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Natick police seek to charge driver in bicycle dragging accident

Posted by Tom Coakley  December 2, 2009 11:00 AM

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Natick police are seeking to criminally charge the driver of a car that struck a bicyclist on Route 16 last month and dragged him for 860 feet.

Lorraine Peterson, 61, hit the 30-year-old male bicyclist and stopped on a side street after a motorist traveling behind her alerted her by flashing his vehicle’s lights and honking his horn.

As of yesterday, the bicyclist, who is from Newton, was still in the hospital, said police spokesman Lieutenant Brian Grassey. He said police will go before a clerk magistrate, who will decide whether to charge Peterson. Grassey would not say what charge or charges police are seeking.

A magistrate's hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Monday at the Natick District Court in Framingham.

Peterson, a Bolton resident, has been cited in the crash for failure to yield and failure to use caution while turning, stopping, or starting.

She already has 13 moving violations including 10 speeding tickets on her driving record since 1985, according to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. She has been ticketed twice for failing to stop and once for failing to signal.

She challenged six of the violations in court, but lost those appeals. Four of the speeding tickets were given in Berlin, with the majority of other violations occurring in communities near Boston such as Framingham and Westwood.

Peterson could not be reached for comment.

Grassey said speeding was not a factor in the accident. He said that any time a criminal citation for a motor vehicle incident is issued, the case is first heard by a clerk magistrate to determine whether there’s enough evidence to officially charge someone.

For now, Grassey said, the investigation is still ongoing. Both the police and court have not said what charges the police are seeking, citing privacy laws.

Natick police said in a motor vehicle crash report that Peterson was turning her 2002 Volvo from an access road directly in front of the South Natick fire station onto Route 16 eastbound when she struck the cyclist, who was traveling westbound.

Peterson didn’t realize she had hit the cyclist, and was alerted by the other motorist, said Grassey, adding that the cyclist had lights on both the front and rear of his bike.

By the time Peterson pulled off Route 16 onto a side street, the car had traveled 860 feet and the bicyclist, who was entangled underneath, suffered “trauma consisting of burns from engine and exhaust system as well as the road surface,” said Grassey.

Within moments, the Natick Fire Department arrived from Station 2, which is less than one-fifth of a mile from where the Volvo stopped. The firefighters on the scene used the Jaws of Life to lift the car off of the bicyclist, said Fire Department Chief James Sheridan.

After putting the car on blocks, firefighters slid the bicyclist out and immobilized him on a board. He was then med-flighted to UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester.

“They saved the guy’s life,” said Sheridan.

Police spent more than six hours interviewing the victim last week, intermittently leaving the room since the victim was in so much pain, according to police.

Registry of Motor Vehicles spokesperson Ann Dufresne acknowledged that Peterson has racked up a large number of moving violations, but said that since they didn’t occur close enough together, the registry hasn’t been able to revoke her license.

License revocation can happen only when a driver gets three violations within a year, or five within five years, said Dufresne.

Natick District Court officials didn’t release the date of Peterson’s hearing before the clerk magistrate, but said the arraignment would happen by next week if she is charged.

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