Fatal Michigan Bike Accident Prompts NTSB Investigation
On June 7, 2016, a group of nine bicyclists known as the Chain Gang were taking their weekly 28-mile bike ride near Kalamazoo when they were struck by a truck driven by Charles Pickett Jr. 5 bicyclists were killed and 4 were injured in the accident.
Following the accident, Pickett was arrested and police officers found marijuana and methamphetamine in his truck. Reports later surfaced that his girlfriend admitted that Pickett had been behaving erratically in the days leading up to the accident and that he had taken very large doses of muscle relaxers and painkillers shortly before getting behind the wheel of his truck before the accident. In the half hour before the accident, law enforcement officials received multiple reports about his truck being driven in an extremely reckless manner. Pickett is now charged with five counts of second-degree murder and five counts of operating while intoxicated.
This particular bike accident is so unusual, it drew attention from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). According to the Washington Post, it’s unusual for the NTSB to investigate bicycle accidents. Usually, the NTSB spends most of their time investigating railroad, aviation, maritime, and highway accidents, but bicycle accidents aren’t generally included in that. However, there are several factors involved with this case that made it worth looking into. The fact that so many people were killed and injured in the accident is certainly one of those reasons, but it’s been a very long time since the NTSB did any research on bicycle accidents. The last time they did any research on bicyclists was in the 1970s and with more and more people using their bikes to get around, information about this particular accident could be used to make roadways safer in the future.
Another major reason why the NTSB chose to investigate this accident is because it involved a drugged driver. Finding ways to keep drivers under the influence of alcohol off the road has long been a problem for lawmakers and law enforcement officials, but drugged driving has become another big concern lately. In April, numbers were released showing a 40% increase in Michigan car accidents involving drugs between 2006 and 2015. In 2015, 1,603 people were killed and 12,544 people were injured in car accidents that involved drugs. New bills have also been introduced in the Michigan Senate to create harsher penalties for drivers who injure or kill bicyclists.
The NTSB recently released their preliminary report on the accident, but they are still investigating the accident so they haven’t yet announced a probable cause. A spokesman for the NTSB told MLive that a full investigation may take a year or longer.