As a personal injury attorney, I see the tragic effects of fatigued driving all too frequently. Recent studies have demonstrated that driving while fatigued presents a hazard similar to driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol; a fact which is also true for driving while distracted (such as by texting or other cell phone usage). And, unfortunately, recent news out of Oregon reveals that this silent killer has struck again, this time claiming the life of a cyclist.
According to reports, Ellen Dittebrandt, a 52 year old firefighter and EMT, was riding her bicycle along the shoulder of Interstate 84 near Viento State Park – just west of Hood River. Dittebrandt was reportedly observing all applicable traffic laws and was wearing a helmet. Traffic was reportedly light. And, while the crash occurred at approximately 6:25 am, there was ample ambient light and no obstructions to her visibility to motorists. The crash occurred as Dittebrandt was approaching the area of an off-ramp near Milepost 56. A pickup truck driven by John Allman, a 55 year old man from Portland, drifted from the marked lane and onto the shoulder, striking Dittebrandt’s bike from behind. She was thrown from her bike and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Due to the nature of the crash, police reportedly suspect that Allman was overly tired and that his fatigued state contributed to the crash which claimed Dittebrandt’s life. My heart goes out to Ms. Dittebrandt’s family. Hopefully, the story of this tragic loss will help increase awareness of the dangers of fatigued driving, and help to spare others from a similar fate.