You may have seen the reports of the fatal hit-and-run crash near Council Bluffs. It just isn’t right, but there is something you can do to help. We have set up a form that you can contact your Iowa Representative on the enhanced penalties bill HF2189 at http://www.new.iowabicyclecoalition.org/passing/
William Shepard was killed on May 11, 2019, after being hit by a vehicle driven by Bob Christensen — a retired police officer. Christensen fled the scene only to switch trucks and drive back to the crash site. He turned himself in the next morning and said he thought he hit a deer. This week, Christensen pled guilty and was sentenced to two years probation. The penalty doesn’t seem to fit the crime in this case.
The Shepard crash is egregious, but, inconsistent penalties aren’t unusual with fatal bike crashes. We analyzed the past five years of fatal bike crashes — 32 crashes total. Just less than half (14 crashes) were bicyclists hit by motor vehicles from behind. Motorists were charged with “homicide by vehicle” in 25% of “hit from behind” crash types — mostly for operating while intoxicated or reckless driving. “Leaving the scene of a fatal crash” was charged in 17% of the “hit from behind” incidents. Finally, 33% of the charges were “steering unreasonably close to a bicyclist” which normally carries a $250 fine. However, 3 of those 4 crashes were plea deals and the drivers paid $60 in fines and not the normal $250 fine.
There is a bill in the Iowa House that seeks to remedy this inconsistency in the law. HF2189 adds enhanced penalties in the event of a serious injury or fatality when the motorist steers unreasonably close to a bicyclist. This has been a long-time inconsistency in the Iowa Code. Under the current law, if a serious injury or fatality occurs when steering unreasonable close to a bicyclist no enhanced penalty is assessed. However, other sections of code commonly applied to motor vehicles, such as 321.299 (unsafe passing) carry enhanced penalties.
I know this is frustrating, but you can help fix this law. The Iowa House Judiciary Committee passed this bill unanimously but this bill awaits debate on the House Floor. If legislators don’t hear from a lot of people — including you — then they won’t move this bill forward. I know it is easy to be frustrated, but polite and thoughtful emails from constituents like you can make a huge difference.
We have grouped our bills by subject because multiple bills may address the same topic. Learn more on each topic at:
- Safe Passing of Bicycles: www.iowabicyclecoalition.org/passing
- Bicycle Visibility: www.iowabicyclecoalition.org/visibility
- E-Bikes: www.iowabicyclecoalition.org/ebikes
- Handsfree Cellphones: www.iowabicyclecoalition.org/handsfree
- Natural Resources & Outdoor Recreation Trust: www.iowabicyclecoaliton.org/trust
Or return to our legislative page: www.iowabicyclecoalition.org/legislation