Local news

Bike Safety Law Pushed In Wake Of Boy’s Death

THURSDAY, JAN. 29, 1998

Through deep sighs and tears, Martha Jones told legislators on Wednesday about the events leading up to her 13-year-old son’s death last summer.

By sharing her story, she hoped to persuade lawmakers to support bills that would provide funding for traffic and bicycle safety education courses.

Martha Jones said it was clear and beautiful the day Cooper Jones was hit by a car while riding in a time-trial race near Cheney on the bike he had fixed up himself.

At 50 mph, a car cruised past 14 other bicyclists, “and then plowed into my son,” she said.

The driver “never saw him, never applied her brakes,” Martha Jones said.

Glenna Ward of Sprague was fined for second-degree negligent driving in the accident, an infraction carrying a $250 fine.

Washington State Patrol investigators said there was no evidence of alcohol or of driving recklessly.

After doctors took Cooper off a ventilator, his parents “held him for the last time.”

Martha Jones said they told him that “we love him, and that we’re proud of him and that his death would not be in vain.”

On Wednesday, Jones and her husband, David, urged committee members in the House and Senate to support the two safety bills that would require retesting for drivers involved in serious or fatal accidents.

Passing out of the Transportation Committee with a few slight changes, the amended Cooper Jones bill (SB6222) will head to the calendarsetting Rules Committee this morning.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Lisa Brown, D-Spokane.

“These proposals are the kind that he would endorse,” said David Jones, as he described his ambitious son, who “read stuff like Tom Wolfe’s “The Right Stuff,” and aspired to be an Olympic bike racer.

“If we can identify drivers that are a risk, like the one that hit Cooper, that’s a right step,” he said.

David Shelton, legislative chairman of the Brain Injury Association of Washington, told House committee members that the bill is good for everyone.

“This bill is supported by doctors, bicyclists, retailers,” he said. “No one’s against it. It’s a win-win situation.”

Phil Miller of the U.S. Cycling Federation said Cooper’s death hit home, and that this legislation is more than about setting policy.

“This is about the sanctity of life and making a change in our value system,” he said.

Under SB6222, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission would establish various traffic and bicycle safety programs that would be funded with money from a tax on the sale of certain bicycles. The tax would equal 1 percent of the selling price.

Drivers involved in serious or fatal accidents would be required to take a driving exam issued by the Department of Licensing within 90 days of the accident, under another provision of the bill.

Testimony was also heard on the House companion bill (2439), sponsored by Rep. Duane Sommers, R-Spokane.

Though information from 1997 was not available, according to 1996 statistics compiled by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, serious collisions involving bicyclists and drivers had declined over the past five years.

There were 12 serious vehicle-bicycle accidents and no fatalities in Spokane County in 1996.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: SB6222 Under the Cooper Jones Bill, the state would establish traffic and bicycle safety programs funded by a tax on the sale of certain bicycles.

This sidebar appeared with the story: SB6222 Under the Cooper Jones Bill, the state would establish traffic and bicycle safety programs funded by a tax on the sale of certain bicycles.

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