The weather in California affords many people the opportunity to head out on their bike for a fun ride or to commute, and the added health benefits have pushed the number of people taking to the activity even higher in recent years. Unfortunately, that means the chances for bicycle accidents are higher, too.
Even though cycling has become the norm in many California cities, motorists and urban planning have been relatively slow to adapt. Cars, which should by now be used to higher numbers of cyclists sharing the road with them, are still involved in an alarming number of preventable bicycling accidents. California is one of the top three states for them, too — 128 cyclists died in crashes in California in 2014, with only Florida recording a slightly higher number of cycle crash fatalities that year.
In these collisions, it’s usually the cyclist who pays the most serious price in terms of injuries due to the fact that their bodies are exposed more to the elements and less protected than a person inside a vehicle. Even a car going at a slow speed can throw a cyclist into oncoming traffic or other dangerous situations.
Bigger City, More Accidents
The bigger the city, the more likely there are a lot of bicyclists commuting to work or on their bike for recreation. Big California cities like San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles have become popular places for cycling, but the layout of these cities means it’s not always safe for the rider.
Even with bike lanes, motorists have a tendency to drift into the bike lane or lose their focus and sideswipe someone. Southern California has been home to many bicycle accidents and it’s a growing trend, leading some activists in the area to paint cycles white and leave them near intersections where a cyclist was killed.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, bicycle accidents are a problem nationwide, too. More than 8,000 cyclists die on an annual basis and a further 700,000 were hurt in car crashes in the last 10 years alone. There are also circumstances where a cyclist could be at fault for an accident, further complicating the legal landscape of a personal injury claim.
Preventing Bicycle Accidents
Many bicycle accidents, fortunately, are completely preventable. Both cyclists and motorists can do a better job of paying attention and sharing the road to minimize some of the damage and devastating injuries linked to bicycle accidents.
California law requires motor vehicles give 3 feet of clearance to a cyclist when passing from behind, while cyclists must also follow the same rules of the road as drivers. The Three Feet for Safety Act, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in September 2014, makes it a crime for drivers to not comply with safely overtaking or passing a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a highway. Not giving 3 feet of safety distance is punishable by a $35 fine, with a $220 fine on a driver if a collision occurs between a motor vehicle and bicyclist causing bodily harm to the bicyclist.
Some of the more common causes of bicycle accidents include a driver or bicyclist making an unsafe turn, bicycles that do not have headlights or reflectors at night, and a motor vehicle operator opening their car door as a bicyclist is passing.
Additional reasons for cycling accidents in California include:
- Drivers not yielding to a cyclist
- Drivers hitting a cyclist while making a left-hand or right-hand turn
- Alcohol-impaired driving
- Distracted driving
- Drifting into the bicycle lane
Both cyclists and motorists should take precautions to avoid bicycle accidents. One of the best ways to do this is to be a mindful rider and to always be visible.
It can be hard for someone inside a car to see a cyclist, so bright colors can help you stand out in a rearview or side mirror, alerting the driver that there’s someone on a bicycle coming. Likewise, it’s just as important for cyclists to follow relevant road rules, since the potential for a cyclist to be seriously hurt is much higher than someone inside a car.
What to Do If You Get Injured
The cost of a bicycle accident can be serious once you figure in your long-term medical costs and missed time at work.
In California, you may be able to pursue compensation to help you recover. You should make yourself aware of California’s bicycle laws so that you understand your rights and responsibilities both on the road and in the event that an accident happens.
Some of the injuries that a cyclist might have to cope with after an accident include:
- Broken bones
- Internal bleeding
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Spinal cord injuries
If you have recently been involved in a bicycle accident, there are a couple of steps you need to take in order to protect yourself. Taking pictures at the scene, getting a copy of your medical records, and speaking with a lawyer sooner rather than later can all impact your case.
For example, with TBIs, accumulating as much information as possible about post-accident activity level, energy, productivity, and school/work performance creates clarity for a mediator, judge or jury in a personal injury case. Even a concussion, a mild brain injury, can have lasting effects.
A personal injury lawyer may help you understand the next steps should you choose to move forward with a claim. There are many complex legal factors at play in a bicycle accident claim, and it’s strongly recommended that you identify a lawyer who has experience helping other cycling victims if you were the one on the bike when the crash happened.
We have the answers to more of your questions if you’re a bicycle rider, motorist wanting to keep abreast of bicycling laws, or if you ever unfortunately become involved in a bicycle accident. If the latter, contact us today for a free case evaluation.