What Are the Most Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents? Bicycle accidents occur due to a number of different factors, most of which are related to driver negligence or carelessness. Some of the most common causes of bicycle accidents involving other vehicles include unsafe lane changes, driving too close to bike lanes and shoulders, impaired driving and distracted driving.
Whether you ride your bicycle for exercise or on your daily commute to work or school, the fact remains that you face risks every time you get on the road. While California bike law clearly states that bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of other vehicles, there is no question that many drivers do not believe that. Motorists routinely put bicyclists in hazardous situations by failing to pay attention to the road.
Bicycle accidents on public roads can result from a variety of different factors, many of which are driver-related. Some of the most common causes include unsafe lane changes, turning without looking for cyclists, driving too close to bike lanes and shoulders, and using cell phones behind the wheel.
Who is at Fault for Bicycle Accidents?
While it may be challenging to generalize or pin down the blame on one party, statistics show that a number of bicycle accidents are caused by drivers who fail to see a bicyclist, or when a driver opens a car door in front of an oncoming bicyclist. There are also times when bicyclists violate the rules of the road by failing to stop at a red light or stop sign and therefore, cause accidents. Also, in a number of other cases, bicycle accidents occur due to a combination of factors where both parties may be partially to blame. In such cases, under California's comparative negligence law, injured bicyclists may be able to file a civil personal injury lawsuit and seek compensation even if they are deemed partially responsible for causing the accident. On the other hand, violation of a traffic law such as failure to yield could potentially be used as evidence of negligence on the bicyclist's part. However, it still will not be a reason to stop the bicyclist from collecting damages.
Share-the-Lane Laws For Car and Bicycles
California law gives bicyclists the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of other vehicles. State law also requires motorists to share the roadway with bicyclists. Before Jan. 1, 2023, state law required drivers to stay at least 3 feet from bicyclists when passing them. A new law that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2023, requires drivers to change lanes when possible while passing bicyclists.
The goal of the law is to create additional space between vehicles and bicycles reducing the risk of near misses or crashes. When roads don't have bike lanes or shoulders, bicyclists only have the option of staying as far right as possible with the expectation that vehicles will maintain a safe distance. In California, riders under age 18 are required to wear a bicycle helmet.
Bicycle Accident Injury Risks
When a bicyclist is involved in an accident, a number of factors may have put him or her at risk for an injury. Here are some of the ways in which cyclists could contribute to their accidents:
- Riding the bicycle at an unsafe speed
- Not wearing a helmet
- Lack of experience or unfamiliarity with roadways or terrain
- Riding under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs
- Participating in competitive riding
- Riding in poor or inclement weather
- Riding even though there is no bike path
Types of Bicycle Injuries
Bicycle accidents have the potential to result in severe trauma even death. Bicycle crashes could result in:
- Head injuries or traumatic brain injuries
- Facial and eye injuries
- Spinal cord damage including paralysis
- Broken bones or fractures
- Muscle strains and sprains
- Tendon damage
- Injuries to the joints
- Chest injuries
- Genitourinary injuries
- Skin and soft tissue injuries
Insurance and Bike Accidents
Bicyclists are at risk of suffering serious injuries any time they ride. If the motorist is at fault for the bicycle collision, the cyclist could receive coverage from the driver's auto insurance policy. A bicyclist may also be able to receive coverage for medical expenses through his or her personal health insurance policy. Currently, there is no requirement for bicyclists to carry insurance policies.
Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents
Here are some of the most common causes of bicycle accidents: Distracted driving
Driving while distracted leads to all types of auto accidents. Bicyclists are particularly vulnerable. Common types of driver distraction include talking on the phone, texting, browsing the Internet, using social media, eating, drinking, etc.
Failing to leave an adequate buffer
Motorists who don't respect the 3-foot law and pass bicyclists too close can cause a major injury collision. California law requires drivers to leave at least 3 feet distance while passing cyclists and in addition, change lanes, if it is safe to do so.
Violating the posted speed limit or driving at an unsafe speed limits the amount of time motorists have to make decisions on the roadway. Even low-speed collisions can leave bicyclists with severe injuries. When drivers are operating at a high speed, the consequences for bicyclists can be devastating.
Weaving and unsafe lane changes
Drivers who are weaving in and out of traffic or making unsafe lane changes are likely to cause dangerous conditions for bicyclists. Drivers who engage in such reckless behaviors are also more likely to lose control of the vehicle or drift outside their lanes of traffic into bike lanes and shoulders.
Running a red light or stop sign
Motorists who run red lights or stop signs put everyone at risk, especially bicyclists who have the right of way. Such collisions between vehicles and bicyclists could result in grave injuries.
Failure to yield
Failure to yield the right of way is another form of careless or reckless driving, which could result in major injuries for bicyclists. There are a number of locations where drivers have an obligation to yield to oncoming traffic including bicycles.
Drunk or impaired driving
When motorists operate a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, the risk is high for bicyclists. This is because alcohol and drugs significantly impair drivers' abilities and judgment.
A number of studies have shown that driving while fatigued or sleepy could have repercussions similar to driving while impaired. It is important for motorists to get sufficient rest when they get on the road and to not get behind the wheel when they are sleepy or exhausted.
Bicycle Accident Victim Rights
If you or a loved one has been injured in a bicycle accident, you may be able to seek compensation for the injuries, damages and losses you have sustained. An experienced Los Angeles bicycle accident attorney will be able to advise you regarding your legal rights and options. Injured victims may be able to seek compensation for damages including medical expenses, lost income, hospitalization, cost of rehabilitative treatment, pain and suffering and emotional distress. If you have been injured in a bicycle accident, call the Vaziri Law Group to find out how we can help protect your rights.