On Monday, July 18th, a single mother of two was riding her bicycle to work so that she could earn a living to support her children, 14-year- old Aaron and 9-year- old Ben. Theresa Corey Burris of Greenfield was cycling on the shoulder of westbound US 40, just east of County Road 250W in Hancock County. This particular stretch of the highway is narrow and traditionally busy. Burris expressed to her friends and family how unsafe she felt on this road, since it didn’t provide a lane for bicycles to travel.
Sadly, on her way to work that muggy afternoon, Burris, 36, was struck by a semi carrying an oversized load. She later died of her injuries at an Indianapolis hospital. The driver of the 18-wheeler semi, Reed Thompson, 55, told police that he didn’t see Theresa and was unaware that he had struck her. The truck was carrying an oversized concrete slab that stretched into the shoulder where Theresa was riding. According to the police, the concrete slab struck her as the semi passed by, resulting in her death.
Our firm has been personally affected by this news, recalling a similar bicycle accident on this very same road. On Wednesday, September 19th, Will Phillips, a Greenfield police officer, was performing a bicycle training exercise when he was struck from behind in a hit-and- run, suffering fatal injuries. Tabor Law was hired by Officer Phillips’ wife, Lesley, to represent the family in their time of need. Founding Partner, Roy Tabor, reflected on the recent tragedy of Theresa Burris and past case of Will Phillips. “The loss of Theresa is a painful reminder of what can happen. We know all too well from representing Will Phillip’s family. There can be tragic consequences when roads aren’t built for pedestrian or bicycle traffic or drivers are not paying attention.”
As the number of bicyclists on US 40 continues to increase, it is important to reinforce that it is a driver’s responsibility to exercise extreme caution when sharing the road. Cyclists have full rights to be on the road under Indiana bicycle laws, and share the same rights and duties as a person operating a vehicle. Bicycle accidents pose a significant risk for cyclists due to the mere size and protection differences between a motor vehicle and a bicycle. On roads and highways that are narrow or unaccommodating to cyclists, drivers must be more cautious and on the watch for bicycles.
In addition to greater awareness from drivers, more dedicated bike lanes are needed in order for cyclists to safely operate on Indiana roadways. While there is an inherent danger when operating a bicycle on a busy road, the addition of bicycle lanes and signage would promote education for drivers, increasing road safety. The stretch of US 40 in Greenfield is a specifically dangerous road that demands attention to prevent further accidents in the future.
Tabor Law would like to extend our deepest sympathies to Theresa’s family and any other families that have suffered from this terrible tragedy. We believe proper bicycle lanes, road signage, increased education, and awareness from drivers can greatly reduce the number of cyclist accidents in Indiana. We kindly ask that drivers remember the tragedies of Theresa Burris and Will Phillips and remain extra vigilant on our Indiana roadways.