A 17-year-old struck by a DUI driver in Georgia was blamed for her own death by an officer who didn’t understand state laws pertaining to bicyclists. Ignorance of the law by officials is just one of a laundry list of threats bike riders have to deal with on a daily basis.
Obianuju Osuegbu was on her way home when she was hit from behind on Highway 11 in Winder, Georgia back in August 2020, according to WSBTV-2, by driver Chrissy Rawlins. Rawlins was charged with DUI and endangering her own children, but not with Osuegbu’s death due to cops not making up Georgia laws pertaining to bicyclists and putting the blame on Osuegbu:
The report states that the driver, Chrissy Rawlins, who was high on multiple drugs while driving, was not at fault because Osuegbu did not have a light on the back of her bike and was not riding on the right-hand side of the road, and was not wearing reflective clothing.
Bruce Hagen, Osuegbu’s family attorney, who conducts bike law training for police officers, said the responding officer and the GSP reconstruction team investigated the accident but were not familiar with the Georgia bike laws. Hagen said Georgia laws do not require bikes to have lights as long as there are reflectors, which the 17-year-old’s bike already had on it.
He pulled out the statutes to show what they said about the state’s bike laws.
“Specifically right here, vehicles which approach from the rear, any other vehicle or vehicles topped or slowed to make a lawful turn shall be deemed to be following the purposes of this code section,” Hagen said.
Hagen said Obianuju Osuegbu was turning left and had a reflector on her bike.
Rawlins wasn’t just intoxicated the night of the crash, she was rocking four illegal substances in her bloodstream, including methamphetamine and Valium. It took some wild mental gymnastics — including just making shit up — for the police could find a way to blame a kid killed by such a driver, but they got there. Osuegbu’s parents are understandably upset and are promising to continue fighting until justice is served for their child.
Being a bicyclist is incredibly dangerous in America, and the law certainly does little to back up bike riders. Deaths have been on the rise over the last decade. From a 2010 low of 618 deaths, the most recent data available from 2019 pegs deaths at an astonishing 846 deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Distracted driving, the growing size of vehicles, and an increase in both drivers and bikers have all attributed to the rising deaths, according to the magazine Bicycling. An explosion in road rage incidents and general traffic fatalities isn’t helping the roads feel any friendlier for bicyclists or anyone else.
Drivers who strike bikers don’t always face consequences; sometimes it’s the biker who faces punitive actions, despite their fragile human bodies being rammed by thousand pound vehicles. Take this case of a man being charged $3,700 to repair the car that hit him when its driver ran a stop sign. Or when a driver in Houston mowed down three cyclists, killing one, and was allowed to go free with neither charge or detainment.