Crime & Courts

Driver in fatal crash had string of violations

Authorities said Bret M. Davis drove a Cadillac that struck a pickup June 15 at K-15 and 47th South. The other driver, 56-year-old James Miser, suffered critical injuries and died two days later in a hospital.

Davis, 28, of Derby, has a history of repeated traffic violations, records show.

Up until five days before the fatal crash, Davis had been driving on a restricted license triggered by a reckless-driving conviction.

During the three months his license was restricted, he was stopped and cited seven times for traffic violations, records show. Under state law, those tickets did not affect his license because the cases had not yet gone to court.

After the collision, Davis was booked into the Sedgwick County Jail on suspicion of aggravated battery, then released Monday. A sheriff's investigation of the incident continues, and prosecutors have yet to decide if charges will be filed.

The collision — which occurred around 5:30 a.m. at an intersection that sees thousands of commuters daily — marked the latest of 18 instances since August 2006 where Davis has been stopped and cited by officers in Wichita, Derby and Sedgwick County and accused of violating traffic laws, court records show. Of the 18 times he was cited, he was convicted seven times; some of the cases are pending.

Most of the traffic stops occurred in the past two years, across south Wichita and south of the city.

Of his string of traffic stops, Davis said he has been unfairly targeted or harassed, particularly by police in Derby, where he lives.

'It was an accident'

When reached by phone, Davis said of the fatal crash: "I pray for that guy (Miser) and his family every night.

"I was on my way to dropping off my girl at my house, and we collided. It wasn't his fault, it wasn't my fault. I mean, somebody made an error in there ... it was an accident."

Davis said he hadn't had any alcohol for about 9 1/2 hours before the 5:30 a.m. collision and was not driving under the influence.

He said he had been asleep and then was awake for about 15 minutes before the collision.

Miser, the other driver, also of Derby, died two days after the collision. Miser was a Case New Holland assembly worker, and his survivors include his wife of 27 years and his son, according to his obituary.

Miser's family declined to comment.

Sheriff's Lt. Dave Mattingly said he is limited in what he can say about the crash because it remains under investigation.

The preliminary investigation indicates that Davis was driving a 2001 Cadillac south on K-15 and that Miser was coming north on K-15 in a 1992 Toyota pickup and turning left onto 47th South.

The intersection has a left-turn light.

The speed limit approaching the intersection from the north is 55 mph and from the south is 50 mph.

In a statement after the crash, the Sheriff's Office said that Davis' passenger, Erica Arndt, was booked into jail on suspicion of a parole violation, obstructing the legal process and possession of drug paraphernalia. Arndt, 29, remains in jail, accused of a parole violation.

Davis and Arndt had minor injuries in the crash, the Sheriff's Office said.

7 convictions since '06

The traffic cases against Davis have resulted in seven traffic convictions since August 2006: one for reckless driving, one for failing to stop before a sidewalk, four for speeding and one for driving with a suspended license, records show.

Derby court records show that Davis entered into a DUI diversion agreement on June 3, 2010, after being accused of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Then on March 10 the state restricted his license after he was found guilty in Derby Municipal Court of driving recklessly the previous May.

Since those restrictions took effect, he was stopped and cited seven more times for traffic violations including transporting an open container, speeding and having a cracked windshield. In two of those stops — on May 12 and May 27 — a Wichita police officer and Sedgwick County sheriff's deputy cited him for violating the restrictions.

Davis said his driving had been restricted to "work and home," and he denies violating those restrictions.

He said his job is driving a moving truck. The truck is small enough that he doesn't need a commercial license, Davis said.

The state lifted his license restrictions on June 10 — five days before the accident — because he hadn't been to court yet on his most recent traffic stops and judges had not determined whether he was guilty, according to the Kansas Department of Revenue.

He has three court dates set for July and one for August.

Under current law, the state can act on a driver's license only when it is informed that a driver has been convicted, said Jeannine Koranda, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Revenue, which controls driver's licenses.

"We react to what the court tells us," Koranda said.

Generally, months pass between the time people are cited and a court determines whether they are guilty. Then the state has to be notified of the conviction, by official record, before it can act on the person's license.

State Sen. Les Donovan, R-Wichita, who has been active in looking at traffic safety issues, said of the situation, "We need a faster turnaround time on the new information ... and hopefully be able to act ... to head off something like this."