Bicycle Accidents and the Law

May 9, 2017

It’s no secret that automobile accidents can result in serious injuries, and even though seat belts, reinforced frames, and air bags can go a long way toward heightening the safety of vehicle occupants, sometimes these aren’t enough to prevent severe personal harm. That’s why driving a car or truck always comes with a certain amount of potential danger. For bicyclists, however, the dangers on the road are considerably magnified.

A bicycle is much more vulnerable than a modern automobile. The bicyclist has no safety gear to protect them, apart from a helmet and possibly knee and elbow pads. For that reason, bicycle accidents often lead to major physical injuries.

Frightening Statistics

Make no mistake: bicycle injuries are quite common. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has gathered some telling stats and findings about this phenomenon.

  • In 2010, bicycle accidents added up to around $10 billion in medical expenses and lost productivity.
  • In 2013, more than 900 bicyclists were killed in accidents.
  • The same year, bike accidents led to nearly half a million emergency room visits. One-third of these visits involved individuals under 25 years of age.

The indisputable fact is that traveling by bicycle is substantially more dangerous than riding in a car or truck.

Causes of Bicycle Accidents

Bike crashes happen for a wide variety of reasons, as all types of road accidents do. In many cases, the cause can be traced to the negligence of an automobile driver. Common causes of accidents include the following:

  • Motorist failure to observe right-of-way laws
  • Excessive automobile speed (leaving little to no reaction time)
  • Motorists inability to see bicyclists in their blind spot
  • Distracted driving

Types of Injuries Associated with Bicycle Accidents

Road accidents often leave bicyclists with severe injuries,including:

  • Broken arms and/or legs
  • Brain damage
  • Spinal cord injuries (complete or incomplete)
  • Total paralysis

Sometimes, the bicyclist is left with permanent medical issues that require ongoing treatment.

What the Law Says

Under Texas law, “Bikes are entitled to all rights and obligated to all duties of the road that apply to a motor vehicle.” Among other things, this means that automobiles must allow bicycles the right of way in the same manner as they would a car or truck. Despite the protections that the law affords bicyclists, however, far too many vehicle drivers fail to treat them with the proper consideration.

Like car drivers, bicyclists are required to observe safe riding practices. For example:

  • Bicyclists are expected to use designated hand signals prior to stopping or turning.
  • Bicyclists who cannot keep pace with the normal flow of traffic are expected to stay as close to the right side of the roadway as possible.
  • Bicyclists who ride at night must have a suitable lamp or reflector on the bike.

With awareness and proper safety precaution, bicyclists and drivers of motor vehicles can use the roads in harmony. Ride safe out there!

Written by Emily Brown of SMSH Legal. 

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