A 39-year-old woman who had lived in Fincastle, Virginia (VA), died after a driver struck her bicycle in Botetourt County. The fatal crash happened on the afternoon of February 11, 2022.

Virginia State Police responded to the scene north of Roanoke at around 2:35 pm. A preliminary investigation determined that the bicyclist and driver were both traveling south on U.S. Route 11 when the driver ran into the bike rider about a quarter mile past the intersection with Darby Road.

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Officials publicly identified the bike rider as Tabitha Leigh Thompson. She died from her injuries after being transported to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital.

State troopers continued investigating the crash through the weekend, but they did file a preliminary charge of reckless driving against the driver. That woman did not suffer any injuries.

Drivers Must Pass Bicyclist With Care

This crash on U.S. Route 11 near Darby Road appears to have been a rear-end collision. Virginia drivers often run into slower-moving bicyclist from behind because they fail to exercise sufficient patience. State law acknowledges this life-threatening habit, stating in section 36.2-839 of the Virginia Code,

Any driver of any motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, moped, animal, or animal-drawn vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass at a reasonable speed at least three feet to the left of the overtaken bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, moped, animal, or animal-drawn vehicle and shall not again proceed to the right side of the highway until safely clear of such overtaken bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, moped, animal, or animal-drawn vehicle. If the lane of travel is not wide enough to allow the overtaking motor vehicle to pass in the manner required in this section while in the same lane as the overtaken vehicle, the overtaking vehicle shall change lanes.

On its Bicycling in Virginia webpage, the state Department of Transportation simplifies the legal language into this admonition: “Motorists must approach and pass a bicyclist at a reasonable speed at least three feet to the left of the bicyclist. If the lane is not narrow enough to allow three feet of space motorists must change lanes to pass.”

VDOT also adds, “Motorists may not cross a solid line into a bicycle lane to pass other vehicles.”

If police investigator determine that the driver did fail to change lanes or even leave sufficient space while passing the bike rider, the reckless driving charge would hold. An additional charge such as vehicular manslaughter might also be forthcoming

Such findings would also make the driver liable for settling wrongful death claims. Consulting with an experienced Virginia bike accident lawyer would help the deceased victim’s family understand their legal options.

EJL