An open letter from the commander of the Leonardtown Barrack
To Whom It May Concern:
This is in response to a number of e-mails and citizen inquiries following the death of Curtis A. Leymeister, who was killed while operating a bicycle on Clarks Landing Road on October 5, 2009. I would like to provide the following information to clarify many misconceptions about this tragedy.First and foremost, please let me convey my deepest sympathies to the entire Leymeister family regarding this tragic loss. As the commander of the Leonardtown Barrack, I spent nearly four hours on the scene of this collision personally notifying the family of the loss of Curtis and making sure all the evidence was being collected to complete a thorough and objective investigation. The Maryland State Police has a long standing history of conducting strict traffic enforcement with the highest hopes of reducing the number of fatal and serious motor vehicle collisions that occur throughout Maryland . The members of my command take this responsibility very seriously and are certainly personally affected whenever they are on the scene of a fatal collision.
The initial investigation would reveal that Mr. Leymeister was struck while he was traveling westbound on Clarks Landing Road, east of Scotch Neck Road, Hollywood, St. Mary’s County, MD. Clarks Landing Road is a single lane road with a posted 40 mph speed limit. On the westbound portion of Clarks Landing Road where the collision occurred, there is an improved shoulder that is 3 feet 4 inches wide at the point of impact. Mr. Leymeister’s bicycle was 4 feet 8 inches left of the white edge line in a lane of travel that is 9 feet 7 inches wide. This places Mr. Leymeister’s bicycle a full 8 feet from the right edge of the pavement when he was struck. It would therefore be inappropriate for a bicycle to commute/travel that far into a designated lane of travel and certainly be classified as one of the primary causes of this collision.
3' 4" is pretty narrow. Bike lanes should be 5' wide for example. Then, once in the lane, it's in his interest to "take the lane" so that may be why he was in the center of the lane. As stated below a cyclist can move from the right to avoid a road hazard and each cyclist should be allowed to make a decision of what they deem hazardous and what they do not..Even if he was in the wrong place, HE had the right of way. She can not just plow over him because he's in the wrong place. Even if another road user breaks the law, you have a legal, and moral, obligation to do everything reasonable to avoid hitting them.
Department of Maryland State Police policy calls for a “Detailed Crash Investigation Report” to be completed following most fatal collisions. This report will encompass many of the items you have mentioned to include detailed diagrams of the scene, photographs, driver statements, toxicology reports, cell phone records of the vehicle operator and a detailed account of any contributing factors to this accident. Unfortunately a press release cannot contain answers to all of the questions that have been posed. Once the entire investigative packet has been completed, it is reviewed and approved by the Maryland State Police Department Reconstruction Coordinator. Subsequently, the case will be presented to the St. Mary’s County States Attorney to determine if charges should be filed.
In regards to the bicycle being struck 4 feet 8 inches left of the edge line, the Maryland Vehicle Law Annotated Code states the following: Title 21-1205(a) Riding on roadways or highway, each person riding a bicycle or a motor scooter at a speed less than the speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing on a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable and safe. Except when making a left turn, operating on a one-way street, passing a stopped or slower moving vehicle, avoiding pedestrians or road hazards, the right turn lane is a right turn only lane or operating in a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle or motor scooter and another vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane. At this point in the investigation, there is no apparent reason why Mr. Leymeister would be that far left of the white edge line.
Mr. Leymeister was not wearing a helmet at the time of this accident. Could the helmet have lessoned his injury to the point he would not succumbed to his injuries? The autopsy report may shed some light on this question. It should also be noted that Mr. Leymeister was not wearing any reflective clothing at the time of this collision.
Why would he? It wasn't dark out. Did the driver have her lights on for the clothing to reflect. And, not wearing a helmet did not cause the crash.
This tragic incident further illustrates the need to educate the public on traffic safety. The Maryland State Police extends their support to those in the bicycling community and continues to be involved in discussions that target the concerns of everyone.
I hope this letter clears up any confusion on the unfortunate events that led to this tragic accident. The Maryland State Police are committed to all citizens of the State of Maryland in keeping our roadways safe for all of us.
Lieutenant Michael Thompson
Commander, Barrack "T" Leonardtown
23200 Leonard Hall Drive
Leonardtown , MD 20650
Update: Pulling this up from the comments, Darren has a link to an explanation of the presumption of negligence on the part of the following driver that normally (as in, as long as a bike is not involved) exists in a rear-end collision in Maryland.