Wheelchair bound collision gets a ticket
BRADENTON - When Donald E. Davis woke up in the hospital after his motorized wheelchair collided with a car, he noticed something disturbing - two traffic tickets on his chest.
"It's ridiculous," said the paraplegic man, who lost his legs 21 years ago in a train accident. "I have lived here for eight years and police have seen me driving it all around town - to the store and to doctor's appointments - and they never gave me a ticket until someone backed into me."
Bradenton Police Officer T. Moore cited Davis on Sept. 24 for not having a light on his wheelchair after dark, and for refusing to sign the ticket. ......Now Davis is going to court over the matter.
Davis, who lives off 21st Street East, said he was on the sidewalk of State Road 64, driving home from Lit'l Country Store on 15th Street East, when he crossed the road to head toward his mobile home.
"The traffic was bad and the sand was blowing up on me, so I cut down 18th Street," said Davis.
That's when he collided with a car.
"She didn't have her lights on or I would have seen her," he said. "She backed into me, hit my chair and flipped me over. I hurt my head."
According to Moore's accident report, "it appeared" Davis, who reportedly had a smell of alcohol on his breath, ran into the back of a 2002 Kia driven by Thelna Ann Keyt, of Fifth Avenue Northwest in Bradenton.
The accident report states there was no damage done to the Kia or Davis' wheelchair. The report also states Moore issued Davis a citation for not having a "front-mounted white light in the dark." It says Davis refused to sign the citation, but it does not specify where or when he was asked to sign the ticket.
Davis said the last thing he remembered was being taken to the hospital in an ambulance.
"I woke up and had my wallet and two tickets laying on my chest," he said. "I don't remember not signing the citation for it."
Davis said he paid the $46.50 fine for not having a light on his wheelchair, but now he has to go to court for not signing it.
On Wednesday, he pleaded not guilty to refusing to sign the ticket. He said he doesn't remember not signing it.
"I was in the hospital . . . out of it," said Davis, who uses the wheelchair as his sole means of transportation.
Davis' hearing date is Tuesday before county Judge Mark Singer at the Manatee County Courthouse.
Davis said his wheelchair was damaged during the accident. He also said he doesn't understand why Keyt was not fined.
"I just want her to fix my wheelchair," he said. "It bent the front wheel and knocked the bearings off."
Davis, who incurred about $1,000 in medical expenses during his approximate three-hour hospital stay, lives off Social Security and said he is having problems paying the hospital bill.
"I had to borrow money from my brother to pay the fine," Davis said.
Assistant Public Defender Deborah St. Jacques, who is representing Davis, said she and her client are ready to go to trial over the matter.
"We will do our best to help Mr. Davis," she said. "It seems like quite an injustice. . . . I will look and see if I can file a motion to dismiss the case.
"Mr. Davis paid that citation, which I wish he hadn't," St. Jacques said. "I might try to get that taken care of, too. I'm not aware of a law that you need headlights on your wheelchair."
Neither is Bradenton resident Terry Crossley, whose mother uses a wheelchair.
"I've never heard of that law," said Crossley, who said he also doesn't think Davis should have been cited for not having a light.
"It's a little far off. . . . I can't see it as fair," he said. "Besides, they don't normally build chairs with lights on them."
Moore was not available for comment Thursday, and the Bradenton Police Department's traffic division did not return a phone call regarding information about the wheelchair light law or how many people have been cited in the past for not having a light on a wheelchair.
Davis, who recently had heart surgery, lost his legs 21 years ago after a train ran them over. The accident occurred after he was robbed outside a bar in Fort Pierce, and left on nearby railroad tracks.