Although traffic accidents as a whole have decreased in recent years, bicycle accidents are actually on the rise. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the number of pedestrian and bicycle accidents jumped from 13 percent in 2003 to 17 percent in 2012. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that over 1,000 bicyclists died in 2015 alone, and another 467,000 were injured.
Bicycling offers a number of benefits. It’s better for the environment than driving a car, and it’s a great source of exercise. It also offers bicyclists an opportunity to take in nature.
However, there’s no getting around the fact that bicycling leaves an individual vulnerable on the road. The human body can’t take on a motor vehicle. When bicyclists are involved in traffic accidents with vehicles, they typically sustain serious and even fatal injuries. Being knowledgeable about the most common causes of bicycle accidents can help cyclists stay safer on the road.
5 Leading Causes of Bicycle Crashes
Bicycle accidents can happen for a number of reasons. However, some kinds of accidents are more common than others.
- Distracted Bicycling
Distracted driving has received a great deal of attention in recent years, as it has become a top cause of car accidents. However, riding a bicycle distracted is just as dangerous. Bicyclists that listen to music on headphones or look at a text or email on a smartphone don’t focus their full attention on the road. As a result, they can ride into the path of a car or miss an intersection.
Excessive speed is a factor in a large number of motor vehicle accidents, and it’s a top cause of bicycle accidents as well. Bicycles are much smaller than cars, which often makes it difficult for motorists to see them. When a motorist is driving too fast, they can easily miss someone on a bicycle.
- Vehicles Too Close to a Bicycle
Many motorists are unaware that bicyclists have the same right to use the road as any driver. The NHTSA considers bicycles on the roadway to be vehicles — with all the rights and privileges of a car.
Too often, motorists think of bicyclists as taking up space or being in the way. Rather than giving them the right of way, they regard them as a nuisance or inconvenience. This type of attitude can lead to catastrophic accidents. Traffic safety experts tell motorists to think of a bicyclist as a friend or family member — a strategy that can help drivers keep a cool head and drive safely when they are stuck behind a slow-moving bicyclist.
Dooring occurs when someone in a parked or stopped vehicle opens their door directly into the path of an approaching bicyclist. One study in New York found that three percent of all bicycle accidents over a 10-year period were dooring accidents. Motorists should always check their rearview mirrors before opening their vehicle’s door.
- Crossing Intersections
Intersections are dangerous places for cars, but they are also hazardous for bicyclists. Any time a bicyclist must cross the street, it’s critical for the cyclist to stop and look both ways. Bicyclists should also always obey traffic lights and road signs. Just because you can dart and weave in and out of traffic doesn’t mean it’s safe to do so. Bicyclists are safest when they follow the rules of the road like any other vehicle.
What to Do After a Bicycle Accident
After a bicycle accident, the bicyclist should get medical help as soon as possible. Many people have an instinct to spring back up after an accident and try to walk away from a spill or a crash, but it’s important to stay put until you know for certain you can stand up without further injuring yourself.
It’s also important to begin documenting your injuries right away. Doctors’ reports and medical records are an important part of any bicycle accident injury case.
Bicyclists should also contact the police to report the accident. In some cases, bicyclists mistakenly believe they don’t need to report an accident because they were on a bicycle instead of driving a car. However, a bicycle accident is still a type of traffic accident, and it’s important to get a police report.
Furthermore, the bicyclist and the driver should also exchange information, just as they would in a regular traffic accident. They should exchange insurance information, as well as their personal contact information.
Additionally, the bicyclist should document their injuries and the scene of the accident, if possible. Many people ride with a smartphone in their pocket or inside a backpack or bag. If you have a phone on you, use it to take photos of the crash site, your bicycle, and your injuries. These photos can be invaluable evidence in any personal injury case you may file later on.
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