BOWLING GREEN, KY (WAVE) – We have a follow-up story on our investigation into a deadly accident involving a Kentucky State trooper. After our original story aired, the WAVE 3 Troubleshooter Department received tips from concerned viewers. It turns out that KSP is using that same trooper as a spokesperson for safe driving. I have been digging to find out why.
A month after his cruiser crossed the center line, slammed into an oncoming car and killed the driver, Kentucky State Police Trooper Jonathan Biven was giving safe driving tips. The interview was a part of a Bowling Green TV station's report on "Operation Safe Driver," a week long campaign to increase awareness about the dangers of distracted driving.
"Put down the cell phone it can wait, don't text," Biven said in the interview. "You know we want to take this opportunity to show them the dangers of distracted driving, how things can happen in a split second." (You can watch the full report here.)
It's a lesson Biven learned on September 15. KSP's traffic collision report lists "inattention" and "not under proper control" as factors that led to the accident along Highway 31W in Barren County. According to that report, Biven's cruiser drifted more than two feet into the oncoming lane, and into the driver side door of a car driven by Nurcan Ceylan. The 33-year-old Green County woman died from injuries suffered in that crash.
But just 33 days later, Biven was back on the job as KSP's public affairs officer for the Bowling Green post and back in front of a camera warning other drivers to pay attention.
"Just take that time that you are behind the wheel and trying to get to your destination as an opportunity to concentrate on that," Biven told the reporter even as the investigation into his own driving continued.
Samuel Parker, Ceylan's long time boyfriend, was in the passenger seat of that car and spoke exclusively with me about what happened.
"The only was justice is going to be done is if the people of Kentucky demand it," Parker said in the interview.
Parker doesn't think KSP is going to do a thorough investigation of the accident because it's being conducted by Biven's fellow troopers rather than an outside agency. Parker said Biven's safe driving interview just reinforces his concerns.
"If you add it all together, the KSP is conducting business as if nothing happened," Parker said in an email, "as if the fix was already in and they don't have to worry about public perception. Why else would they allow Trooper Biven to be their safe driver point of contact and their public face?"
At the time of our original report, Lt. David Jude, commander of the KSP Media Relations Branch in Frankfort, said they have never denied Biven's vehicle crossed the center line. Jude said KSP takes pride in its ability to honestly investigate its own officers.
"I can tell you with 100% passion and certainty that this will be a fair, impartial investigation done," said Jude. "I have zero doubts about any of that."
In response to questions about Biven's safe driving interview, Jude answered questions via email, and said the interview did not send a mixed message.
"Tpr. Biven understands the difficulty of having to speak on this sensitive topic, however the greater message of educating all drivers in keeping our roadways safe has to be delivered," Jude wrote.
Jude added that Biven has a good history with KSP. Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Secretary J. Michael Brown also issued a statement in support of Biven.
"Trooper Biven's duties are meant in no way to disrespect the Ceylan family, and I am truly sorry to them for their loss," Secretary Brown wrote. "Unfortunately, this is a tragic but painfully powerful example of the dangers of distracted driving, and it provides an opportunity for Trooper Biven to convey this message from a deeply personal experience."
But Biven is not using his personal experience to spread the word about distracted driving, at least not yet. While Biven has not spoken publicly about the accident that killed Ceylan, Jude wrote that he hopes to someday.
"Ultimately, Tpr. Biven will be able to use this unfortunate event as a platform to show firsthand the dangers of distracted driving and will be able to use that message to continue to make a positive difference in communities across this state," said Jude.
Jude said Biven has been with the Kentucky State Police for eight years and has served as a trooper, detective, DARE instructor and public affairs officer. He has been awarded the Commissioner's Commendation.
"His experience has led him to be an exceptional representative for the Kentucky State Police," Jude wrote.
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