The driver who caused the summertime crash that killed NFL assistant coach Greg Knapp was glancing at his hands-free cellphone at the time he drifted into the Dougherty Road bicycle lane where Knapp was riding, a San Ramon police spokesperson said last week.
The Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office on Sept. 20 declined to file criminal charges against the yet-unnamed driver after reviewing the police investigation report, concluding the driver's inattention behind the wheel did not rise to criminal culpability under the law -- a decision that has become a flashpoint for cycling groups and bicycle safety advocates across the country.
Responding to follow-up questions from DanvilleSanRamon.com about the San Ramon police investigation, Lt. Tami Williams shed additional light onto the specifics of the case findings last week.
Police initially cited the primary reason for the crash to be the driver drifting into the marked bike lane, with an underlying factor being driver inattention.
Williams subsequently confirmed that investigators attributed the inattention to the driver looking at his cellphone, which wasn't in his hands as prohibited by law but rather sitting in a hands-free position.
"The primary collision factor was a violation of 21658(a) CVC (unsafe lane change). An associated factor was listed as inattention. This inattention factor was attributed to the driver using a hands free cellular phone -- glancing at his phone, which wasn't in his hands," Williams said via email.
Williams also clarified that San Ramon police did not issue a traffic citation to the driver because the case was referred to county prosecutors for consideration.
A DA's office spokesperson last week declined to answer follow-up questions about the reasoning for the no-charges decision.
That included requests for further clarification about why the traffic violation of an unsafe lane change was not enough of a legal violation to support a manslaughter charge, as well as whether the cellphone use being hands-free -- as opposed to held-in-hand -- played a role in their decision.
In a public statement on Sept. 24, a day after news of no charges broke, the DA's office said, "Bicycle fatalities are devastating events. Following thorough review of the investigation, the Office of the District Attorney has determined that there is insufficient evidence to satisfy the requisite standard of criminal negligence on the part of the suspect driver. The dangers of distracted driving are well known; to truly promote road safety, motorists need to be attentive drivers as well."
Knapp's family, nor their legal representatives, could be reached for comment as of Sunday afternoon.
The name of the driver, a 22-year-old man from Danville, has not been revealed publicly to date -- with San Ramon police citing privacy considerations for the driver since no criminal charges were filed.
Knapp, 58, was riding his bicycle on Dougherty Road in eastern San Ramon just north of North Monarch Road around 2:50 p.m. July 17 when his bicycle was struck by a vehicle traveling in the same northbound direction.
Knapp, who was wearing a helmet and fully within the bike lane, never regained consciousness after the impact of the collision and died at a Walnut Creek hospital on the morning of July 22.
A married father of three daughters and longtime NFL offensive coach who maintained an offseason home in neighboring Danville, Knapp was set to begin his first season as passing game specialist for the New York Jets. He previously worked as offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers and then-Oakland Raiders.