Richard G. Chittick, 58, and James D. Walton, 53, were riding bicycles on a sidewalk in Dewey Beach, Delaware when the driver of a 2017 Chevrolet Suburban lost control of the vehicle and struck the two men. Master Cpl. Michael Austin of the Delaware State Police says the men were on the sidewalk in front of the Starboard Restaurant and unable to react in enough time to prevent being fatally injured. After striking the men, the vehicle hit a utility pole and then another parked vehicle before finally coming to a stop.
The driver of the SUV was a 61-year-old man who had lost consciousness while operating just prior to the accident where both victims were immediately killed. The driver, who did survive, is believed to have suffered an “acute medical event” and was taken to Beebe Hospital. Police said that the driver was not intoxicated at the time.
The name of the driver was not immediately released and police say no charges had been filed. The accident investigation team is requesting information from anyone who may have witnessed the accident. Kendra Adair, Walton's sister, explained the families are mourning the tragic loss. The victims were said to have a close circle of friends in both D.C. and Rehoboth Beach, where they lived. Adair said that she has received many touching messages from those who knew them. Some of the employees of the Starboard Restaurant, located in front of the accident scene, have brought flowers to the site as a memorial for the two.
The region has continued to be plagued by accidents involving motor vehicles and bicycles. Fatalities have been widespread and occur in various settings including busy stretches of highway to residential neighborhood streets. One trend that has been identified is that the majority of crashes with fatal outcomes are occurring at intersections and within crosswalks. The D.C. Department of Transportation collects and analyzes much of this data in efforts to further the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists. They indicated that vehicles were involved in over 600 pedestrian crashes and 300 bicycle collisions in the last five years.
Local laws have been implemented recently to assist in reducing the number of vehicle and bicycle collisions in D.C. which include:
- Bicycles operating on the roads are afforded the same rights and are responsible for the same duties as drivers of vehicles
- Wearing a helmet is strongly encouraged for all bicyclists and those under 16 years old are required to wear one
- Bicyclists are required to yield to pedestrians when on the sidewalk
- After dark, cyclists must be equipped with a white headlight that can be seen from 500 feet and a taillight that can be seen from 300 feet.
- When a vehicle is turning right at an intersection they should allow for bicycles to first clear the lane
- Cyclists should look beyond their left shoulder for oncoming vehicles at intersections
- Motorists should always check for approaching bicycles before opening a door