Have you ever been coal rolled?
It’s even less fun than it sounds.
A teen driver in Texas attempted to “roll coal” on several cyclists, and instead ended up sending them all to the hospital.
Let’s take a look at coal rolling and the legal options available to bicyclists involved in these types of accidents.
On September 25, 2021, several bicyclists were training for an Ironman race along Old Highway 290 in Waller, Texas. The cyclists were traveling in 2 groups of 3.
At the same time, a 16-year-old (whose name has not been released by the police) was driving his 7,000-pound Ford F250 along Old Highway 290.
As the teen driver passed the 1st group of bikers, he coal rolled them.
The term “coal rolling” refers to the practice of modifying a diesel engine to increase the amount of fuel entering the engine in order to emit large amounts of black exhaust fumes (diesel fuel that has not undergone combustion). Coal rolling is considered an act of protest against environmentalism. Some drivers trigger coal rolling when passing hybrid vehicles or bicyclists to cause them to lose sight of the road and inhale the toxic fumes.
As the driver approached the 2nd group of bikers, he attempted to roll coal on them, but inched his vehicle too close and ended up colliding with the bikers.
“I heard a lot of crunching,” said Chase Ferrell, a bicyclist in the 1st group. “I heard brakes and tires screeching. I thought someone was dead.”
All 6 cyclists were sent to the hospital as a result of the collision, 2 of them by Life Flight. The cyclists suffered serious injuries, including broken bones, spinal injuries, and traumatic brain injuries.
After the accident, the 16-year-old driver allegedly claimed that he was reaching for his cell phone when he lost control of his truck and collided with the bikers. Although this seems unlikely, it’s worth noting that Texas law prohibits all drivers under the age of 18 from using a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle.
The consequences of coal rolling
The Texas teen driver was released by the responding officers without being charged or issued a ticket.
All 6 bicyclists injured in the crash retained the same attorney the day after the accident. A civil lawsuit based on negligence or an intentional tort is expected to be filed after a preliminary investigation.
In addition to the civil lawsuit, the driver could face criminal charges. A special prosecutor, Warren Diepraam, has been assigned to the case by Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis. Warren promptly hired a crash reconstruction engineer to investigate the accident and the events leading up to the accident.
Criminal prosecution in these types of cases is not unusual.
What happens when bikes and motor vehicles collide?
In the United States, bicycle deaths are at their highest number in 30 years.
Commentators point to several reasons for the rising death toll, including the fact that Americans are driving larger vehicles, logging more miles, and increasingly being distracted by their phones.
Every state has laws that govern the relationship between motor vehicles and bikes. Many states have explicitly prohibited coal rolling, although Texas is not 1 of those states.
When a bike accident is caused by a motor vehicle driver, the personal injury claim made by the bicyclist is typically a negligence claim.
To prove that a motor vehicle driver was negligent, a bicyclist must establish that:
- The driver owed the bicyclist a duty. All drivers have a duty to exercise reasonable care to avoid harming others on the road.
- The driver breached their duty. To prove that a driver breached their duty, the bicyclist will have to show that the driver failed to exercise a reasonable degree of care. For example, if the driver ran a red light or was rolling coal, this may constitute a breach of duty.
- The bicyclist was injured as a result of the driver’s breach. It’s not enough that the driver failed to exercise reasonable care, the bicyclist must also prove that the failure caused their accident and resulting injuries.
In most personal injury cases, bicyclists can recover the following damages:
- Economic damages represent the monetary losses caused by your accident (e.g., medical expenses, lost wages, property damage).
- Non-economic damages represent the non-monetary losses caused by your accident (e.g., pain and suffering, loss of consortium).
- Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant and are typically available when the defendant’s actions are particularly egregious.