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August 30, 2019

Found guilty, driver avoids jail in bicyclist’s death

Photo/Lawrence Emerson
Babette Alliger leaves Fauquier County General District Court after her conviction Friday morning.
Peter M. Slavin, 77, died March 29, five days after the accident on Halfway Road in Northern Fauquier.
Babette hoped to be found not guilty but is glad she was not incarcerated.
— Assistant Public Defender David Walls
Alliger Reckless Driving Trial
• What: March 24, 2019, cycling accident along Halfway Road just north of The Plains.

• Victim: Freelance writer Peter Marc Slavin, 77, of Oakton. A medical helicopter flew Mr. Slavin to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he remained on life support until his death March 29.

• Court: Fauquier County General District Court

• Defendant: Babette Alliger, 59, of Middleburg

• When: 9 a.m. Friday, Aug. 30

• Charge: Reckless driving

• Verdict: Guilty

• Sentence: Six months in jail, with all of it suspended; $250 fine; driver’s license suspended for six months.

• Prosecutor: Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Tyler Bizella

• Defense lawyer: Assistant Public Defender David Walls

• Judge: Charles B. Foley
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
A Middleburg woman convicted Friday of reckless driving in a collision that killed a bicyclist near The Plains will spend no time in jail.

After an hour-and-20-minute trial in Fauquier County General District Court, retired Judge Charles B. Foley sentenced Babette Alliger, 59, to six months in jail, suspending all of it.

Judge Foley also fined Ms. Alliger $250 and suspended her driver’s license for six months.

A misdemeanor, reckless driving carries a maximum penalty of 12 months in prison, a $2,500 fine and a six-month driver’s license suspension.

At about 5 p.m. Sunday, March 24, Ms. Alliger attempted to pass cyclist Peter Slavin as both headed north in the 3600 block of Halfway Road, just north of The Plains, according to investigators.

Her Volvo clipped Mr. Slavin’s bicycle, sending him to the roadside.

A medical helicopter flew Mr. Slavin, 77, of Oakton, to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he remained on life support until his death five days later.

Four people — two sheriff’s deputies, a witness and Ms. Alliger — testified during the Aug. 30 trial.

Cpl. Alex S. Armstrong twice interviewed Ms. Alliger at the accident scene.

Under questioning by Fauquier Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Tyler Bezilla, Cpl. Armstrong testified that Ms. Alliger said she had looked over her shoulder at her dog in the back seat of her 1998 Volvo shortly before striking the cyclist.

Ms. Alliger denied that account, contending she instead glanced back because of concern about the vehicle behind her.

The accident took place before a crest along the narrow road.

Worried about oncoming traffic, Ms. Alliger told the deputy she made a conscious effort to remain in the northbound lane to pass Mr. Slavin. Ms. Alliger believed she had given the cyclist enough space to safely proceed.

Virginia law requires motorists to maintain at least a 3-foot buffer when passing bicyclists. The state code also gives bicyclists the same rights on most highways as motorists.

But, based on Cpl. Alex Armstrong’s measurements of the road’s width and Ms. Alliger’s Volvo SUV, only about 17 inches would have separated the vehicle and cyclist when she passed him.

At the last second, Ms. Alliger also claimed she quickly “tugged” her vehicle away from the cyclist to avoid hitting him, the corporal said.

But, no “evidence” indicated such a maneuver, he said.

Ms. Alliger testified she drove 30 to 35 mph along that portion of the road that has a 45-mph speed limit.

She told the judge she had heard a “click” as she passed Mr. Slavin. The investigation revealed her vehicle struck the bicycle’s rear mirror.

Rosie Grimes, who lives near The Plains, drove behind Ms. Alliger as the accident occurred.

Ms. Grimes told the judge she didn’t see the collision. But, “I think (Ms. Alliger) moved over some” to pass the cyclist, she said. “I think he might have felt her presence.”

Upon impact, Mr. Slavin’s bike “flipped,” Ms. Grimes said.

Ms. Alliger, Ms. Grimes and another motorist ran to help the injured cyclist.

“He moaned and groaned, but he couldn’t actually speak,” Ms. Grimes recalled.

Ms. Alliger claimed that Mr. Slavin abruptly turned into the driving lane. To avoid him, “I screamed and yelled and jerked my car over,” she testified.

The prosecutor, Mr. Bezilla repeatedly challenged her account, reminding Ms. Alliger that she never mentioned the maneuver in a recorded statement she gave investigators at the accident scene.

