The summer months typically see a rise in traffic accidents. North Alabama and other parts of the country often see a spike in drunk driving accidents during holiday weekends, and an increase in motorists taking road trips also means an increase in crashes. Tourists in Huntsville and Decatur who aren’t familiar with local roadways also put pedestrians and cyclists in danger. Children especially are at risk for bicycle injuries and accidents in the summer, as they’re out of school and out exploring.
Although nobody can prevent the actions of a negligent or impaired driver, you can learn as much as you can about safe biking techniques – and what you can do in the event you’re involved in a bicycle accident.
The National Safety Council (NSC) reports preventable deaths from bicycling accidents have increased 44 percent over the past decade. In 2020, 1260 Americans lost their lives in bike accidents. The NSC notes that bicycle-related deaths begin increasing each May and peak in summer, without slowing until late October.
How bicyclists can stay safe
When getting out for a ride this summer, take the following tips into consideration to keep yourself as safe as possible on the road.
Is your bike safe?
- Make sure your seat is properly adjusted and locked
- Check your brakes and tires
- Ensure your bike has proper reflectors and lights
Are you safe?
- Wear a helmet (how to fit a helmet)
- Wear bright/reflective clothing
- Try to ride during daylight whenever possible
Are you biking safely?
- Follow Alabama cycling laws; typically the same as motorists
- Use hand signals to show your intention to motorists
- Stay alert for unexpected hazards like car doors, construction, or pedestrians
However, it’s not solely up to bicyclists to keep themselves safe. Motorists owe cyclists a duty of care as much as they owe other vehicles and drivers a duty of care – and when they fail in that duty, they should be held accountable.
How drivers can keep bicyclists safe
The most important thing motorists must remember is that bicycles are considered vehicles. In most cities, bikes aren’t permitted to use sidewalks and are bound to the same traffic laws as passenger cars and trucks. This means cyclists have the same rights as everyone else on the road. Motorists should also understand the following about bicyclists:
- Cyclists are extremely vulnerable, without any protection in the event of an accident. Riders are typically thrown from their bikes when struck by a vehicle, where they can be hit by another car or strike a fixed object.
- Left turns can be deadly. Drivers often think they have enough time to make a turn in front of a bicycle. However, misjudging a bike’s speed can be fatal for the rider. Remember, a cyclist can easily reach up to 20 miles per hour, so it’s important for motorists to be very cautious.
- Open doors are dangerous. When drivers open a car door without checking for a bicycle first, they can cause a serious collision (called “dooring”). Safety advocates recommend reaching over with your right hand to open your door, which makes you automatically check your side view mirror for any oncoming bikes.
- Turn signals are more than just polite. Cyclists rely on motorists to signal their turns just as much as they rely on bicyclists to do the same. If a bicyclist is expecting a car to go straight through an intersection and it suddenly turns right instead, the cyclist could collide with the side of the vehicle.
If you’re involved in a bicycle accident
In the event a negligent driver causes you injury while you’re out on your bike, take the following steps to protect both your health and your legal rights:
- Move out of the road. If your injuries allow, get off the road to a safe area. Remaining in traffic could result in further injuries or additional accidents.
- Call the police. If nobody has already done so, call the police so they can take a report and send emergency personnel to evaluate your injuries.
- Document evidence if possible. Take photos of the accident scene, the damage to your bike, the vehicle that hit you (or the road conditions that caused your accident), and your injuries. If you’re unable to do so, ask a friend to do so for you.
- Get witness names and information. Although some of this may be on the police report, it’s important to get your own list of witness contact information for your own records, especially if those witnesses were not directly involved in the accident.
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible. Get to the ER or your personal physician as soon as you can, even if you don’t feel injured. Many injuries aren’t visible at first, like whiplash or brain injuries. It’s important to get checked out, both for your own safety and to get your injuries documented for your potential legal claim.
Then, get in touch with an experienced local personal injury attorney to talk about your accident. Many bicycle crashes and collisions happen due to negligent motorists, and if this is the case with yours, you are likely eligible for compensation for your injuries and losses.
The skilled lawyers at Martin & Helms have decades of experience representing people just like you after being injured in bicycle accidents. We understand how to prove why an at-fault motorist was negligent, and how they caused your injuries by failing to keep you safe on the road. Our attorneys work to recover financial compensation for your injuries, losses, and pain and suffering. Get in touch with our team today – we want to help.
Choosing the right personal injury attorney is an important step in building a better future. You deserve a lawyer who works one-on-one with you, and who can develop a plan for you to move forward. When you choose Martin & Helms, you get Clay Martin and Tara Helms: experienced, compassionate counselors who put your best interests first. We invite you to read more about us.