Are You a California Cyclist? Watch Out for These Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents
California is one of the most cyclist-friendly places on the planet. Our year-round gorgeous weather and the plethora of cycling lanes on many of our roadways make it easy to hop on your bike to get a good workout or simply to skip the traffic on your way to the office or the grocery store. With so many cyclists and vehicles sharing the road, however, accidents do happen. Unfortunately, when a cyclist and a car meet, the cyclist always loses.
Cycling accidents are some of the most common traumatic personal injury cases I see in my office. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 1,000 cyclists were killed in 2015 and over 460,000 cyclists were injured. These big numbers aren’t meant to scare you, but rather to remind you that cycling carries risks. As a cyclist, you are considered a vehicle on the road and must follow all related rules. Since you have the most to lose in a collision with a car, it’s imperative that you pay attention on your ride!
Here are some of the most common causes of bicycle accidents to watch out for:
We now live in a world of distracted driving. All it takes is for a driver to glance down at their phone for one second, and they could swerve and sideswipe the cyclist riding in the bike lane next to them. Drivers can be distracted for all sorts of reasons from snapping a selfie to eating in the car, or even driving under the influence. As a cyclist, never assume that drivers can see you and practice cautious cycling.
Turning into a Biker’s Path
A lot of drivers simply don’t know how to drive with cyclists on the road. This leads many of them to execute turns without checking their side mirrors and rearview mirrors for cyclists. As a result, they turn into the path of the cyclist, which can cause catastrophic injury.
Opening a Car Door
Cycling lanes often run parallel to parking lanes in many parts of California. Cyclists need to be on their guard for car doors that swing open. Many times, drivers simply don’t think to check to make sure a cyclist isn’t riding down the road before pushing their door open. A cyclist may have little time to react or be unable to react if she has cars to her left and a car door protruding into the cycling lane.
Clipping a Cyclist
In situations where a bike lane is not available, cyclists must ride in the road. They are a road vehicle, and drivers should treat them accordingly. However, many drivers aren’t pleased to be forced to slow down. Some aggressive drivers will try to drive around cyclists in the road. If they aren’t careful or if an oncoming car in the opposite lane forces them to veer back into their own lane, they could clip the cyclist.
Even if you, as a cyclist, do everything right, you may still be the victim of an accident if a driver falls asleep at the wheel or is so drowsy that she doesn’t respond quickly enough when she sees you. It’s scary to read that, according to the CDC, 1 in 25 adults drivers admit to having fallen asleep behind the wheel in the past 30 days! Drowsy driving numbers are surly much higher. It’s no wonder that drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 crashes in 2013.
Cyclist Riding Against Traffic
Cyclists should always ride with the flow the traffic. Some cyclists, especially new riders may feel safer riding against traffic because it allows them to see and react to cars. However, this gives drivers less time to see cyclists and react accordingly. On sharp turns, a driver might not see a cyclist on the road until it’s too late.
Cyclist Not Wearing Appropriate Safety Gear
If you plan on riding in the evening or at night, make sure to wear reflective gear. If a driver can’t see you, they can’t take measures to avoid you. At night, a driver may be tired and distracted. Older drivers may have night vision difficulties. Wearing reflective clothing or a reflective vest will make you as visible as possible, so drivers can see you a far ways out and take necessary precautions.
It is a good idea to wear reflective clothing whenever you ride, even if you plan on biking during the day. Drivers may have difficulty seeing you if it is foggy or overcast.
What to Do If You Are Injured in a Cycling Accident
As a cyclist, there are many things you can do to lower your chances of being the victim of an accident. Always wear reflective gear. When possible, ride in the designated cycling lane. Follow the rules of the road. Practice “defensive cycling,” and assume drivers don’t see you. And, of course, always, always, always wear a helmet. A helmet won’t prevent an accident, but it can help you avoid a major head injury. Bones heal. Brains usually don’t!
Still, even if you do everything right, you can still be involved in a cycling accident. Sadly, many cycling accidents cause severe and permanent physical damage. You may suffer a brain or spinal injury. You may miss a significant amount of time at work, experience long-term pain, and be unable to cycle or engage in other hobbies. While you can’t go back and prevent the accident, you can seek a financial remedy through civil litigation.
If the driver shared any fault in the accident, you can seek damages to cover your medical bills and lost income. You can also seek damages for the pain and suffering you experienced. Money will never be enough to give you your life back, but it can help to make your recovery easier and less stressful!
If you or a loved one have been injured in a cycling accident in California, please contact my office to schedule a consultation.
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