Jason Stephens | February 8, 2021 | Bicycle Accidents
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, 16,807 crashes between bicycles and motor vehicles occurred between 2010 and 2016. These crashes were responsible for 362 deaths and up to 15,415 injuries.
The U.S. government and the state of Texas have compiled statistics about the factors that lead to bicycle accidents in hopes that improved education and better road design can help to reduce the dangerous interactions between cars and bicycles.
Here are some of the most common types of bicycle accidents and an overview of how a lawyer can prove fault for injuries resulting from these kinds of accidents.
Causes of Bicycle Accidents
Collisions between motor vehicles and bicycles almost always produce injuries due to the following:
The average street bicycle weighs around 25-30 pounds. The average passenger car weighs 4,000 pounds. In a collision between a bicycle and car, the bicycle is guaranteed to lose.
A Lack of Protection
Bicyclists are largely unprotected. Automobile drivers and passengers are surrounded by a couple of tons of steel. At best, bicyclists wear a plastic helmet. While bicycle helmets reduce the fatality rate by over 75%, they cannot prevent non-fatal head injuries or injuries to other parts of the body.
Motor vehicles travel at much greater speeds than bicycles. Since the energy of a moving body depends on its weight and speed, a car contributes much more energy to a collision than a slower, lighter bicycle.
These factors can all help to explain the reasons why bicyclists are frequently injured in collisions with motor vehicles, but they do not explain how these collisions happen.
Some of the factors that contribute to bicycle accidents include:
Improper Lookout Behaviors
Motorists can have difficulty spotting bicyclists, particularly when they are distracted, intoxicated, or driving carelessly. Most bicyclist deaths occur in urban settings in which motorists have more distractions.
Most bicyclist fatalities occur between the hours of 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. when traffic is heavy and dusk makes it difficult to see bicycles.
A lack of bicycle lanes can push motor vehicles and bicycles too close to each other.
Age of Bicyclists
While the U.S. has seen a major decline in the percentage of bicycle accidents involving children and teenagers – the rate has gone down by about 10% — young bicyclists still account for about half the bicycle accidents in Texas.
With these factors in mind, here are the most common kinds of bicycle accidents.
Bicyclists are frequently involved in two types of intersection accidents:
The bicyclist is riding toward the intersection along the right shoulder or curb. A car turning right strikes the bicyclist from the side or cuts the bicyclist off.
The bicyclist is riding straight through the intersection. A car turning left strikes the bicyclist.
Both of these types of accidents are caused by improper visual checks or a judgment error. Often, the automobile driver does not even see the bicyclist. But these accidents can also occur when the driver sees the bicyclist and misjudges the distance or speed of the bike and tries to beat it through the intersection.
70% of fatal bicycle accidents in Texas do not occur at intersections. Instead, they happen on highways or country roads when the vehicle driver fails to leave enough room as they pass a bicycle.
These accidents are caused by improper visual checks, aggressive driving, or careless driving. These accidents are often fatal when they occur on open roads at highway speeds.
Distracted Driving Accidents
Distracted driving and distracted biking can contribute to as many as one-third of bicycle accidents. Texas has attempted to reduce the number of distracted driving accidents by passing a law against texting and driving.
Under the Texas statute, you cannot send or receive electronic messages while driving anywhere in Texas. To protect young pedestrians and bicyclists, the Texas law also bans all cell phone use in school zones. These two restrictions should help to reduce the distractions that contribute to bicycle accidents.
Intoxicated Driving Accidents
About 37% of bicycle accidents in the U.S. involve either an intoxicated driver or an intoxicated bicyclist. Alcohol and drugs can impair judgment and reflexes. As a result, an intoxicated driver is less likely to spot a bicyclist and more likely to misjudge the speed or position of the cyclist.
Aggressive Driving Accidents
Some drivers take issue with sharing the road. Sometimes, they vent their frustrations at bicyclists. Aggressive driving such as cutting bicyclists off, tailgating, crowding, and honking can create conditions that place bicyclists in danger of a collision.
Speeding can also increase the risk of a bicycle accident. Drivers traveling at high speeds have less time to react when they encounter a cyclist and are more likely to injure or kill the cyclist if they do collide.
Accidents Caused by Road Hazards
Road hazards can cause bicyclists to lose control of their bikes or swerve into traffic. Some road hazards that are especially dangerous include:
- Debris, such as gravel and trash
- Water and ice
- Wet leaves
These obstacles can cause a bike to lose traction or slide sideways. But accidents are avoidable if drivers give cyclists space.
Liability in Bicycle Accidents
The fault for any vehicle accident — whether it is a car accident, truck accident, or bicycle accident — is determined based upon each person’s negligence in causing the accident. To establish negligence, a lawyer must prove:
- Breach of duty
In the case of a bicycle accident, the cyclist will try to prove the driver caused the accident when they breached the duty to drive in a reasonably safe manner. Often, the breach of duty is proven by showing the driver violated a traffic law.
Under Texas law, the court can reduce the damages owed by the driver to the cyclist if the driver proves the cyclist also contributed to the accident.
For example, if a driver failed to see a cyclist in an intersection while turning left, the driver was probably negligent. But the driver can argue the cyclist was texting when entering the intersection and was distracted from seeing the car turn in front of the bicyclist.
If the cyclist is found to be 50% at fault or less, the amount owed by the driver is reduced in proportion to the cyclist’s fault. If the cyclist is 51% or more at fault, the cyclist would receive no compensation.
To recover compensation after a bicycle accident, a cyclist should consider hiring an accident lawyer. The lawyer can present evidence of a driver’s negligence while trying to rebut any claim the cyclist was negligent.