Roethlisberger, car driver are both charged
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Pittsburgh police will cite Ben Roethlisberger for driving his motorcycle without a license or helmet, but investigators blamed the accident that injured the Steelers quarterback on the woman who failed to yield the right of way when she turned left in front of him.
"The person making the left-hand turn must yield to the oncoming traffic," Officer Daniel Connolly, who led the accident investigation, said yesterday during a news conference to announce the investigation's findings.
Mr. Roethlisberger, 24, suffered several broken bones, two lost teeth and a concussion. But he escaped heavy legal repercussions in the June 12 crash at Second Avenue and the 10th Street Bridge.
He will be fined $388 for the summary offenses of driving without the proper class of license and riding without a helmet.
To ride without a helmet under Pennsylvania law, motorcyclists must be older than 21 and either hold a license for two years or pass a state-approved motorcycle safety course.
The woman, whose name was not released by police but who was previously identified as Martha Fleishman, 62, of Squirrel Hill, will be cited and fined $106.50, Officer Connolly said.
Mrs. Fleishman has not returned calls seeking comment. Police Chief Dominic J. Costa said she is not being officially identified because she has been the target of harassing telephone calls that have led her to file a police report. Police at the Squirrel Hill station are investigating.
"It was a mistake. It was an accident," Chief Costa said of the crash. "She's very sorry that it happened."
Police did not have a count on how many harassing phone calls Mrs. Fleishman has received and declined to release any details of the calls.
Both Mr. Roethlisberger and Mrs. Fleishman had a green light as they traveled in opposite directions on Second Avenue.
Mr. Roethlisberger, heading outbound, was traveling at the 35-mph speed limit on his 2005 Suzuki Hayabusa as he approached the intersection with the 10th Street Bridge, Officer Connolly said.
Investigators believe the driver in front of Mrs. Fleishman, who was going inbound in a 1996 Chrysler New Yorker, turned left onto the bridge on a yellow arrow.
By the time Mrs. Fleishman started making her turn, the light had turned solid green, meaning she was supposed to yield to Mr. Roethlisberger, Officer Connolly said.
"I believe that she followed the first car right through," Officer Connolly said.
Investigators could not calculate a speed for Mrs. Fleishman because there were no skid marks, but Officer Connolly said she was not moving fast when Mr. Roethlisberger slammed into her car.
Skid marks left by the motorcycle showed that Mr. Roethlisberger applied his brakes 22 feet before impact. Officer Connolly said the lines were straight and showed that the quarterback did not try to swerve out of the way.
By braking, Mr. Roethlisberger struck the car at less than 35 mph. His hip hit the lower portion of Mrs. Fleishman's windshield. His shoulder smashed into the glass above that. Then his head dented the roof.
"He tumbled over the roof, off the back of the trunk and landed on the asphalt," Officer Connolly said. "I think because of Mr. Roethlisberger's age and his athletic ability and the fact that he works out as a professional athlete, it's a huge part of why he's still with us."
Both vehicles had been properly inspected and registered and were in good condition. Mr. Roethlisberger's motorcycle had only about 4,000 miles on it.
Officer Connolly said Mr. Roethlisberger had not received any other citations in connection with his driving in Pennsylvania.
Mr. Roethlisberger got a learner's permit in Ohio in March 1998, said Fred Stratmann, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Public Safety. He received his license that August and held it in good standing without any tickets or accidents until he moved to Pennsylvania, where he received a driver's license in October 2004.
Mr. Stratmann said Mr. Roethlisberger never had a motorcycle endorsement in Ohio.
There is no way of telling how Mr. Roethlisberger's injuries will affect his future on the playing field, Steelers coach Bill Cowher said yesterday morning.
"That's the thing we have to be very sensitive to and we have to make sure that we monitor -- and we'll do that. We'll work with the doctors. We'll talk to him," Mr. Cowher said during an interview on ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike" show with Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic.
It was the first time Mr. Cowher publicly addressed his quarterback's situation since the accident.
Mr. Cowher did not criticize Mr. Roethlisberger for not wearing a helmet.
"I think it would be very unfair, and I think it's really irrelevant, to be judgmental about the accident itself," Mr. Cowher said. "I think it's well-documented. Him and I have talked. I think the bottom line right now is that he's a very fortunate young man. It's the first thing he understands and recognizes.
"I think we're all very hopeful that he'll be able to come back and not have any lingering effects from the accident.
"Sometimes with the lessons of life, you have to get knocked down before you get back up," he said. "He's just very fortunate. This was one of those lessons that could have been devastating. It could have been a very tragic story."
First Published June 20, 2006 12:00 am