It’s never a pretty site when bicycles get tangled up with cars, but unfortunately these kinds of accidents do happen. Clearly, there is much more inherent danger for the cyclist, so if you enjoy riding your bike on the road, you need to know what kinds of potential problems to watch out for and how to protect yourself.
How Common Are Accidents Between Bicycles and Cars?
Way too common. According to ROSPA, there are 19,000 cycling road accidents every year and over 100 deaths. Additionally, 2% of all traffic deaths involve bicycles – even though bikes only make up 1% of traffic!
Not surprisingly, the bicycle accidents that are most likely to be fatal are those where a motor vehicle is involved. At least as alarming is the finding of a recent study that cyclists are only responsible for about 10% of all accidents between bikes and cars. Clearly, if you want to stay safe, you really need to pay attention to what others on the road are doing and follow all safety guidelines.
What Should Bicyclists Watch Out For?
Some of the most common accidents are, thankfully, things that cyclists can help to prevent if they are careful and paying attention. These include:
A motor vehicle pulling into the path of a bike
The simple truth is that much of the time, car drivers just don’t pay attention to cyclists. It’s not intentional, and it’s something that drivers need to get better at, but if you’re not sure whether or not a driver is going to pull out in front of you, slow down and be careful.
A motor vehicle turning into a cyclist’s path
Again, car drivers often forget to look for bicyclists (or just can’t see them) when emerging, turning, or changing lanes. If you see someone trying to turn, take special care to make them aware of your presence and watch out for sudden movements.
Cyclist turning right and entering the path of a motorist
If you are going to turn right when traffic is moving perpendicular to you, it is vital that you wait for a break in the flow of cars. Far too many cyclists think that, because they’re so comparatively small, they can easily turn even when there’s a car and still fit in the lane. These kinds of decisions lead to accidents and injuries.
Cyclist riding off of the sidewalk and into the path of a motorist
This is just Biking 101, but you should never ride into the street without first stopping and taking a close look at the traffic situation to make sure that you can cross safely.
Both cyclist and motorist moving straight ahead
Out of all these potential accidents, this one has to be the scariest for cyclists because most of the time it involves them getting hit from behind by a car. It’s pretty hard to avoid an accident when you can’t see it coming. Still, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t precautions you can take, and some of the simplest ones – using reflectors or flashing lights – are often the most effective.
Beyond these measures, cyclists should always – always – wear a helmet. You can’t always prevent an accident, but you can make yourself as safe as possible. Bikers are vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean that you are helpless. Stay safe and fight for your rights.
About the Author: Jeffrey Braxton is a trial lawyer in Fort Lauderdale who has devoted his 15-year career to the practice of personal injury law. As lead trial attorney for The Injury Law Firm of South Florida, Jeff has litigated thousands of cases and is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, an exclusive group of attorneys who have resolved cases in excess of one million dollars.
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