A few years ago, a friend of mine was driving her regular route home. She stopped at an intersection to yield at a flashing yellow arrow in the left turn lane. As she proceeded to turn, two cyclists passed the intersection in front of her car, and she hit one of them.
I can imagine that moment is one that slowed down in front of her eyes, as she wished she would have seen them coming down the sidewalk when she looked to her left. But it was too late.
She brought it up recently, and admitted that she wasn't sure how it would have worked out if insurance companies had been involved (luckily, the cyclist accepted her apology and she never heard from him again.) It occurred to me that most people, cyclists and drivers alike, wouldn't know how to handle a situation like that. What would have happened if the cyclist was angry and/or severely hurt? Whose fault was it? Should they have called the police?
Of bicycle accidents every year in America, about 11% involve a collision with a car. Of those that involve a car, 45% occur in an intersection (Crash & Safety Facts, www.bicyclinginfo.org). That's around 4700 bicycle/auto accidents total and 2100 in intersections.
Common reasons for auto/cycle collisions are:
- Drivers underestimating the speed of the bike
- Drivers not expecting bikes to be on the road
- Inability to see a cyclist due to size or weather
- Driver or cyclist not adhering to road rules
Legal representatives suggest to:
- Always notify the police when you are in an accident
- Attempt to exchange insurance information
- Avoid admitting fault
When liability is brought into the mix, fault will usually come down to "Who had the right of way?" As a cyclist, how can you ensure that you will not be at fault in a vehicle collision? To start with, you should maximize your visibility and pay attention to your surroundings, learn to recognize intersection hazards, and take safety precautions such as using front and rear lamps, and wearing reflective clothing. Visit bicyclesafe.com to see typical auto-bicycle collisions and how these tips can help prevent them.