"I absolutely did not see the boy," said the driver of a Chevy Suburban who struck a 16-year-old boy riding his bike on the sidewalk along Highway 87 Sunday afternoon.
"In this case, sun glare definitely played a factor," said Commander Don Engler of the Payson Police Department.
Traveling south along the 1000 block of Beeline Highway, 37-year-old Michael Radke and his wife, Diane, of Lakeside, Ariz. decided to turn into an antique shop on the right-hand side of the road.
With the sun low in the western sky, blinding rays of light struck the windshield as the car angled off the highway. Suddenly, there was a loud thumping sound and the Radkes realized they had struck something.
"In all honesty, we weren't sure what we hit," said Diane, who made the initial 911 call to police from the passenger side of their 2002 Suburban.
"The sun is a big issue and there's not much you can do about that. When you're going up the hill (as you start to leave Payson), it's especially bad.
"Bicyclists need to be more aware of the cars, and how the sun glare may play a factor. We didn't see him until we made contact with him."
Diane said she and her husband felt terrible about what happened.
"We have kids that age. I could just picture it happening to one of my children," Diane said. "Fortunately we weren't going very fast because we knew we were going to be turning."
According to police reports, the boy was transported to Payson Regional Medical Center and later released. He suffered what is commonly referred to as road rash, large patches of cuts and abrasions caused by being dragged or thrown against the coarse texture of the asphalt. No citations have been issued and the case is still under investigation. The 16-year-old boy was not wearing a helmet.
"We're very relieved that he was not seriously injured," Diane said.
Engler stressed that the dangers of sun glare increase in Rim Country as colder weather approaches.
"As soon as we start getting frost on the windshield, drivers start having additional glare. I want to reiterate how important it is that they drive with a clear windshield," Engler said.
Arizona Revised Statutes 28-959.01B makes it the responsibility of the driver to ensure that no materials, such as ice, snow or other obstructions, are on the windshield, that might interfere with safe visibility.
Four days earlier
As emergency crews removed the bike from under the Suburban, blood from the accident stained the asphalt within yards of an earlier accident that occurred Wednesday, also involving a young boy on a bike.
Four days earlier, on the 1000 block of Highway 87, a 10-year-old boy was struck by a pickup truck driven by 49-year-old Brandon Pendleton of Payson.
According to police reports, Wednesday's incident occurred after the boy failed to yield at the intersection.
"The driver said he didn't see the bike coming from the edge of the road," Engler said. "The bicyclist was cited for failure to yield from the stop sign."
The boy was transported to the hospital with minor injuries and later released. He also was not wearing a helmet.
"As our community continues to grow, and our traffic increases, I think anyone riding a bicycle should be wearing a helmet," Engler said. "It makes a major difference -- whether it's just a bicycle accident or a collision with a vehicle."
Engler said Wednesday's accident is a reminder that bikes fall under the same laws as cars.
"(Bicyclists) need to be absolutely sure that they follow the laws, because the motor vehicle laws apply to bicycles just as they do for vehicles. For example, two of the biggest (violations) are bicyclists failing to signal for turns, and failing to stop at stop signs. Both of those can lead to a major accident," Engler said.
For more bicycle/vehicle safety tips, visit the Governor's Office of Highway Safety at www.azgohs.state.az.us.
Every year in the United States:
- A pedestrian or bicyclist is killed every 3.5 minutes
- 4,500 pedestrians are killed
- 110,000 pedestrians and bicyclists are injured
- 68 pedestrians or bicyclists will be involved in a crash during each hour
- Pedestrian injuries and fatalities result in $20 billion in societal costs
Who dies as a pedestrian?
- 58 percent are working adults.
- 23 percent are elderly people age 65 and older
- 19 percent are children up to the age of 19
Source: Arizona Governor's Office of Highway Safety
Arizona Bicycle Laws
ARS 28-644 Stop for traffic lights and stop signs
ARS 28-817 Always use a white headlight and a red rear reflector when you cycle after sunset or before sunrise
ARS 28-792, ARS 28-904 Yield to pedestrians at crosswalks and on sidewalks
ARS 28-756 Before you turn or change lanes, look behind you, signal to show your plan to turn or change lanes, and yield to any traffic already there. Cyclists may signal their turns by extending either their left arm for a left turn or their right arm for a right turn
ARS 28-721 Any vehicle moving slower than the normal traffic speed shall drive in the right-hand lane, or "as close as "practicable" to the right edge of the road, except when preparing to turn left or when passing
ARS 28-704 Any vehicle on a two-lane road that has five or more vehicles behind it must pull off at the first safe pullout to allow the vehicles behind to proceed
ARS 28-815 Special conditions that affect cyclists more than motorists are recognized in the law: You may ride far enough from the road edge to stay clear of surface debris, potholes, rough pavement, drain grates and pavement joints, as well as to avoid pedestrians, dogs, parked vehicles and other objects.
You may occupy any part of a lane when your safety warrants it. Never compromise your safety for the convenience of a motorist behind you.