The relatively minor charges filed against the driver of a car that crashed into a group of cyclists over the weekend send the wrong message, according to officials with a non-profit organization that promotes cycling.
Devin Donnel Rodriguez, 25, was charged with driving with an invalid license after the the Buick sedan he was driving hit and injured four cyclists riding near South Pleasant Valley Road and Elmont Drive early Saturday. All four cyclists were taken to Dell Seton Medical Center. One was bleeding inside her brain, according to a police affidavit.
Rodriguez told police he fell asleep at the wheel before the crash, the affidavit said. He remained at the scene to talk with authorities after the incident.
“While we understand that the investigation is still under way, we are concerned that the driver was only issued a ticket for driving with an invalid license,” said Mercedes Feris, executive director of Bike Austin, a non-profit organization that works to encourage cycling in the Austin area. “When reckless driving is a contributing factor in a crash, more serious charges should be leveled – or the Austin Police Department and media outlets should at least mention that other charges may be pending. It sends a dangerous signal to other drivers when the only punishment after a serious crash is a slap on the wrist.”
A passenger in Rodriguez’s vehicle, Amanda Sanchez Flores, 32, fled the scene, police said. According to her arrest affidavit, she stole a Jeep Grand Cherokee from a man who had stopped to help the injured cyclists. She was later arrested on South Pleasant Valley Road.
Flores was charged with auto theft and possession of a controlled substance. She is being held at the Travis County Jail with bail set at $25,000. Rodriguez is also in the Travis County Jail with bail set at $7,500.
Feris said she hoped all the injured cyclists recovered quickly from their injuries.
“This crash illustrates the need for protected bike lanes, especially on major streets like Pleasant Valley Road, to keep everyone out of each other’s way, and out of harm’s way,” she said.
“The incident is also a reminder of the grave responsibility every Austinite shoulders when they get behind the wheel. The driver, who claims to have fallen asleep while driving, was clearly too drowsy to be driving. Drowsy driving is dangerous driving, and it shouldn’t be attempted under any circumstances.”