In a case which has created widespread concerns of corruption in the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, DUI charges have been re-filed against a cop who crashed into four motorcyclists in August, killing one and injuring two others. The riders were stopped behind traffic at a red light when David Bisard, allegedly distracted while conducting a personal text conversation despite driving at high speed with sirens and lights on, plowed into them. Police initially bungled the investigation, failing to properly protect evidence and the blood test which revealed Bisard to be over twice the legal limit nearly two hours after the crash was ruled inadmissible.
At 11:20am on Friday, August 6, 2010, Bisard crashed into the four motorcyclists while responding to an emergency call which he was not dispatched to. The crash fatally injured 30-year-old Eric Wells, who was riding to lunch with three co-workers. The motorcyclists were stopped in the center of three lanes and did not move when they heard the sirens because the left lane was clear for the police car to drive through. According to reports, the motorcyclists were the last in a line of vehicles in that lane.
Afterward, police discovered that Bisard was sending personal, non-work and non-emergency-related messages on his in-car computer. Bisard stated that he looked up just in time to see the motorcyclists, but was unable to stop.
After the crash, police treated the scene as an accident, not a crime, allowing Bisard to remove a black bag which could have contained crucial evidence and sending him for treatment at an occupational health center not a hospital. A technician there drew blood at 1pm, which was shown to contain .19 percent alcohol. Indiana law states that at .08 a motorist is legally intoxicated. Neither the technician who drew the sample or the occupational health center were certified to do so as legally-admissible evidence.
Questions have now risen as to Bisard’s history with alcohol abuse and his record as a police officer. He’s been involved in more vehicle chases than any other officer in the department and had five on-duty crashes prior to this one.
When those DUI charges were initially dropped it prompted outrage in Indianapolis and accusations of a police cover up. An internal investigation was published in November which cleared the department of wrongdoing, but several officers were demoted as a result.
Now, after the case became a local election issue, a Marion County prosecutor is re-filing the DUI charges.
The full list of charges he now faces are: causing death while operating a vehicle with excessive blood alcohol content; operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated and causing death; reckless homicide; two counts of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated and causing injury; two counts of operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher and causing injury. If convicted of all the above, Bisard could face up to 48 years in jail.
This incident raises another motorcycle safety issue. Had the motorcyclists been legally able to filter to the front of the line of vehicles, the consequences of the accident could have been less severe. As the law in most states stands, motorcycles are forced to sit exposed at traffic lights, a situation which plays to every safety disadvantage two-wheeled transportation has.
Unlike cars, motorcycles don’t have crumple zones, so the rear-end collisions that are so frequently called “fender benders” when they occur between automobiles can cause serious injury or, as in this case, even death. Also unlike cars, motorcycles can safely, easily and conveniently move to the front of a queue of stopped traffic, effectively making that stopped traffic a safety barrier for them.
The 1981 Hurt Report is the last and only major statistical analysis of motorcycle accident cause factors in this country. It's generally accepted to be the motorcycle safety bible, forming the statistical basis for helmet laws and other legislation concerning road going two-wheelers. It concluded that lane splitting improves motorcycle safety by preventing rear-end collisions.
“Approximately three-fourths of motorcycle accidents involved a collision with another vehicle. In two-thirds of these accidents, the driver of the other vehicle... caused the collision." — The Hurt Report, 1981
The US Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System also indicates that fatalities resulting from motorcycle rear-end collisions are 30 percent lower in California, where lane splitting is legal, than they are in Florida or Texas, which enjoy similar riding seasons and demographics but don't allow lane splitting.
Yes, a drunk cop negligently killing motorcyclists is a scandal, as is the alleged cover up/incompetence/whatever. But, isn’t failing to allow those motorcyclists to take advantage of every safety measure available to them equally scandalous?
Thanks for the tip, Ryan.