All traffic accidents are potentially serious—after all, cars are heavy objects traveling at high speeds.
But the potential for bodily injury is heightened when a cyclist is involved. Bikes, obviously, do not offer the same kind of protection as a four-door automobile. The person riding the bike is often left totally exposed to the brunt of the collision’s impact.
Officials and legislators have attempted to reduce bike-on-car collisions through the introduction of various policy measures to limited success. The problem remains, costing thousands of lives every year.
Here is some basic information on bike accidents, including statistics, causes, and how to avoid them.
Bike Accident Data
Bicyclists account for a considerable portion of traffic deaths every single year. This is a surprising fact considering that bikes and cars often do not share the same space. Lots of long-distance bike riding occurs in the countryside, away from heavy automobile traffic. Additionally, designated bike lanes grant riders a greater degree of protection in most municipalities.
The fact that car-on-bike accidents still account for thousands of deaths every year is a testament to how far we have to go to make roads truly safe for cyclists.
Each year, around 2 percent of traffic deaths are bike riders. Although deaths have gone down for some demographics (such as children), deaths among adults generally have increased nearly three-fold since 1975.
In fact, the overall trend remains disturbing as bike deaths at the national level have consistently increased year after year.
According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, “A total of 854 bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles in 2018. This represents a 7 percent increase from the 800 bicyclist deaths that occurred in 2017. Although bicyclist deaths have decreased 15 percent since 1975, they have increased 38 percent since reaching their lowest point in 2010. Most bicyclist deaths in 2018 (87 percent) were those ages 20 and older.”
Bike Accident Causes
Like every kind of traffic accident, bike accidents have numerous causes; this is, perhaps, part of the reason the problem is so difficult to solve.
However, most bike accidents can be boiled down to at least one of a few common causes.
Firstly, many collisions are the result of bikes and cars being forced to share the space. If both cyclist and driver are alert, this is not necessarily a problem. Accidents can be avoided if both parties take proper precautions and observe traffic etiquette.
However, careless and aggressive driving/riding can quickly lead to disaster; this is especially true when a bike enters a car’s blind spot.
Most cars have difficulty seeing those traveling close to their side, and this side blind spot is especially dangerous to bike riders. When forced to share the road with cars, cyclists frequently ride in between lanes of traffic allowing them to go at their own space while granting four-door vehicles room to maneuver. The danger here is that they can easily enter a car’s blind spot, almost without knowing. In this situation, accidents frequently occur when the car attempts to change lanes without noticing the biker.
Bike accidents occur for many other reasons, including intoxicated riding, slippery road conditions, and mechanical failure.
How Bike Accidents Can Be Avoided
Taking common-sense safety measures is the easiest way to try to avoid bicycle accidents. Riders should use reflectors and flashers when riding at night, refrain from riding during storms and inclement weather, and wear proper safety equipment while riding—especially a helmet.
The World Health Organization (WHO) studied the protective value of wearing a helmet, and found “it reduces the deceleration of the skull, and hence the brain movement, by managing the impact. The soft material incorporated in the helmet absorbs some of the impact and therefore the head comes to a halt more slowly. This means that the brain does not hit the skull with such great force.”
Additionally, avoiding streets and roads with heavy automobile traffic is ideal. Although experienced riders may feel comfortable weaving between cars, all it takes is one mistake (either on the part of the cyclist or the driver) for a serious crash to occur.
The National Highway Transportation Agency has its own recommendations for safe riding around motor vehicles, including “driving predictably, motorists get a sense of what you intend to do and can react to avoid a crash. Drive where you are expected to be seen, travel in the same direction as traffic and signal and look over your shoulder before changing lane position or turning.”
For bike accident victims, it may take years before their life gets back to normal.
Oftentimes, physical injuries are the easiest to overcome. Victims may also be left with medical debt, job loss, and mental trauma. These injuries are often more difficult to surmount, because a surgeon’s knife or medicine cannot heal them.
Furthermore, financial challenges can also impose a tremendous burden on the victim’s loved ones. It may become difficult to pay rent, make bill payments, and even put food on the table.
In such dire circumstances, knowing where to turn is not always obvious. But for many, the quickest route back to normal begins with contacting a bicycle accident attorney.
Many may shudder at merely hearing the word “attorney,” as towering legal bills may come to mind. But, the reality is more nuanced.
Hiring a lawyer does not have to cost an arm and a leg. Some bicycle accident attorneys offer initial consultations at no or little out-of-pocket costs to the client. Additionally, law firms are often willing to work around a prospective client’s financial situation with alternative fee structures (e.g. the contingency fee).
Additionally, lawyers can help beyond filing a lawsuit. They can also manage settlement negotiations with the opposing party and insurance companies.
If the plaintiff decides to pursue legal action, a successful lawsuit may result in a significant financial award—signaling much-needed relief for not only the victim but their family.
Injured parties should meet with an attorney as soon as possible, even if they are not certain about filing suit. Texas imposes a two-year statute of limitations on bicycle accident lawsuits. Failing to take action could mean permanently forfeiting the right to legal recourse.