Ms. Alliger insisted otherwise. The recording, which Mr. Bezilla played for the judge, contradicted her.

Mr. Slavin’s death could have been avoided if Ms. Alliger had waited to cross the hill before passing him, the prosecutor said.

A long stretch of flat and straight road on the other side of the hill would have given her ample opportunity to pass the cyclist without incident, Mr. Bezilla argued.

Fauquier Assistant Public Defender David Walls insisted that his client did her best to avoid Mr. Slavin.

“The bike moved toward (her) and she tried to go around him,” Mr. Walls said.

Ms. Alliger also drove below the posted speed limit, he said.

The defense lawyer noted the accident involved no “criminal activity or criminal negligence.”

Based on the facts, Judge Foley concluded that the accident could been avoided if Ms. Alliger had acted as the prosecutor suggested.

“Nobody wanted this to happen,” the judge said of Mr. Slavin’s death. “But, it did.”

Explaining his sentence, Judge Foley indicated Ms. Slavin probably drove “improperly,” but not “recklessly,” as defined by the law.

He called Mr. Slavin’s death “a tragedy.”

“Babette hoped to be found not guilty but is glad she was not incarcerated,” Mr. Walls said.

Ms. Alliger won’t appeal the decision to Fauquier County Circuit Court, he added.

“I think it’s a tough case,” Mr. Bezilla said. “With some of these traffic deaths we get, the facts are difficult. I think (Judge Foley) gave us a fair shake.”

A Dartmouth College graduate, Mr. Slavin had worked since 1991 as an independent editor and writer. He previously specialized in military coverage and edited Washington Report for the American Human Services Association.

Contact Don Del Rosso at or 540-270-0300.
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WarrentonGirl · September 11, 2019 at 10:32 am
95% of the bicyclists I have encountered are total idiots and a hazard to drivers. I wish they weren't allowed to be on the roads; however, $250 for killing someone is absurd.
JDwarrenton · September 9, 2019 at 7:25 am
Yeah, he was an old guy, and moving far below speed limit of course.

As I started to crest a sharp rise, the hood of my truck was still pitched upward, and just as I crested the hill and the nose of the car started to descend, there appeared a small flag the size of a cocktail napkin rising above the hood. The flag was mounted on a pole not much higher than the rider. Had I not been paying close attention, and driving below the speed limit, I could not have stopped in time. Given the terrain, slowing but swerving quickly into the other lane endangered me and some other driver!

DonkeyFarmer · September 5, 2019 at 8:15 pm
JD- I've driven by that guy on the recumbent bike. On Bastibile Mill Rd. Taking my kids to school in the morning. I saw some moving flag. What kind of a nut job thinks it's a good idea to lay down and pedal up and down roads where trucks are travelling at 50mph? I saw this old guy on a recumbent bike pedaling like he was the only guy in the world.
maverick · September 5, 2019 at 10:08 am
As a former professional road racer, this incident is precisely why I don't ride or train anymore. It is suicidal to do so. Growing up in Middleburg in the 1980's there was very little traffic, but it wasn't without risk. I cringe when I see people on bicycles acting irresponsibly and motorists for that matter. I've seen a lot of high profile tragedies over the years. For now I will stick to running , swimming and kayaking.
Linda Ward · September 4, 2019 at 4:42 pm
Flag vehicles in front of and behind bicyclists in groups to warn oncoming traffic is another idea. I've seen bikes on Casanova Rd that don't have lights as per the law.

Every bicycle ridden between sunset and sunrise must (by law) have:
• At least one white head lamp on the
front of the bike with a light that
is visible at least 500 feet (10-watt
halogen, 1-watt LED minimum.)
• A rear red reflector. On roads with
speed limits of 35 mph or greater,
one red taillight visible from 600
feet* to the rear is required. Rear
lights are safer than reflectors!
Taillights may be steady or blinking
and may be attached to the bicycle or
rider. Additional lights and reflectors
will improve visibility. Lights may also
improve your visibility during the day
JDwarrenton · September 3, 2019 at 7:30 pm
I travel Old Auburn Road between Meetze Road and Dumfries Road frequently. On Saturdays, I pass 10 to 12 bikes regularly - it's their playground, so I'm alert for them. They are there most weekdays too, just not as many.

