Update on Carlsbad Bike Accident and Employer Liability for Drowsy Driving

There’s an update on the bicycle accident that killed Eric Ringdahl, 45, of Carlsbad, Calif. Ringdahl had been wearing a helmet and was riding properly in the bicycle lane at the time of the accident. Each year, thousands of car accidents result from drowsy driving, and this recent fatal crash is no exception.

Investigators Discover Driver Asleep at the Wheel
According to an article in UT San Diego, the driver who struck and killed Ringdahl “had fallen asleep behind the wheel.” San Diego police Lieutenant Kelly Cain confirmed that the driver told police that he had been heading home from a night shift at his job in San Diego when “he fell asleep and drifted into the bike lane.” Kelly indicated that there was no evidence suggesting anything to the contrary.

Investigators from the San Diego Police Department don’t believe that drugs or alcohol played a role in the accident. However, they have issued search warrants for the driver’s cell phone records. The investigators want to check if the driver had been talking or texting when he drifted into the bike lane and crashed into Ringdahl.

Possible Vehicular Manslaughter Charge
Since the driver never intended to strike Ringdahl, if he’s charged with a crime it will be a vehicle code violation, according to Cain. Most likely, the driver, whose name hasn’t yet been released, would face a misdemeanor charge of vehicular manslaughter.

The charge of vehicular manslaughter is typically governed by the California Penal Code Section 191.5. However, that section of the code concerns vehicular manslaughter while a driver was intoxicated. Since there are no indications that the driver was intoxicated, a charge would likely fall under California Penal Code Section 192, which governs manslaughter when the driver was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Section 192 of the California Penal Code
defines manslaughter as the “unlawful killing of a human being without malice.” There are three types of manslaughter: voluntary, involuntary, and vehicular. According to the UT San Diego article, the driver would face a misdemeanor charge under 192(c) for vehicular manslaughter. California law only allows a prosecutor to charge a driver with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter if the crash resulted from the driver’s “carelessness or inattention.” If the driver is charged, the prosecutor will have to prove that he was negligent, and that his negligence was the direct cause of the accident.

However, it’s important to consider whether the driver’s employer could be liable for the fatal accident. In this case, the driver could have been overworked, very tired, and a danger on the road.

Employer Liability for Vehicular Manslaughter?
While most courts have found that employers aren’t liable in specific cases where employees have fallen asleep at the wheel, several courts have left open the possibility for employer liability when employees are especially tired or overworked. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) suggests that all employers set up a safe driving program to keep their employees safe on the road.

In particular, OSHA suggests that employers educate their employees about the warning signs of fatigue while driving. Warning signs include:

· Inability to remember the last few miles you’ve driven
· Hitting a rumble strip or drifting from your lane
· Wandering or disconnected thoughts
· Repeated yawning
· Difficulty keeping your eyes open
· Tailgating or missing traffic signs
· Difficulty keeping your head up
OSHA reports that “drowsy driving” leads to more than 100,000 crashes each year, with 40,000 injuries and 1,550 fatalities.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a motor vehicle accident or a bicycle accident, contact an experienced injury attorney today to discuss your case.

See Related Blog Posts
Cyclist Dies in Carlsbad Accident
Drowsy Driving Accidents in California

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