Why Do Cyclists Get Hit By Cars?
Cyclists are in a unique position as road users. On the one hand, they must generally adhere to the same laws as motorists, with motorists treating them as they would other drivers. On the other hand, they usually travel slower than traffic speed and lack protective cover, much like pedestrians.
If a car hits a cyclist, the rider will likely sustain serious injuries. When the vehicle is traveling at higher rates of speed, the potential for a fatal bicycle accident increases significantly. The likelihood of a rider fatality increases from 8% to 50% when vehicle speed increases from 31 m.p.h. to 47 m.p.h. If you were in a bicycle accident that caused severe injuries, the Mike Morse Law Firm is here to help you pursue fair compensation for your losses.
What Are the Factors That Contribute to Bike Accidents?
Traffic accidents caused injuries to an estimated 49,000 cyclists and led to fatalities for another 846 riders in the U.S. in 2019. Males made up 86% of rider fatalities. Most cyclists who lost their lives were between 55 and 59 years old.
In Michigan, there were 1,501 bicycle-vehicle collisions in 2019, resulting in 21 rider fatalities and 1,129 cyclist injuries. Rates of male injuries and deaths were significantly higher than rates for females. 1,155 bike accidents occurred in daylight hours. Several factors potentially contribute to traffic accidents between cyclists and motorists.
Lack of Infrastructure
Given the significant differences between bicycle and vehicle transport, bikes are automatically at a disadvantage in traffic. Our road networks weren’t designed for shared use between the two very different modes of transportation. While some cyclists keep up with traffic flow in a few situations, most of the time, they don’t.
Most roads have lanes that only comfortably accommodate a single vehicle. Unfortunately, when drivers come upon a cyclist traveling slower than their vehicle, they often attempt to overtake the biker without realizing they lack sufficient room to do so.
Many states and municipalities invest in bicycle infrastructure, such as dedicated and protected bike lanes. The number of paved, off-road bike lane miles increased from 5,904 in 1991 to 39,329 in 2021, and protected bike lane miles rose from 34 to 425 from 2006 to 2017. Detroit has more than 250 miles of dedicated bike lanes, including 50 protected miles. However, cyclists still must share the road with vehicle traffic most of the time.
The fact is that cars and trucks far outnumber bicycles on the road. Motorists often don’t get a lot of practice driving around cyclists. They can feel uncertain about how to handle encounters with riders. They may also not be aware of the rules of the road as they pertain to sharing the road with cyclists. Many drivers hit bicyclists because they fail to yield to the cyclist when legally required.
Drivers may also simply not see a biker. Though cyclists are often encouraged to wear bright colors and other safety devices that help them stand out to drivers, they don’t always do so. Even when they do, drivers may still overlook their presence.
Michigan’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Action Plan 2019-2022 recognizes the need for increased awareness and education about bicycle safety. However, a lack of awareness does not shield drivers from liability.
Cyclists can share responsibility for accidents involving motorized vehicles. Just like drivers, cyclists who are inattentive to motorist behaviors put themselves in danger of a serious accident. It is also a rider’s responsibility to know the relevant laws for cyclists.
Though most of the same road rules apply, Michigan bicycle laws establish specific guidelines and limitations for cyclists. Furthermore, municipalities may set more stringent standards than the state. Cyclists may disregard road signs and signals — failing to stop at a stop sign, for instance — and not see a vehicle coming from the other direction. In this instance, the cyclist has a significant level of liability in the accident.
Unsafe or Reckless Behaviors
Lack of awareness and inattention are actions that increase the potential for bicycle-vehicle accidents. They contribute to fault, but they are not purposefully unsafe or negligent. However, motorists and cyclists often engage in behaviors that a reasonable person would identify as hazardous or reckless. Dangerous motorist behaviors include:
- Driving over the speed limit
- Eating or drinking while driving
- Speeding up to beat a light change
Unsafe rider behaviors include improper road usage, such as riding against the direction of traffic, and improper turning actions at intersections. In 2019, most fatal bike crashes occurred in urban settings, with 27% occurring at intersections.
Driving while under the influence is reckless behavior, whether the cyclist or the motorist does it. In 2019 fatal cyclist accidents, 19% of the riders and 9% of the drivers were alcohol-impaired at the time of the accident. Using a handheld device is another example of reckless driving that leads to cyclists getting hit by cars.
Two environmental conditions frequently contribute to bicycle-vehicle accidents. High traffic density leads to lower bicycle visibility. With so many cars on the road, a bicycle can get lost in the crowd. Light conditions are another factor. From dusk to dawn, rider visibility decreases. Michigan law requires cyclists to outfit their bikes with reflectors and use lights when riding in the hours between a half hour before sunset and a half hour before sunrise. Cyclists who ride in weather conditions are also more at risk of getting struck by a vehicle.
What Laws Pertain to Cyclists in a Bicycle Accident Personal Injury Claim?
Several laws and regulations impact bike accident personal injury claims. If you were injured in a collision involving a motorized vehicle, a Michigan bike accident lawyer evaluates your accident to determine if you have a valid lawsuit.
Michigan drivers must have personal injury protection included on their auto insurance. This coverage pays for reasonable and necessary medical expenses and 85% of lost wages for drivers and family members for three years. If you have PIP insurance, it covers you for injuries you sustain in a bicycle accident. Therefore, regardless of fault, you must file a claim with your provider.
If you don’t have PIP coverage because you do not own a car, the driver’s personal injury protection pays for your injuries up to the insurance limits. The state permits personal injury lawsuits after a bicycle accident if the rider’s injuries pass the threshold for severe injury or result in disfigurement or death.
The behavior and actions of each operator involved in the collision always play a role in determining liability. When operators don’t obey road rules and failing to comply results in an accident with injuries or fatalities, the operators hold at least some of the blame. Most of Michigan’s road rules apply to motorists and cyclists, but a few additional rules are relevant to bicycle claims. For instance, drivers must give riders a 3-ft. cushion when passing, and riders generally must stay as far to the right as is reasonably possible.
Where Can You Find a Bicycle Accident Lawyer You Can Trust?
At Mike Morse Law Firm, we understand the challenges facing cyclists injured in a traffic accident. We help you pursue fair compensation for economic and non-economic losses. We maintain low case counts so you get the attention you deserve. Get in touch with us today for a free, no-obligation case review.