The area just west of the Fair Grounds, and the area nearing its intersection with Rogues Road, are particularly hilly and winding, and it is not unusual to come upon them unexpectedly on the crests or around curves. The posted speed limit is 40. Some bikers make no attempt to ride near the edge of the pavement, or anywhere near it. Judging by the fact that there have been no bike fatalities on this road, I assume that 99.9% of the auto drivers are not reckless. Can't say the same for the many bikers I see. (see my comment below).
JDwarrenton · September 3, 2019 at 7:09 pm
I was traveling narrow, hilly, winding Cliffs Mill Road, and in THE MOST precarious place of hills and curves, I crested a sharp hill and to my surprise and horror, a small flag the size of a party napkin appeared above my hood, followed by a person on a recumbent bike. A recumbent bike is the kind that the rider lies nearly flat, with his back to the ground. On a flat road, these bikes are somewhat harder to see (which is why there are flags), but on hilly roads, they are very hard to see, and may be impossible to see in time! I was lucky I wasn't traveling fast, and was able to stop in time. I kept thinking - what a fool that fella is.
Silii · September 3, 2019 at 9:43 am
It's not a question about the legality of bikers to use the roads. Biking is a great sport. It's not a question of delay for vehicles waiting for a safe spot to pass bikers. It's the blind hills and curves that make it impossible for drivers to see bikers, usually going much slower than the vehicle, until you're almost on top of them then having to take quick, often dangerous steps to avoid a catastrophe. Seven bikers in random positions such that they fill the entire width of the lane is not, in my opinion, smart biking on these roads. And, waving drivers around in no passing zones is neither welcome nor necessary.The state law allowing vehicles to violate no passing lines in order to pass bikers is crazy and never should have been enacted. Finally, it's a sad fact that there are impaired drivers - drunk, drugged out, distracted - which intensifies the inherent dangers for bikers on Fauquier roads.
DonkeyFarmer · September 2, 2019 at 9:53 pm
J Obrokta- One or two incidents a month that would lead to your death if you didn't jump off the road? Serious? And you are still running on the roads, " jumping into the weeds?" Do you need someone to tell you it's not a good idea? Do you need maybe mental help?
If you feel the urge to run, go to a park. Go to the WARF. You wont have to dodge cars and jump into weeds. Jesus christ we have lost all common sense or what?
J Obrokta · September 2, 2019 at 8:59 pm
I run the back roads in our county. And occasionally I bike them too.

Running them feels much safer than biking, since I can see the cars that nearly hit me and can jump into the weeds more easily than someone can take a bike onto our rough shoulders.

Most motorists here are polite. They slow down at least a little bit when they pass, and they give me some space. I appreciate that every time.

On the other hand, I usually have one or two incidents a month that would lead to my death if I didn't jump off the road.

To those drivers, I always want to ask what their hurry is.

According to this story, the driver could have avoided this man's death, and her time in court, and her punishment if she had just waited a few moments so that they could be over that hill before she tried to pass that biker.

To anyone who pulls this kind of move (I know you are out there, I see this happen every few weeks) I have to think that you are a moron. Even if you care nothing for the life of the biker or runner that you are passing, doesn't it make sense to slow down for a few seconds to reach a safe passing area, if only to protect yourself from all of the legal ramifications if things somehow go wrong?

Bikers and runners have a right to our roads too, dangerous though they may be. Anyone behind the wheel of a car should act responsibly to protect themselves and others by passing in areas that are safe, and not forcing a pass while going over a hill or when cars are passing from the other direction. This should be common sense.
fchunik · September 2, 2019 at 4:55 pm
While it’s legal to do something that doesn’t make it safe or smart, it’s legal to go BASE jumping or cliff diving but that doesn’t mean there’s not inherent risks that could very well result in injury or death. The rural road ways here in Fauquier are no exception, it’s simply too dangerous to ride bicycles on back roads! It’s very sad to hear about loss of life but I’ve had close calls with these bicycles myself, driving along at the speed limit to round a turn or pop over a hill to find someone pedaling away on the other end. Then having to utilize some evasive maneuvers coming thru Casa Nova and Auburn Mill before to avoid hitting cyclists on roads barely big enough for two vehicles to pass. When I was a young boy my parents would allow me to ride throughout the neighborhood (25 mph or less) but not on main roads (45 mph or more) because it’s dangerous!
fpharris1 · September 2, 2019 at 3:55 pm
Look ... here's the bottom line. Bicyclists are legally allowed to ride on any road in the state unless it's specifically marked as being off limits (like an interstate highway). It may not be smart to cycle on some roads and it may cause a delay for some motorists but it's legal.

