With more people taking to the road on bicycles, there is an increase in cycling accidents. When motor vehicles and bicycles collide, there is an excellent chance that the cyclist will be injured. Due to their physical lack of protection, many bicycle accidents result in catastrophic injuries. Although there are ways to stay safe, a cyclist is at a disadvantage on busy roadways, particularly at intersections. Let’s take a look at the increasing number of bike accidents, the role intersections play, laws that attempt to provide safe conduct for cyclists and how to determine fault when the rules are broken.
Bicycle Accident Statistics in the US
Nationwide, roughly 900 people are injured in bicycle accidents annually. This number has been increasing recently due to more bicyclists taking to the road as well as an increase in vehicular traffic. The exact number of injured bicyclists is grossly underreported since only 10 percent of those injured in a bicycle accident seek help at an emergency facility. About 70 percent of bicycle accident fatalities occur in urban areas. Close to 90 percent of cyclists who are killed in an accident are male.
Additional Bicycle Accident Statistics
- The age of cyclists who are in a collision with a motor vehicle has risen in the last 30 years. In 1988, it was 24, 34 in 1998 and 46 today.
- In California, more bicyclists are killed than in other states, making up 4 percent of the total accidental deaths on the road. Florida and California are consistently vying as the number one state for bicycle accidents.
- The total annual cost of injuries and deaths due to bicycle accidents approaches $4 billion each year.
- Roughly 20 percent of bicycle accidents occur in the period between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.
Underreporting of Bicycle Accidents
Bicyclists often do not report bicycle accidents unless there are serious injuries. Because of this, not just the figures are affected, but many bicycle accident cases suffer for it too. When a cyclist is hit by a motor vehicle, they should consider it no different from the standpoint of reporting the accident than if they were in a car. Once the accident happens, the police should be called, and neither party should leave the scene of the crash.
Immediately after a collision, you may be unaware of the seriousness of your injuries and have little idea of the driver’s behavior leading to the crash. If the accident was not reported and a collision report is not provided complete with witness statements, it is more difficult to recover damages. Do yourself a favor, and report a bicycle accident to the police.
Intersection Accidents for Bicycles
Intersections are a dangerous place for bicyclists. A collision with a motor vehicle causes approximately 11 percent of bicycle accidents, yet, of these, 45 percent happen in an intersection. The remaining 59 percent of crashes occur when the cyclist encounters debris on the road, potholes, or uneven payment as well as other obstacles. Since intersections vary according to design and complexity, such as the use of stop signs or traffic lights and traffic patterns, several different types of accidents can and do happen:
- Cyclists not obeying a stop sign: This is one of the most common types of bicycle accidents. It occurs when the cyclist stops at a cross street and ventures out into the intersection despite an approaching vehicle. In most cases, the bicyclist will be considered at fault. This type of accident is often seen with cyclists under 15, supporting the assumption that younger cyclists have a problem measuring distance and speed of moving vehicles.
- Motorist fails to stop: Second in frequency, this crash occurs when the motorist with a stop sign fails to stop and moves into the main thoroughfare, hitting a cyclist who has the right-of-way. Providing the bicyclist is traveling with traffic, the motorist would be at fault.
- Turning right: This happens when a bicycle and a motorist are approaching a stop sign or a light together. After stopping, the motorist turns right into the moving bicyclist. This confusion could be either the motorist’s or the cyclist’s fault. If the motorist has reason to believe a cyclist is moving forward in the bike lane and makes a right turn despite it, the motorist is at fault. If the cyclist is passing to the motorist’s right and overcomes the motorist just as he or she is turning right, it is either the bicyclist’s fault or the cyclist will share responsibility with the motorist.
- Turning left: In some cases, the motorist turns left at an intersection and hits a cyclist who is approaching from the opposite direction. While not an excuse, many motorists say that they did not see the cyclist before turning.
How You Can Avoid Intersection Accidents
To decrease the number of accidents at intersections, a bicyclist must maintain high visibility. Wearing bright-colored clothing, using reflective tape and maintaining front and rear lights on a bike can make it easier for motorists to see you in an intersection. Riding defensively and always being alert when cycling help tremendously. Not using a cell phone or listening to music can make it easier to stay focused.
Debris, Uneven Pavement and Poorly Designed Bike Lanes
Many bicycle accidents happen because of debris in the road, pavement that is broken or in areas dotted with potholes. When this happens, the bicyclist has a case against the government authority that is charged with providing safe transit. A bicycle accident lawyer can help you file a claim against the city or state. Remember that with allegations against a government agency, the statute of limitations differs. This means that you have only so much time to file the claim, after which you will not be able to recover damages.
For personal injury cases, the injured party has six months to file an administrative complaint with the government agency. After this, the agency has 45 days to either deny or accept the claim. If denied, the plaintiff has six months to file a lawsuit. In situations where the agency does not respond to the initial administrative complaint, the plaintiff has two years to file a lawsuit.
Beware of Being “Doored”
This activity causes approximately 25 percent of bicycle accidents. It occurs when a motorist who is parked on the street opens his or her car door, and the cyclist rides into it. Generally, this happens because the motorist fails to look for oncoming cyclists before opening the door. It can result in serious, sometimes catastrophic injuries.
Common Bicycle Accident Injuries
Bicycle accident injuries range from mild scrapes to significant life-threatening injuries. Some of the most common are:
- Traumatic brain injury: This usually occurs when a cyclist strikes their head on the ground, particularly when they are not wearing a helmet. Examples are concussion and subdural hematoma. While most concussions resolve with rest, hematomas on the brain may require surgery.
- Facial injury: The facial bones, teeth and jaw are easily injured when a bicyclist hits their face. This impact can involve expensive reconstructive efforts.
- Amputation: Due to a cyclist’s lack of protection, they are prone to amputation injuries when in an accident with a motor vehicle.
- Wrongful death: A negligent driver can cause a bicyclist fatal injury. The family may rely on a wrongful death lawsuit to recover damages.
- Bone fracture: Any bone in the body may be broken. However, some such as that of the femur and the pelvis can require surgical intervention and a long period of recuperation.
- Neck injury: A fall off a bicycle caused by an impact with an object such as a motor vehicle can cause tendon, ligament and muscle damage in the neck. It may also result in a herniated disk injury.
- Spinal cord injury: When the spinal cord is damaged, a cyclist may be permanently disabled.
- Paralysis: Some spinal cord injuries are so severe they cause paralysis of the extremities. The degree and type of paralysis depend on the level of the spinal cord that was damaged.
- Nerve damage: A bicycle accident can damage spinal nerves. This can result in upper and lower extremity pain and disability. Nerve damage requires medical intervention, and often the person is left with residual disability.