By Jason KUROSU
When Damian Kevitt set out for a bike ride on Feb. 17, 2013, he did not anticipate that his ride would go unfinished for over a year. But as circumstances played out, a minivan struck Kevitt and subsequently dragged him for 600 feet when Kevitt became lodged underneath. Kevitt survived but was badly injured with over 20 broken bones throughout his body, an ordeal that put Kevitt through multiple surgeries, skin grafts and even the amputation of his right leg.
Since then, Kevitt has become a champion for hit-and-run awareness, working with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Assemblyman Mike Gatto and Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge to bring hit-and-run incidents closer to the forefront.
On Sunday, April 27, Kevitt will finally “finish the ride” with a charitable event that he hopes will attract a few thousand bicyclists to ride for the cause. The ride will raise money for the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition and the Challenged Athletes Foundation.
Participants can choose between a six-mile ride (recommended for families), a 12-mile ride and a 23-mile ride, the latter two consisting of more hilly terrain.
Finish the Ride is the culmination of a year’s efforts to raise awareness of the prevalence of hit-and-run incidents. Assemblyman Gatto passed legislation that extends the statute of limitations on hit-and-run offenses from one year to three (AB 184) and another that increases penalties for drivers who flee the scene, including automatic license revocation (AB 1532). In March 2013, Councilman LaBonge offered a $25,000 reward from the city of Los Angeles for any information on the driver of the minivan that struck Kevitt. The driver remains unknown.
While Kevitt sees progress, he notes that hit-and-run awareness is “still in its infancy.”
The LAPD records around 20,000 hit-and-run incidents per year, with about 4,000 of those resulting in injuries or death, though Kevitt believes the true number of such incidents is much higher than what is reported.
“There’s still a lot more to be done,” said Kevitt, who said that more serious injuries and deaths occur from hit-and-run incidents than from DUIs.
Nonetheless, Kevitt remains excited for the ride, both as a means of promoting awareness and as an inspiration for “anyone who has suffered emotional or physical trauma.”
Kevitt, who spent months rehabbing, going from “not being able to sit up in bed” to walking out under his own power (including the use of his carbon fiber prosthetic leg), called the experience “quite an adventure,” but also “brutal at times.”
“I hope that events like this show people that when you fall off the horse, you can still get back up,” he said.
Currently, California hit-and-run offenders can be sentenced to up to four years in prison if the incident results in death or permanent, serious injury.
Anyone wishing to participate in the ride may sign up until March 31. Visit finishtheride.com for more information.