If you regularly commute to work or school via private automobile, you're no doubt aware that bicycle commuters are also well represented in rush-hour traffic. Most people who have been driving for any length of time in urban conditions have experienced close calls when it comes to sharing the road with bicycle traffic. Traffic injuries and fatalities have been increasing for several years, and, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, pedestrians and bicycle riders have experienced a significant increase in the number of fatalities. Following are three strategies designed to decrease your chances of ending up with a traffic-related personal-injury lawsuit involving a bicycle rider.
Be Careful Opening Doors
Your vehicle doesn't have to be moving in order to cause death or injury—all it takes is opening your vehicle door at precisely the wrong moment. It's amazing how many people who are extremely careful while their vehicle is actually in motion fail to exercise the same degree of caution once their car is actually parked. Approximately 10 percent of all bicycle-car collisions are occur when drivers or passengers open doors without first checking to ensure that there is no oncoming bicycle traffic. However, it could be argued in court that the bicyclist was partially responsible for the accident if it occurred at a time with no motor-vehicle traffic, therefore allowing the cyclist the chance to swerve into the road safely and avoid the accident. However, the vast majority of these cases are settled in favor of the person on the bicycle. Also, the most serious injuries involved in this particular scenario occur when cyclists swerve to avoid running into an open door and encounter traffic.
Be Aware of Possibly Intoxicated Cyclists
Although you probably won't have to worry about intoxicated bicycle riders on your morning commute, the possibility of impairment bears keeping in mind during other times of the day and night. In the year 2012, 28 percent of bicyclists who were fatally injured in traffic accidents had blood alcohol levels of 0.08-percent or higher. Be particularly careful in areas with bars and nightclubs, and always slow down and use extra caution when traveling by vehicle in areas surrounding college campuses. Those riding a bicycle while impaired by alcohol or other drugs may fail to remain in the proper lane and may also not be wearing helmets or reflective clothing. One of the only bright spots in these cases is that you may be able to claim that the person on the bicycle was primarily at fault due to being intoxicated at the time of the accident.
Be Particularly Careful at Intersections
Drivers should take particular care at intersections to avoid becoming involved in accidents involving bicycle riders. Intersection accidents involving bicyclists generally occur when the driver is turning either left or right. Always make certain to use your turn signal to alert bicycles riders and other vehicle operators of your intention to turn. When turning left, don't underestimate the speed at which oncoming bicycles coming toward you may be traveling at. Today's modern bicycles can travel as fast as 20 mph, so it's best to err on the side of caution and let them go by before turning left. Most states have adopted a 3-foot rule when it comes to distances between moving vehicles and bicycle traffic. Following this rule is not only good manners, but it may save you from having a personal-injury lawsuit filed against you in the event of an accident involving a bicycle rider. If you would like more information on this subject, please contact a local traffic lawyer at your earliest convenience.