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Why drivers aren't held accountable for killing bicyclists and pedestrians in Georgia

A family thought they would see justice after their 17-year-old daughter was killed while riding her bike. An 11Alive investigation found that's not the case.

ATLANTA — Editor's note: Some images in this story may be disturbing. 

From close calls to road rage, riding your bike comes with risk, especially in Georgia.

Some people are left with bruises or broken bones. For others, it can be much worse. 

Grief consumes the Osuegbu family.

"I have a wound that cannot be healed," said Pauline Osuegbu, a Georgia mom mourning the loss of her daughter.

She is not the only one mourning.

"To lose my sister, my baby sister, I can't even find the words," Toya Osuegbu said. "It's very hard to deal with."

Credit: WXIA

Nearly two years ago, 17-year-old Obianuju (Uju) Osuegbu took her bike to her job at Ingles in Barrow County, Georgia. She never made it back. 

"My friend actually came over and left, and on her way back that's where she calls me again and said 'there's an ambulance, the road is shut down, cars lined up. It's insane,'" Toya recalled. 

Credit: Pauline Osuegbu

At first, it didn't occur to Toya that her sister, Uju, could be involved. But when calls to her sister went unanswered, an officer picked up.  

"He told me there was a bicyclist that was hit with an Ingles uniform on," Toya remembered. "That's when I knew." 

Uju was hit and killed by a driver only a quarter-mile from home.

"I cried mercilessly," Pauline recalled. "I was out of control." 

The Osuegbu family thought they would see justice. An 11Alive investigation found that is not the case.

Why the driver faces no charges in the bicyclist's death

Dash camera from the scene obtained by 11Alive shows the driver taking multiple DUI tests. 

"Do you do an illegal narcotics? Meth, cocaine?" the officers asked. 

"No. no," the driver replied.

11Alive found a toxicology report that shows the driver tested positive for meth and three other drugs. Officers arrested the woman for driving under the influence and for endangering her own children who were in her car.

But, when it came to Uju's death, the driver faces no charges. 

"How could she [Uju] be at fault?" Pauline asked.

Credit: WXIA

"Some of the investigation that's done is just flat out horrible," said Bruce Hagen, an attorney representing Uju's family. He specializes in Georgia bike law.

"They blame the cyclist for causing the crash for several different reasons," Hagen explained.

11Alive dug into the nearly 60-page report from Georgia State Patrol's Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team stating Uju is at fault for the crash. That's because officers said Uju didn't have a red light on her bike, and her bike was not as far right as possible on the road. 

Credit: WXIA

"Every one of the reasons that they relied upon was a misapplication of the law," Hagen said. 

Uju had a red reflector, and Georgia law said bicyclists have the right to the full road.

"You might be surprised how many police officers don't know the law when it comes to bicycling or don't care to enforce the law if they do know it," Hagen said.

The report also said the driver couldn't see around a hill.

"The law doesn't say if you can't see what's on the other side of the hill, you should go any speed you want," he said. 

Warning: Images below may be disturbing to some.

A bigger problem

New data from Georgia's Department of Transportation found more than 340 bicyclists and pedestrians were killed in crashes in 2021 alone.

Hagen said Uju's case is not unique.

11Alive obtained video showing a car slamming into a pedestrian in a crosswalk in Fulton County. The crash sent the pedestrian to the hospital with injuries and a citation for "darting into traffic."

Meanwhile, 11Alive Investigators obtained photos that appeared to show the driver is on her phone. Yet, the driver walks away without a scratch or a consequence. 

Fighting for justice 

As for Uju's family, they are still fighting for justice.

"The Barrow County District Attorney has the power to do something about this and has chosen, at least to this point, not to do so," Hagen said. 

11Alive called the Barrow County DA. His office declined to comment. 

"She's walking freely. Like, nothing happened," Pauline said. "No apology. No call. Nothing."

Credit: WXIA

"What would you say happens to most drivers who hit a pedestrian or a cyclist on the road?" 11Alive asked Hagen. 

"You want to know an awful saying?" Bruce replied. "If you want to get away with murder, kill a cyclist. It's horrible."

A horrible saying. But, the reason behind the Osuegbu family's fight for justice.

Justice for Uju, Pauline said, is seeing the driver charged with vehicular homicide.

"If somebody kill somebody child, that person, that person have to be held accountable," she said. "A precious life was stolen from us and that precious life is not coming back."

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