Driver who killed “School of Rock” drummer Kevin Clark refused DUI blood test

Kevin Clark with young musicians. Photo via Kevin's Coda
Kevin Clark with young musicians. Photo via Kevin's Coda

After a driver fatally struck “School of Rock” drummer Kevin Clark, 32, on his bicycle last week at Logan and Western avenues in Logan Square, many local bike advocates noted that the complex intersection, located on a popular cycling route between the Northwest Side neighborhood, Lakeview, and Lincoln Park, is inherently dangerous. Back in 2008, a motorist struck and killed Tyler Fabeck, 22, on his bike at the same junction. Although the Active Transportation Alliance released recommendations for safety improvements to the the intersection in 2018, such as new bike lanes and crosswalks, the Chicago and Illinois transportation departments took no action.

However, I’ve seen multiple comments online arguing that Clark is largely to blame for his own death in the collision, which occurred on Wednesday, May 26, around 1:30 a.m. According to the Chicago Police Department, the driver, her passengers, and another witness told responding officers that the motorist, who was driving south on Western, had a green light when she struck the cyclist, who was pedaling east on Logan.

Some news outlets highlighted that fact. For example, the second sentence of a Chicago Tribune report stated, “Clark died after running a red light and being hit by a [driver] as he crossed a street.”

Logan and Western, looking east. Image: Google Maps
Logan and Western, looking east. Image: Google Maps

Said one Facebook commenter, “This young man ran through a red light, which makes a dangerous intersection even more dangerous. It is one of my terrors as a car driver.”

In reality, it’s relatively rare for people on bikes to mindlessly bombing red lights at busy intersections without regard for cross traffic. A much more common scenario, which may well have been what Clark was doing when he was struck, is the “Idaho stop,” when a person biking comes to a complete stop at a red, looks both ways, and then proceeds through the intersection. This common bike move is already legal in a few states.

Less attention has been paid to whether the driver’s actions may have contributed to the crash. While the CPD stated that she was issued citations, this afternoon, a week after the incident, a police spokesperson told me they still had not received  information on what violations the motorist was ticketed for.

However, Streetsblog Chicago obtained the crash report, which, along with other public records, indicates that the driver’s behavior may have played at least as big a role in the tragedy as the cyclist’s.

I’m opting not to publish the driver’s name since she was not charged with a felony, but she’s a 20-year-old woman, and a LinkedIn page states that she’s a student at a local university. According to the crash report, there were three other people in the car with her, a 19-year-old male, a 20-year-old female, and another female whose age is not indicated, who has the same last name as the driver.

Diagram of the collision from the crash report.
Diagram of the collision from the crash report.

A fifth person is listed on the crash report as an independent witness who confirmed the driver’s story that “she had the green light… when [Clark] violated the red light… and proceeded eastbound on Logan Boulevard into the middle of the intersection right in front of her vehicle, causing her to strike Clark.” This person, a male, is also 20 years old.

The crash report indicates that the driver received three citations. These aren’t in the Cook County Clerk’s system yet, but the report states that the motorist, who was out driving at 1:30 a.m. with other young people, “was later taken to Illinois Masonic [Hospital] where she was read [a] warning… and refused [a] blood draw.” This raises the question of whether the motorist was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the crash, and was worried about testing positive. Her refusal to submit to the test accounts for the first of the citations and, per Illinois law, resulted in an automatic license suspension.

A code at the top of the crash report indicates that the driver “was going too fast for conditions,” which accounts for the second citation.

The crash report also states that the driver was not insured, which accounts for the third citation.

A public records search revealed that in April of this year the driver was ticketed for running a stop sign in west-suburban River Forest and not having insurance. So even though she already got a ticket the month before the fatal crash for no insurance, she never went and got insured and was driving around uninsured again when she fatally struck Clark. Obviously we’re not talking about a responsible motorist here.

The crash report states that the collision was captured on a police surveillance camera. Streetsblog Chicago has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for the footage.
Clark’s family has retained the bicycle-and-pedestrian-focused law firm FK Law (a Streetsblog Chicago sponsor.) “There is a heavy focus on Kevin’s conduct due to his [fame], but there appears to have been several factors that contributed to cause this tragedy,” said attorney Brendan Kevenides. “We are vigorously investigating all of them.”
Clark with "School of Rock" star Jack Black. Photo via Kevin's Coda
Clark with “School of Rock” star Jack Black. Photo via Kevin’s Coda
The Clark family recently launched a website called Kevin’s Coda (a coda is a passage in a composition that brings a piece to an end) dedicated to “ensuring the vibrant, soulful energy Kevin Clark brought to the world continues to echo throughout our community by supporting music education charities and bicycle safety advocacy.”

“Though his life was cut tragically short, his joyous spirit will reverberate for generations to come thanks to our continued efforts to do good in his name,” the site states. The family is asking that donations be made in Clark’s honor to SocialWorks, a nonprofit founded by Chance the Rapper that encourages youth involvement in music, art, education, and community activism.

They’re also asking people to get involved with or donate to the Active Transportation Alliance “if you would like to see Chicago become a safer place for cyclists.”

You can sign up on the Kevin’s Coda website for email updates on efforts to honor his legacy.

 

 

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