No jail time for distracted Florida driver who killed 2 cyclists

Florida

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A Florida woman who ran her car into a group of bicyclists in 2018, killing two people, will avoid jail time.

Nicole Vanderweit, 34, pleaded no contest this week to careless driving in Broward County court, the Sun Sentinel reported. In addition to having her license suspended for six months, she must pay court costs, attend a four-hour driving improvement class and serve 120 hours of community service.

“It’s like the lives didn’t even matter,” said Danny Rodriguez, the son of one of the bicyclists who died. “There was no justice.”

Vanderweit’s car struck a group of riders from the Cycling Family Broward club on a Davie street in November 2018, authorities said. Denise Marsh died about an hour after the crash, and Carlos Rodriguez died later after undergoing surgery at a Fort Lauderdale hospital. Five others were injured.

Vanderweit told authorities she was distracted and also said there was sun glare that morning. She told investigators she didn’t see the group of more than 15 bicyclists who were traveling at nearly 20 mph (32 kph) before looking down and then feeling the impact, according to records. Data from the airbag shows she was driving 66 mph (106 kph) at impact. The posted speed limit was 55 mph (88 kph).

Prosecutors said her carelessness didn’t rise to the level of a criminal charge of vehicular homicide. To charge her with a crime, they’d have to prove reckless driving, where the driver shows a “willful or wanton disregard for safety.”

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