Bicycles, Cars and Summertime Hazards
Bicyclists ride the roads all year long. In the summer, with longer days and warmer weather, there are more bicyclists on the road than any other time of year so it’s up to drivers to pay extra attention to the 2 wheelers sharing the road. Bike riders and car drivers both have a responsibility to be aware of and follow the traffic laws. Yet, it is the car driver, operating the bigger, heavier and more dangerous vehicle who has the duty to take greater care to avoid accidents with bikes.
In most accidents between cars and bikes, the driver is at fault for failing to obey traffic laws regarding bicyclists. Fatigue, impaired or distracted driving or driving too fast for existing conditions are among the causes of serious car accidents that result in injury to bicyclists as well as drivers.
Cyclists are required in most states to obey the laws requiring them to use the far right side of the road or a designated bike lane. Bikers can also use the roadway in the center of a traffic lane unless specifically prohibited. Drivers should be aware of this and pay attention to slower traveling cyclists on the right side of the road and in traffic as well.
The three most common type of bike accidents are:
- A parked car door is opened into traffic and the biker collides with the door. In most cases, the driver is liable because they are expected to use reasonable care when opening a door into the area of the road designated for bikers.
- Being sideswiped by a passing vehicle. It is the driver’s responsibility to be aware of any biker and slow down to avoid passing in the same lane.
- Being hit by a vehicle making a right turn. Drivers are bound by traffic laws stating a turn should not be made unless it is safe; therefore, the driver also has the duty to look for any biker riding on the right.
There are also cases where the biker may be liable for the collision if they fail to follow traffic laws. If the cyclist was riding on the wrong side of the road, failed to wear clothing visible at night or failed to indicate a turn, these scenarios could all potentially relieve the driver of liability. A biker using a cell phone or riding without 2 hands on the handlebars can also be a traffic hazard.
It is important for a driver involved in a bike-car collision to consult with an experienced New Jersey car accident lawyer who can provide guidance on specific traffic laws and your rights. As more bike commuters and recreational riders take to the streets, drivers should remain alert and aware and take common sense steps to prevent accidents.