to take his eyes off the road, after which he noticed the flashing red light too late to react in time. Tuttle himself told officers he was blinded by the low sun angle.

Comments which were appended to the original ADN story do indicate the continuing cold war that exists between bicyclists and motorists in Anchorage. This is attributable to the ambiguous status of cyclists; they are not always treated as traffic, and they do not always act as traffic. And although our bicycle trail system permits cyclists to move through much of the city without directly competing with motorists, most of our principal streets do not have bike lanes.

In Europe, motorists are expected to treat cyclists as traffic, and cyclists are expected to act like traffic. The latter means cyclists obey all traffic laws when they ride upon the streets; they are not allowed to ride on sidewalks. We will need a serious culture change here in this country to get people to think the same way.

1 comment:

  1. Hope Mary gets better fast. Thoughts and prayers go out here in CA!