Bicycling is a popular form of exercise, entertainment, and transportation, but sharing the road with motor vehicles and trucks can be dangerous. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported over 1,000 fatalities and nearly 500,000 people injured in U.S. bicycle accidents in a single year’s time. Those figures would mean an average of three fatalities and over 1,000 people injured each day in bicycle accidents across the country!
A bicyclist is at a high risk of serious injury whenever they are in an accident with a motor vehicle. Broken bones, lacerations, contusions, head injuries, and spinal injuries are all common consequences for cyclists who have been in an accident with a car or truck. Though all accidents involving a bicycle are dangerous, there are some that carry a very high risk of injury.
Dooring Accidents: This type of accident occurs when drivers and passengers in cars and trucks exit their vehicle without first checking to see if a bicycle is approaching. When this happens, the bicyclist may reflexively swerve to avoid the door and be hit by a passing car. They may lack time to respond and crash into the door as it opens into their path, sometimes launching them into the air and the road. Statistics are limited, but suggest that “Dooring” accidents may be responsible for at least ten percent (10%) of all bicycle vs. motorist collisions.
Left-Hand Turn Accidents: One of the most common types of accidents occur when motor vehicles collide with a cyclist as they make a left-hand turn. These accidents frequently result in serious and often fatal injuries to the bicyclist. Drivers often fail to see a bicycle in their path before it is too late because they are focusing on the oncoming traffic when making their left-hand turn. Drivers are frequently liable for the cyclist’s injuries in this context, as it is their responsibility to check all angles of traffic, and to give due regard for the safety of everyone using the roadway before making a left-hand turn.
Right Hook Accidents: Bicyclists are generally required to travel as far to the right side of the travel lane as possible. Motorists making right-hand turns can easily collide with a cyclist in this position if they fail to look for them and yield to the cyclist’s right of way.
Hit and Run Accidents: Hit and Run accidents are far too frequent, particularly for cyclists. Any negligent motorist can cause such a crash, but persons driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and distracted drivers are often the cause of hit and run bicycle accidents. Fear of a DUI charge, fear of tickets, failure to appreciate the cyclists’s presence, perhaps because of the use of a cell phone at the time of the accident, can all cause panic and lead the driver to flee the scene. Many bicyclists suffer serious injury when the driver fails to stop and assist.
A bicycle accident can be a life-or-death event. The injured person’s condition must be promptly assessed and stabilized. Emergency personnel (police and EMTs) should be called to the scene. If it is safe to do so, take pictures of the accident scene and any injuries that have occurred. Gather witness names and contact information so that you can prove what really happened. Provide any such information to the insurance companies to help with their investigation and preserve your rights to make a claim.
In the event of a hit and run accident, it’s important to describe everything you can remember about the vehicle that struck you. Remember, even if you cannot get the full license plate number, a description of the vehicle can help capture the driver responsible for the accident and injuries.