The infuriating part of this story is that this woman did something illegal and she KILLED a person as a result. She did something illegal and she's a free woman; the cyclist was riding legally and is DEAD.
DonkeyFarmer · September 2, 2019 at 12:33 am
Linda is spot on. The roads here have no shoulders or "bike lanes." It is extremely dangerous to be peddling on these roads. The gravel trucks on Meetze concern me and I drive a 3/4 ton pickup.That being said, this lady should have at least had her license taken away. She was reckless and killed a man. It's an insult that she will have her license back in 6 months.
DonkeyFarmer · September 2, 2019 at 12:15 am
Came here to see if Mark House would mention Jacqueline Mars. Lol! Straight away! Some kind of sick obsession he has.
Linda Ward · September 1, 2019 at 4:59 pm
Agree with Silii, a person almost has to have a death wish to ride a bike on some of the roads around here. No ditch, no edge, lots of trees, rolling hills, shady areas where you can't see anyone on a bike until it's too late (PLEASE riders wear BRIGHT clothing while riding, not black). This is not Europe where bikes paths are everywhere and built into the infrastructure of the roads.
Mark House · September 1, 2019 at 11:51 am
Logandylan1 - OK, so perhaps she isn't wealthy, but there must have been other factors at play for her to get off so lightly, don't you think? I inferred that she was rich because the rich get away with much more than the poor generally. If you don't believe me, look at the statistics in this county and country.

She sure changed her story multiple times, which to me indicts that she was a liar trying to cover her guilt.

Bad situation for all, especially Mr. Slavin.
Logandylan1 · September 1, 2019 at 11:07 am
Note to Mark House: The defendant was appointed the Public Defender, indicating she was far from being a wealthy woman, as your final comment inferred.
Silii · September 1, 2019 at 10:42 am
fpharris1: Here's what drivers in Fauquier County encounter ALL THE TIME. First, this was truly a tragic accident on a road, one of many, where bicycles and vehicles simply don't mix. Recently, I came around a blind curve on Wilson Road, driving around 40 mph because I was hauling a loaded horse trailer, to find 7 cyclists filling the entire lane (not riding single file along the edge), going about 5-7 mph in a 45 zone. Double yellow line, no shoulder, no place for me to go, only option to hit brakes and hope my horse trailer didn't jackknife. Then they had the audacity to start waving me around them in a no passing zone just like I would be stupid enough to pass on a double line with no vision of oncoming traffic under any circumstances. My theory is if they thought it was so safe for me to accelerate with my horse trailer and cross a double yellow line to pass ALL of them in a no passing zone where it was not possible to see oncoming traffic, THEY should cross into the oncoming lane and let me proceed in the lane I'm traveling in. Cyclists should DRIVE all these curving, hilly roads often without shoulders before biking on them in order to get a better feel for the dangers of the roads, including all types of vehicles and trailers. So, I'm not against bikers. But, if bikers are supposed to follow the rules of the road, why are they going less than 10 mph in a 45 zone on a curvy, hilly road? And, why do they think it's OK to wave vehicles around them when the driver has no clue about oncoming traffic? And, since when is it OK for 7 bikers to fill the entire lane in random positions rather than biking single file? I'm not sure what the answers are but I do know that many drivers in Fauquier County continually have very close calls with bikers and it's not the driver's fault.
fpharris1 · August 31, 2019 at 8:05 pm
Once again, in a seemingly endless pattern around here and around the country, a driver kills a bicyclist, when the bicyclist did no wrong, and the driver basically gets away scot-free.
Autum250 · August 31, 2019 at 1:47 pm
What about my would be son in law who was killed june 21,2019? We still have not received an accident report!
Mark House · August 30, 2019 at 4:48 pm
People with DUI's where no one was killed get harsher sentences then this lady did.
Mark House · August 30, 2019 at 4:46 pm
It's dangerous to drive a car on some of the roads around here, let alone ride a bicycle. Tragic event that no one wants to be part of.

Again, a person that has the money gets away with killing someone, like Jackie Mars, no jail time, just a slap on the wrist. It pays to have money to hire an attorney.
Darwin awards · August 30, 2019 at 4:24 pm
There is no common sense used by those would would bicycle on any road like that. It's not safe , you cant legislate common sense , What kind of person would risk their live , for a bicycle ride. Don't argue the law , it's common sense. Ask a fifth grader. It's tragic they was a life lost. And now that lady has to live with that the rest of her life , for a bicycle ride.
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