In the US and the Netherlands, two children on bikes are struck by cars—and the responses couldn’t be more different
By Bob Mionske
The driver who hit Burgess Hu never saw him.
She was making a right turn, and the police assume she was looking left. In other words, she wasn’t looking where she was going.
As he biked into the driveway of Excelsior Middle School in Byron, California, 12-year-old Burgess was knocked down and dragged some 60 feet before the driver came to a stop. He never made it to school that day. Instead, as the school day began, Burgess lay dead under the wheels of the black GMC Yukon.
In this country, “I didn’t see the cyclist” is the negligent driver’s universal get-out-of-jail free card. It shouldn’t be. If you say you were driving and didn’t see somebody, it’s almost always because you weren’t paying attention. Maybe you were reaching for something in the front seat, or maybe even the back seat. Maybe you were daydreaming. And then suddenly, there’s a cyclist who “came out of nowhere,” smashing into your car.
When the driver says, “I didn’t see the cyclist,” that’s usually enough for everybody to call it a “tragic accident”—and we don’t want to hold people accountable for accidents, do we? Certainly not. Not if you’re a legislator. Not if you’re on a jury. And not if you’re the California Highway Patrol, investigating the scene where an SUV just ran down a kid at a school. No, it’s not that the driver wasn’t looking where she was going. It was just a “tragic event” and the driver is “devastated.”