Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents

Princeton Bike Accident Lawyers

Princeton Bike Accident LawyersThe Princeton bike accident lawyers that locals rely on, from Davis & Brusca, LLC are here to help in the aftermath of a serious bicycle accident. Bicyclists are exposed when riding and can suffer severe injuries in the event of an accident. Most bicycle accidents are preventable.  The root cause is usually a simple failure to follow the rules of the road and failure to treat the cyclist with respect.

Failure to Yield

Bicycles have the same rights as drivers on the road. However, whether intentionally or unintentionally, many drivers fail to give bicycles the space they need or to honor their right to share the roads. Drivers fail to yield to bicyclists in a number of common situations, including:

  • Entering an intersection
  • Merging
  • Turning
  • Backing out of driveways or other spaces
  • Failing to follow traffic signals such as red lights or stop signs

Simply put, the car does not always have the right of way.  Motorists must follow the rules of the road and honor the bicyclist’s right to be on the road in order to prevent bicycle accidents.

Distracted Driving

Drivers must maintain focus at all times to avoid potential hazards, including bicycles. Cell phones, navigation systems, or eating and drinking can all distract a motorist’s attention from the roadway, leaving cyclists in serious danger.  Drivers who try to engage in this kind of “multitasking” present a serious risk to bicyclists.

Drowsy or impaired drivers are equally dangerous, both to themselves and to others on the road. Drowsy drivers run the risk of falling asleep at the wheel and losing control. Drivers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol have slower reaction times and may lack the judgment needed to stay in their lane, properly execute turns, and avoid oncoming obstacles, such as bicycles.

Aggressive Driving

Aggressive driving, or road rage, occurs when a driver exhibits purposefully reckless behaviors that endanger others. It is very dangerous when a driver acts in this manner with another motorist, but it can be deadly when a bicycle becomes a target of road rage. Examples of aggressive driving include:

  • Speeding or racing
  • Tailgating
  • Squeezing the space available for other road users, including cyclists
  • Disobeying traffic signals
  • Risky lane changes
  • failing to signal
  • Blocking the bike lane
  • Confrontational behaviors such as honking or verbal abuse

When confronted with an aggressive driver, the safest strategy for a cyclist is to avoid them if at all possible. Engaging with an aggressive driver can escalate the situation, which is a danger for bicyclists as well as other vehicles on the road.

Dangerous Road Conditions

In some cases, it is not other vehicles but the road itself that causes accidents. Sudden changes in the road surface affect bicycles much more than larger vehicles and can cause bicyclists to lose control. Potholes are common due to long-term wear and tear on a roadway, or poor weather conditions. When potholes remain unfixed or are given low-quality patches, they can present a serious hazard for bicycles. Sewer grates and railroad or trolley tracks are also dangerous, as bicycle tires can get stuck and cause the cyclist to fall off or veer into oncoming traffic.

While one may think that the government or public agency responsible for maintaining the road would be responsible for harms caused by potholes, they typically have at least some degree of immunity and may not be liable where an “ordinary person” would be.  Under some circumstances a government entity may be held liable, but doing so generally requires that they be given notice of the intent to bring a claim early on.  For example, in New Jersey, the government must usually be given notice within ninety (90) days of the injury or the claim may fail.

Bicycle Defects

Defects in a bicycle can present a hidden danger which the rider cannot discover until it is too late. Defects can arise from a serious flaw in the design of the bicycle or one of its component parts, or because it was manufactured improperly. Defects often lead to recalls.  Bicycles may be recalled for many reasons, such as:

  • Defective or cracked carbon fiber frames
  • Brake failure
  • Defective tires
  • Fork failure
  • Defect on quick-release hubs on front wheels
  • Incorrect materials or assembly
  • Failure to meet safety standards

It is also essential for bicyclists to have a helmet that is properly fitted and free of cracks or other defects.  Helmets should be replaced if they have struck the ground or other object in a crash.  A helmet which has “done its job” protecting the rider in such circumstances may appear intact, but may be compromised and no longer offer protection.

How to Avoid a Bicycle Accident at Night

Ideally, it’s best to avoid riding your bicycle after the sun goes down. You’re much less visible to other motorists, so your likelihood of getting into an accident increases. However, sometimes you may not be able to avoid riding your bicycle at night, such as when you are coming home from work. If that is the case, try to take extra precautions. Here are a few tips for avoiding a bicycle accident at night.

  • Put on light-colored clothes. If you plan to ride your bicycle at night, you want to make yourself as visible as possible to motorists. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to wear light-colored clothing. These clothes will reflect more light in the dark, so motorists can see you easier.
  • Plan your route beforehand. Before you take your bicycle out at night, you should know exactly where you’re going. Now isn’t the best time to go down dark roads where you can’t see well. Plan your route to include well-lit roads without heavy traffic. Doing so will help you stay safer while biking at night.
  • User reflective equipment. When riding a bicycle at night, you shouldn’t just make yourself more visible. It is also important to make your bike visible to other motorists. You can do this by putting reflective tape on your seat, pedals and bike frame. Motorists will be able to see your bicycle more clearly this way, reducing your risk of an accident.
  • Ride extra carefully. While it is always important to be cautious when riding your bicycle, it’s especially important after dark. Nighttime isn’t the time to ride your bike aggressively or ignore certain traffic signs. Doing so can increase your risk of getting into a collision. If you don’t feel comfortable riding on a dark road, just walk your bicycle to the closest well-lit road.
  • Let someone know of your whereabouts. If you have to ride your bicycle at night, you should let a family member or friend know where you’re going and how long you plan to be out. If you get injured or your bike breaks down, at least someone will know where you are.
  • Don’t assume that motorists will see you. Even if you make yourself more visible, you shouldn’t just assume that approaching motorists will see you first. Stay clear out of their path.

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