Cyclists broke law before crash: Rcmp
Police testify no evidence of careless driving on Sherwood Park Freeway
Two Mounties investigating a crash that sent several bicyclists to hospital last year along the Sherwood Park Freeway testified at trial there was no evidence of careless driving.
RCMP Const. Amanda Gowin and Cpl. Barry Red Iron both testified during the one-day trial of Jessica Oleksiuk on Monday at a Sherwood Park courthouse.
Oleksiuk is charged with careless driving after a group of cyclists were struck by a white pickup truck along the freeway just before Highway 217 on Aug. 11, 2018.
Five cyclists were sent to hospital with one in critical condition.
The court heard from several witnesses and watched a dash camera video that showed the crash.
Gowin, who was the arresting officer, told the courtroom there didn’t appear to be any evidence of careless driving. She said Oleksiuk had no alcohol in her system and didn’t appear to be impaired.
“Looking at the video, speed doesn’t appear to be a factor,” she said. “I don’t see excessive speed ... no aggressive driving.”
When she arrived on the scene just before 10 a.m., she described the crash as “chaos.”
Gowin said Oleksiuk did not know the area very well and was driving her boyfriend’s vehicle. She described Oleksiuk as being very upset and appeared to be having a panic attack.
Gowin told the court Oleksiuk’s phone’s data was turned off and was at one per cent and needed to be plugged into the vehicle before it could be used.
Gowin said the cyclists broke the law because they were riding side-by-side in the middle lane.
Under provincial law, cyclists are supposed to go in a single file on the shoulder or close to it. The court heard the cyclists intentionally choose this formation in order to appear like a vehicle while on the road.
Red Iron, who testified as an expert for the defence, agreed with his RCMP colleague and said there was no reason for the cyclists to be where they were.
“The law clearly states they can’t ride side-by-side,” he said.
Red Iron said Oleksiuk would have had about six seconds to react to the cyclists after the vehicle ahead of her made an “aggressive” lane switch to avoid them.
Oleksiuk’s lawyer Edmond O’neill relied on Red Iron’s testimony and said he didn’t want to cast blame on the cyclists but the group had no reason to be where they were.
“If the cyclists had obeyed the law, we wouldn’t be here,” he said.
O’neill is asking for an acquittal.
Crown attorney Jeff Rudiak disagreed and argued that the six or eight seconds that Oleksiuk wasn’t paying attention meant she was being careless behind the wheel.
He said Oleksiuk had clear vision and provided no good reason for why she couldn’t avoid the group.
He also called into question Red Iron’s report because the RCMP officer never spoke with Oleksiuk.
“Drivers of the road have to pay attention to other drivers,” he said. “She wasn’t paying attention around her.”
The trial was adjourned to Oct. 23 at 1 p.m. where the judge will deliver her verdict.