How Do Most Bicycle Accidents Happen?
Traffic safety is the responsibility of every individual utilizing America’s roadways and other shared traffic spaces. Yet, every year, individuals sustain injuries or lose their lives in accidents resulting from other individuals’ negligent actions. Bicyclists frequently ride among vehicles, using the same lanes cars drive. If you sustained injuries in a bicycle accident, Mike Morse Law Firm is here to help.
Considering the Bicycle Accident Statistics
In 2019, an estimated 49,000 cyclists sustained injuries in a bicycle crash in the U.S. Collisions led to fatalities for 846 riders and accounted for 2.3% of the total car accident fatalities. That same year, 86% of all bicyclist deaths were males, and males were five times more likely to sustain injuries in a traffic accident. More riders aged 55-59 died than any other age group, but children under 14 accounted for 5% of all fatalities.
Most fatal bike crashes in 2019 occurred in urban environments, and 27% took place in an intersection. The percentage of accidents in daylight versus dark was nearly equal, with 49% happening in the former and 47% in the latter. Most weekday accidents occurred during rush hour traffic times, but the highest percentage of weekend accidents occurred between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.
In Michigan, 1,501 bicyclists had accidents involving vehicles in 2019. The same year, 21 bicycle-vehicle collisions led to fatalities for cyclists, and an estimated 1,129 riders sustained injuries in 1,121 traffic collisions between motorists and bikers. As with national-level data, males were involved in crashes at significantly higher rates than females.
Understanding Cyclist Vulnerabilities
Bike riders sharing the road with motorists are arguably more vulnerable than any other vehicle. Though motorcyclists ride at faster speeds, the difference between bicycle speed and car speed often increases the danger for the biker. Bicycles are less visible and quieter than motorcycles, another factor contributing to cyclist vulnerability.
While wearing a helmet significantly increases survival in an accident, the potential for severe injuries to other parts of the body is high. Michigan does not have a helmet law for cyclists, so whether the biker wore one does not impact liability in a bicycle accident claim.
Understanding the Causes of Bicycle Accidents
People often assume motorists are responsible for most traffic accidents involving bicycles. However, cyclists and motorists can both contribute to collisions. Most roads do not have dedicated bike lanes, and even fewer have protected bike paths. Additionally, many drivers do not know the rules for sharing the road with cyclists.
Motorists and cyclists failing to comply with traffic laws is one of the primary causes of bicycle traffic accidents. The most common behavior for motorists is failure to yield. Cyclists can contribute to accidents when they don’t comply with traffic signals and signs or misuse the roadway.
In many instances, roads are not designed for safe bicycle usage, putting cyclists in danger every time they ride. Other common causes of bicycle accidents include:
- High speeds: Higher speeds increase riders’ risk of injury and death. Most cyclist fatalities occur where the posted speed limit is 45 m.p.h. Motorists do not have to be traveling faster than the speed limit to do harm. The highest injury rate occurs when the posted speed limit is 25 m.p.h.
- Impairment: Alcohol consumption increases the likelihood of a bicycle-car collision. Drivers and cyclists operating under the influence have poor judgment and responses. In 2019, 16% of cyclist fatalities occurred in accidents involving impaired cyclists and non-impaired motorists, whereas 8% involved impaired motorists and non-impaired cyclists.
- Low visibility: Traffic congestion and limited visibility make cyclists even less visible than under good conditions. Though many areas are working on building better biking infrastructure, there is still a long way to go. Like many other states, Michigan has a bicycle safety plan that includes education, awareness, and improved facilities.
Distracted driving is a primary factor in many collisions resulting in injuries or fatalities. In 2019, distracted driving accidents led to injuries for an estimated 424,000 people and death for more than 3,100. Approximately 20% of the fatalities were to those not inside vehicles when the accident occurred, including bicyclists. Distracted motorists can easily miss seeing a bicycle in their path.
Knowing Special Regulations Impacting Bicycle Accident Claims
If you sustain injuries in a bike accident involving a vehicle, you may be able to seek compensation for losses through the legal system. Numerous state laws and rules impact the process and outcomes.
Personal Injury Protection
Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance law can impact your case. If you are a cyclist who sustains injuries in a collision with a vehicle, your PIP coverage pays for medical expenses and a portion of lost wages up to the limits of your policy. If you do not have PIP insurance, the vehicle driver’s personal injury protection covers your medical and wage losses up to the limits of the driver’s coverage. The law does not preclude you from filing a legal claim, but your injuries must meet the threshold for serious injury, disfigurement or fatality.
Bicycle Road Rules
Generally, riders owe other road users the same duty of care they would if they were in a vehicle. However, additional considerations in Michigan bicycle law impact liability determinations. The state requires cyclists to stay to the right, as close to the curb or roadway edge as practical, except in the following situations:
- The biker is traveling at the speed of traffic
- The cyclist is passing a vehicle or other cyclist
- The road conditions make it unsafe to ride on the right
- The vehicle traffic is turning right, but the rider intends to go straight
- The cyclist is turning left
- The road is a one-way street, and it’s more practical to ride on the left side
Bicyclists are also not allowed on limited access highways unless the road has a dedicated bike path. The law requires cyclists to equip their bikes with lights and reflectors when riding between a half hour after sunset and a half hour before sunrise.
Road rules for drivers also impact liability determinations. The law stipulates motorists must give at least 3 ft. of space between the vehicle and the cyclist when passing. Some local ordinances require a 5-ft. cushion. In these areas, the local ordinance rule takes precedence. Drivers must also yield to bikes in the same way they would other vehicles.
Knowing How a Bicycle Accident Lawyer Can Help
Bike crashes often result in severe injuries and lead to greater damages than personal injury protection covers. A bicycle accident lawyer can help you navigate a legal claim to pursue fair compensation for your losses. Your attorney assesses the particulars of your case to determine the feasibility of a lawsuit. If your claim has merit, and you choose to follow through with filing, your lawyer provides the following:
- Gathers evidence
- Calculates damages
- Builds your case
- Completes and files legal paperwork
- Communicates and negotiates with relevant parties
Should your claim not settle in pre-trial negotiations, your bicycle accident lawyer will represent you in the courtroom.
Retaining a Michigan Bicycle Accident Lawyer You Can Trust
The Mike Morse Law Firm team is dedicated to assisting those who sustain injuries due to another party’s negligence. Michigan residents have trusted their cases to us for more than 25 years. We’re here to help you with your bicycle accident claim. Reach out to us today to schedule a free consultation.