Seizures + driving = cyclist death

Maybe you remember Joshua West. He was the young man who was killed nearly a year ago in Los Gatos, California when Kevin Derr accelerated his Chevy Blazer to 50 MPH at a busy, narrow intersection, drove up on a curb, and ran into West, who was stopped on the side of the road with his bicycle.

Derr pleaded no contest to charges of vehicular manslaughter and will be sentenced soon. The Santa Clara County prosecutor, however, says he expects a light sentence for Derr, according to the Mercury News, because Derr has no prior criminal history.

It’s thought that Derr lost control of his SUV when he suffered convulsions while driving. Derr has a seizure disorder that was known to his doctors. A witness reports Derr was seizing monthly since at least 2008.

In spite of this seizure disorder (which is not specified in the Mercury News article), Derr’s physician never reported the condition to the California DMV.

California law requires physicians to report “disorders characterized by lapses of consciousness.” I know many physicians are reluctant to make these reports, however, as the driver and family members often beg the physician to defer reporting to the DMV in our car dependent society. Without a viable means of transportation, losing your license due to illness, age or disability is a virtual prison sentence for many people when they lose their license to drive.

I don’t know if there’s a penalty for the doctor who failed to report Derr’s medical condition, but I’d guess he becomes a target for any civil suit that might be filed by Joshua West’s eight year old daughter.

One comment

  • Anonymous
    January 14, 2011 - 7:00 am | Permalink

    It’s an outrage. This case sends the wrong messages to anyone with a similar condition. What is required is proper justice and I suspect that would involve punitive damages, levied against the driver and his insurance company. If the physician is also culpable for non reporting, then he should be pursued too. People need to realise that if one kills a vulnerable road user, whether pedestrian or cyclist, it’s going to cost one’s liberty, one’s licence to drive and a whole load of cash.

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