It’s been a little over 24 hours since a car plowed through a group of 15 cyclists from Cycling Family Broward in Davie, Florida. One cyclist, wife and mother of two Denise Marsh, was killed. As of the time of writing this, another 6 cyclists are injured with one in critical condition. To say the South Florida cycling community is devastated is an understatement.
I rode with one of the cyclists, Carlos Rodriguez, back in 2016 on our Leslie’s Angels Bike MS team. I’ve also ridden that stretch of road before. The constant thought in my head since yesterday morning was that it could have been me. I look at my wife and think, ‘what if that was me?’ And I angrily remind myself that this could have been prevented. It should have been prevented.
While it’s still early in the investigation into the crash, there are reports that the driver told police that she was distracted, but she didn’t know or couldn’t remember what distracted her. She also blamed the rising sun. Either will likely result in no punishment for the driver. Neither should be a justifiable excuse. If you can’t see because of the sun, pull over and stop driving. But what’s worse is that she was admittedly distracted.
In 2016, distracted driving caused 50,000 crashes in Florida, resulting in 3,500 serious injuries and 233 deaths. You would think that in the Sunshine State, with so many pedestrian tourists and a vibrant cycling community, we’d have strong laws against texting and driving. You’d be wrong. Texting and driving is still only a secondary offense, meaning a police officer would need to have stopped a driver for committing some other offense before a citation could be issued for texting. Yet every year, legislation comes to the floor of the Florida Legislature to allow officers to pull over drivers caught texting while driving, and year after year that bill fails.
This brings us back to the tragedy of yesterday. It should have been prevented. Drivers know that there is no meaningful penalty for distracted driving. Florida’s elected leaders and legislators know the dangers of distracted driving. Yet year after year nothing is done. People are seriously injured or are killed every year in this state due to distracted driving, regardless if they are drivers or pedestrians or cyclists, and nothing changes in Tallahassee. The only change is a new billboard along the highway that warns of the dangers.
Florida lags behind in proper infrastructure (cycling or otherwise) and meaningful traffic laws. More injuries and deaths should not be the catalyst for change with our elected leaders. But hopefully some good will come of this. Our roads should no longer be killing streets. A fun ride with friends and family should not end with orphans and widows.
I was devastated to learn that Carlos didn’t make it. Our thoughts and prayers to all of the families and cyclists and friends, but we will follow through with action.