Teen driver fined $42 for crash that killed Kirkland bicyclist

Teen driver fined $42 for crash that killed Kirkland bicyclist »Play Video
John Przychodzen is seen in a family photo.
KIRKLAND, Wash. - A teenage driver who struck and killed a bicyclist in July will not face any criminal charges in the man's death, but only have to pay a $42 traffic ticket, police have decided.

And now the bicyclist's shocked family has filed a lawsuit over the death, contending that the driver was distracted and possibly using a cell phone at the time of the fatal crash.

"They don't understand how an innocent man can be killed by a driver ... and only get off with a $42 traffic ticket," says the family's lawyer, Chris Davis. "It's incomprehensible to them."

The crash happened July 22 as John Przychodzen, 49, an avid bicyclist, was riding from work to his brother's house for dinner. Known as "Uncle Safety" to his cycling buddies, Przychodzen often rode his bike to and from work.

"He was riding on Juanita Drive NE in Kirkland. He was well within the shoulder. He was legally in an area where he was allowed to ride his bicyicle," Davis told KOMO News.

Suddenly he was struck from behind by an 18-year-old who was driving a pickup truck. Davis says Przychodzen was hit twice after the driver failed to navigate a turn in the road and drifted onto the shoulder. Przychodzen was knocked unconscious by the impact and later died.

After Przychodzen was hit, the pickup driver continued on for another 40 or 50 feet and crashed into a telephone pole.

"The police claim that they've done a thorough investigation," says Davis. "They have determined that this accident does not rise to the level of criminal conduct or responsibility. In their view they do not believe this was a reckless collision which would warrant criminal charges."

As a result, police only issued a $42 traffic ticket to the driver for an unsafe lane change.

But Davis says he wonders how police could have made that determination without checking the driver's cell phone records to see if he was texting or talking on the phone at the time of the crash.

"The police did not request or obtain the cell phone records, so I have no idea how the police could rule out that this driver was not using a cell phone at the time of the crash," says Davis.

"We intend to subpoena the driver's cell phone records to find out whether or not he was actually using the cell phone," he adds. "We've spoken to several witnesses who saw what happened."

He said the accident, from his experience, is consistent with a driver using a cell phone.

"And so this lawsuit really is about the Przychodzen family wanting to know the truth," he said.

He said Przychodzen's family is "dumbfounded, shocked and angry" over the decision to simply issue the driver a traffic ticket.

Przychodzen's brother, Joe, says it appears justice was not done in this case.

"My brother's dead, he's not coming back, and if you kill someone you need to face the consequences for that," he says.

The lawsuit was filed earlier this week in King County Superior Court.