A hit and run isn’t really a big deal

Steve Hershberger on June 2, 2024

We have other things to pay attention to

Original post at: https://stevehershberger.substack.com/p/a-hit-and-run-isnt-really-a-big-deal

This isn’t an article I anticipated writing today, nor a topic on my content punch list. Yet here we are.

I have chosen to write this and not edit it. So expect errors. I want it to be what comes out, not what is curated. So here we go.

According to the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board), as well as, other agencies and organizations that track this information, less than 10% of all hit and runs that lead to bodily injury or death are solved. The evidence just isn’t available.

So what is the big deal? They can’t be solved and they can’t be that common.

That’s where you are wrong. For instance, there are nearly 20 bodily injury or death hit and runs in Los Angelos alone. Every week.

The Hamilton County Sheriff who came to see me in the trauma center told me they’d try to solve it, if they could find any Ring camera footage but not to hold out hope.

Most hit and run drivers are aware of what they’ve done and just don’t want to get caught.

So, imagine you are a victim of a hate crime. Some guy who doesn’t like your skin color, your t-shirt message or your perceived sexual orientation approaches you with a baseball bat and beats you senseless, leaving you broken and bloody in the street gutter, walking away, scott free. Whistling as he goes, moving on with his life.

You, on the other hand will not. What were you doing? Nothing out of the ordinary. Just walking down the street. His life didn’t change. Your’s did.

You’ve just paid the price for the crime of another. For most incident when physical carnage is involved, we are not ok with this. For hit and runs, since most of us only see it as a 30 second blurb on the six pm news, we don’t give it two thoughts.

Let me break it down for you beyond the news soundbite.

I’m a pretty good rider overall. Being in my mid-50’s I move up the ranks quite a bit. When I go to races, I go to compete. Not against other 50 year olds but against time cuts and anyone in front of me. Granted, I am not Matt Beers, Keegan Swenson or Ted King by any measure. That’s a WHOLE different level. Those guys are former World Tour pros (think Tour de France). I am more than a few rungs down from them but still can finish national race in a solid time.

Still, I have made it to a lot of the top tier gravel races to compete.

This past week, my trauma team said I will be lucky to race like that again. I beg to differ.

This past week I was out doing something good for me physically and mentally. I was wrapping up a gravel training ride and found myself back on pavement, a quiet road used relatively frequently by riders.

We pick quiet roads because drivers anymore either are checked out on their phones, late and not paying attention to what’s around them, driving well above the speed limit, angry with a hair trigger or just don’t care. That is where we are as a society today.

I recall hearing the sound of a lot of air displacement that came from no where, then was gone. The sound a big pickup makes pushing heavy air out of the way when traveling at a high rate of speed. You only pick it up when it’s on top of you.

Then the sick sound of soft hitting hard. Humans are soft tissue. Trucks are metal. A WHUMP. If you’ve ever hit a raccoon or worse, a deer, you know the sound.

This put me on a right trajectory, still clipped into my pedals right into 2 fifty five gallon trash cans filled with refuse waiting for trash pick up. This slowed me down, a lot but didn’t stop me. What did was the large bounder and fence next to the house’s driveway.

When I came around, maybe a minute later, I was alone. What had hit me had sped off. The driver eager to forget what just happened, working to self justify not stopping after committing a crime.

“What if he’s really hurt? Or dead? I was on my phone and didn’t see him. They’d figure that out. I’d get in trouble. I can’t deal with that. Goddamn rider, what was he doing on the road anyway? It was his fault he is out here. Not mine.”

Standing up was hard. Really hard. Instantly I knew I was in some serious shit. This was not going to shake off. Bones moved inside. I knew where I was but couldn’t place it. I couldn’t figure out what to do. My subconscious just screamed ‘STAND UP BECAUSE IF YOU DON’T YOU MAY NOT GET BACK UP.” I have a high tolerance for pain but this hurt. A lot. I knew the real pain was still to come, if I lived that long.

