iPhone / Android app idea: automatic crash witness.
Others have recommended post-crash helper apps such as iWrecked for use after a collision. San Jose bicycle advocate Greg McPheeter has an idea for another type of app — one that can be used as an automatic crash witness.
Too often, investigating police officers have a modal bias against cyclists in bicycle vs car crashes. When it’s one person’s word against another, the officer will take the word of the person he most identifies with. In more serious collisions, the only surviving witness is the person inside of the car. In these situations, an automatic collision witness might make a difference in the crash investigation and subsequent insurance and liability payouts.
Greg’s imaginary app runs in the background every time you’re on the bike, recording your speed and position while keeping the last several minutes of video in a continuous loop. The video stops recording when the onboard accelerometers detect a collision or via a panic button on the phone screen. After the crash, data and video about the last several minutes of your bike ride and be collected and given as evidence.
Greg says he’s been thinking of something like this for about five years now and hopes somebody takes his idea to create the app. Every car collision is a case of he said/she said, and in those involving bicycles, the only surviving witness is often the person inside the car.
“It would be awesome the first time it went to trial and someone got nabbed for their inaccurate account of what happened,” says Greg.
Update: A story of GPS tracks and justice from Colorado (via Bike Portland), with a tip of the hat to Examined Spokes. This was a case, literally, of “he said / she said,” when cyclist Ryan Sabga was clobbered in an intersection when a driver ran a stop sign without looking.
The driver lied through her teeth to the police, claiming that Ryan made an illegal diagonal crossing, so the police officer refused to cite the driver. The driver then called her insurance company and claimed the bicyclist was at fault.
It was only after Ryan returned home that he realized the entire episode was recorded on his Garmin GPS!
The full telemetry of my ride came up, including a map and running time stamp of my ride. Clear as day, you could see where I stopped at the stop sign, where I got hit by the car, and where my bike came to rest. On the corresponding time stamp, you could see the speeds, the stops, and even where my heart rate spiked as she hit me. Then you could see when my bike was moved out of the street, then when I picked it up and fixed it and got it back home. All of it was on there.
Greg’s suggestion came up in the wake of the CHP’s finding this week that cyclist Lauren Ward was at fault in her fatal collision with a truck in Los Altos, California.
Dawn Champion crashed her motorcycle into a Honda Civic on Highway 101, the car driver first blamed her for the crash, telling bystanders “She hit me!” A lot of people think “asshat” when they think sport bikes, but the motorcycle rider had her helmetcam running and showed this footage that showed pretty clearly that the car driver swerved directly into her path.