Despite his initial claim “I didn’t even see her, ” Tracy A. Kruzicki, 42, was charged yesterday in court with a felony for driving his car into and killing Tammy Gass on Highway KK near Mosiniee on the morning of May 23rd. Marathon County District Attorney charged Kruzicki with operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license and causing the death of another person. Kruzicki faces up to six years in prison if convicted, and the District Attorney is considering harsher charges, including homicide, pending further review of the crash investigation. Those decisions will be made prior to the preliminary hearing for the trial, which is scheduled for Sept.12th.
The courtroom video of Kruzicki being charged below is from the Wausau Daily Herald Report. In the video below and in the crash investigation report, it is clear that Kruzicki is genuinely remorseful and even tried to help Tammy Gass at the crash scene. Regardless of this behavior, Kruzicki will not easily wash away his part in the loss of Tammy Gass.
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According to crash report, which you can see in its entirety by clicking on the image to the right, Kruzicki was approximately two feet into the shoulder of the road when he hit Gass from behind. In the crash report (MV4000e) Kruzicki said “I didn’t even see her.” In the more detailed investigation, he said the following according to the supplemental narrative from the Marathon County Sheriff:
“Kruzicki initially said that he “remembers nothing” from the crash, just the impact. He said he remembers hitting “something” in the windshield, but did not know what it was until he got out of his car.
Kruzicki told me that he didn’t think he was doing the speed limit prior to the crash. He said he knew he did not have a valid license, so when he “is in a hurry”, he “watches his speedometer” so he doesn’t get pulled over. He said that he wasn’t in a hurry today, so he was just “coasting along” and “not in a big rush”. He said he “likes to take it easy when he’s not in a big rush” Kruzicki thought he was going “about 40 to 50″ miles an hour. He said as a habit, he does watch ahead, but admitted that he could have “possibly drifted” onto the bike lane. He said that generally, he doesn’t speed along CTH KK because of all the corners.
During our conversation, Kruzicki repeatedly broke down in tears and was very distraught over the incident.
When I pressed him to try to recall the crash, he stated that “I might have veered … or she might have blended in”. He stated “Usually I see that stuff. I’m always looking ahead”. He did say that after the crash, he viewed the scene from where he was driving and saw a big mailbox near the crash scene. He thought that perhaps the bicycle blended in with that mailbox and that’s why she didn’t stand out.”
It is appropriate for us to share in the sadness at the death of Tammy Gass, and to be human means we may also understand that Kruzicki appears genuinely remorseful, but our feelings have very little to do with the felony charge brought against him, nor should they. Given his past record of driving violations and knowingly driving without a license, it is clear he has trivialized his responsibilities behind the wheel. As a result of his actions, Tammy Gass is dead. So far this year, people driving cars killed four people riding bicycles. The specifics of each crash are quite different, but the end result is the same: an innocent person is dead.
Given my initial review of the circumstances of each fatal crash so far this year, it appears that all of these tragedies could have been avoided if we as a society took the task of driving more seriously. My 16-year-old daughter is taking drivers education classes as I write this post. This morning at breakfast she was telling me they learned that in many other countries, getting a driver’s license requires many more hours of study, practice and a much higher degree of testing. She was also amazed to learn that in many countries, a person arrested for driving drunk is immediately put in jail for a long time.
She also told me that most of her fellow students seem bored by the class, don’t pay attention, or even make jokes about what they are learning. If even my teenage daughter, who is very excited to earn this right of passage to adulthood, can see that we as a culture just don’t treat driving a motor vehicle with the respect it deserves, why can’t the rest of us do something about it?
The Bike Fed is trying. We will continue to cover these crashes here on this blog. In fact we have more information about the other three crashes which I will publish in a later post in the next day or two. More proactively, through our safety campaigns the Bike Fed is working with individuals, businesses, and media companies across the state to get the message out. We have billboards, public service announcements on radio and television, yard signs and trained local ambassadors spreading the safety message in cities, towns and villages across Wisconsin. You can read about our radio PSAs in the previous post.
It is appropriate to charge people for a crime when they violate the law and kill someone (even if they are remorseful), unfortunately current laws make it impossible to charge many people who kill someone while driving. For that reason, one of the top legislative priorities for the Wisconsin Bike Fed is to get a Vulnerable User Law passed. The point of this law is to emphasize that when we are driving around more vulnerable users of the road, (people walking, biking, working, on horses, on motorcycles, and law enforcement officials) we need to take extra care, slow down, and pay full attention to our driving.
Stay tuned here for updates on the other three people killed this year while riding bicycles in Wisconsin. And please, let us all keep the victims in our thought and prayers and do our part by obeying all traffic laws whether we are walking, riding bicycles and especially when we are behind the wheel.