Eventually another rider from a local team rode by, stopped-as we all do-to help. I got to the nearest hospital at 5:30pm. CT scans and X-Rays told the attending ER physicians, including the ortho’s I needed to be transferred to the level 1 trauma center downtown.

I spent the night in that ER, in what was the equivalent of a war zone. Gurneys parked everywhere there was empty space. I saw a lot of the not best of humanity except for the attending physicians, neurologists, NP’s and nurses-who were all exceptional. Truly grace under pressure. These people deserve medals.

I won’t belabor the point. Suffice to say that nearly half my ribs were broken, a collarbone, a fractured spine and a fractured neck. Plus soft tissue damage and road rash galore.

It more than rattled my wife, who is unflappable. My son, who resides in New York was hit with a traumatic curve ball. Several years ago a good friend of his had his father killed in a cycling accident in Spain. My 18 year old daughter didn’t believe I was not mortally injured so she had to come see for herself.

However, over the last 24 hours, the best of humanity in general has shown up. Cyclists from across the country, riders I haven’t talked to in 10 years, over 250 people all checking in. Even racers prior to their competition in today’s 200 mile Unbound Gravel race, who should have been focused on the race, were reaching out.

This act of simple human kindness tells me that this community hasn’t forgotten the lost art of being human.

Lying in the hospital bed thinking about what the sheriff said about feeling helpless to solve the crime and his frustration with it, I got to thinking.

I am a data and software guy. I know a little something about hardware too, as I hold 12 United States Patents, which include 11 on IOT (Internet of Things) devices.

The technology exists in newer vehicles today to address this, with some small changes. Vehicles have OS (operating system) connections that are cellular, GPS and wireless. The average luxury Mercedes has over several hundred million lines of code inside and supporting its various systems. Vehicles have accelerometers and motion tracking technology. Some trucks today have as many as 14 cameras.

It is feasible for a vehicle, when it hits something gn that registers on an accelerometer, to retrieve the last 60-90 seconds of recorded camera footage from the vehicles hard drive (you can buy these cameras for $200 and put them on your bike, many riders have them). My Garmin headset has an accelerometer and texts my GPS location and status to people on my contact list. I can integrate data like heart rate, respiration, etc. from my health wearable.

Don’t tell me it can’t be done because it can. This information, if a vehicle strikes an object while in motion can be captured. If the vehicle remains in motion, it can be sent to the appropriate agencies. When this happens, database lookups can occur, pulling the vehicle’s registration and owner information. The GPS location of that vehicle (sort of like LoJack) can be tracked. If the proper triggers are thrown.

If this existed, the person who hit me would have been visited by the Sheriff in 24 hours. They’d have digital forensic evidence and probably would find physical evidence on the vehicle.

A hit and run criminal-and that is what they are- a criminal, no matter the self justification, be able to run but not hide.

This needs to happen. So maybe, something good will come out of all of this. I will be sharing this with some people I know who have platforms.

Please do the same. Share this, if it is the ONLY thing you do. That is enough. This needs to matter to politicians. This is an easy win for increasing the penalties for hit and runs. Just need to have proof. Insurance firms will win. First responders and medical professionals will be thrilled. The families and friends of those injured or killed will be behind this. The PR car companies will get will be positive.

It’s win-win except for those who commit the crime and who today, get away without any accountability. Except for Karma and maybe this post is the first step in Karma taking the reigns of this.

I plan to get the attention of a car company. Since the last two vehicles that hit me while I was riding (before this incident) were Fords, I might as well start there.

I can’t do this alone. Right now I am sitting here in an Aspen neck brace typing this, with every part of my body screaming in pain. I refuse to take the Oxy pain meds prescribed, so it up to my meditation practice, and sheer will to overcome how much it hurts right now. So I sure could use your help, in any way possible.

  1. well written and I am sorry this has happened to you…I’ve long thought that it will be a distracted driver that takes me out despite my long history of cycling good luck. Cheers to you healing up asap and carrying on with what you love; life is short

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