Riding a bicycle can be a safe and fun way for you to get exercise, sight-see, or spend time with your friends and family. It can also be an economical form of transportation and allow you to reduce your environmental impact. However, you must take proper safety precautions whenever you ride. If you are involved in an accident with a motor vehicle while cycling, you could be seriously injured or killed. Knowing the most common types of bicycle accidents and the steps you can take to prevent them might help you to remain safe.
Most bicycle crashes in California are preventable. They frequently occur because motorists fail to notice bicyclists and are inattentive. These types of bicycle crashes tend to follow predictable patterns. If you can watch for these patterns, you might be able to avoid being involved in a bicycle accident.
Five Common Types of Bicycle Accidents
While there are many different ways in which bicycle accidents occur, the five discussed below are the most common types of bicycle collisions involving motor vehicles. While understanding these common scenarios will not prevent every potential bicycle crash from happening, knowing what to watch for can help you to minimize your risks so that you can keep yourself safe.
1. Left-Turn Bicycle Crashes
Many bicycle vs. motor vehicle crashes happen when a motorist turns left without seeing a cyclist crossing from the opposite side of the road. Also known as a left cross accident, this type of collision frequently happens when a motorist fails to see the cyclist or misjudges his or her speed. The cyclist then might collide with the vehicle as it crosses in front of him or her, or the vehicle may collide directly into the bicycle.
There are several things that you can do to avoid a left cross bicycle collision while riding your bicycle. First, don't ride on the sidewalk. Many of these collisions happen when cyclists cross the street from sidewalks. Obstacles such as parked cars, trees, and signs can prevent motorists from seeing cyclists on sidewalks while they turn. Bicyclists are also not supposed to ride bicycles on sidewalks. Ride on the street in the same direction as traffic at the far right-hand side or in a bicycle lane if one is provided.
Wearing brightly colored clothing during the day or at night is also important. Increasing your visibility can help make it easier for motorists to notice you. At night, use proper lights on your cycle, and wear reflective clothing.
As you approach an intersection, alter your speed so you can apply your brakes if necessary. Watch for motorists who are preparing to turn left. Try to make eye contact with motorists to make sure they see you. Finally, if you can, take the whole lane when crossing through an intersection to increase your visibility to motorists.
2. Right Hook Bicycle Accidents
Right hook bicycle accidents happen when cars pass cyclists before suddenly turning right and moving into the path of the cyclist. The car either strikes the cyclist or causes him or her to crash into the car. This type of accident can happen when a motorist is turning right onto a road or into a driveway or parking lot.
This type of crash often happens when a motorist does not use his or her turn signals and then turns into the cyclist's lane without warning. When a motorist passes you near an upcoming intersection, parking lot entrance, or driveway, slow your speed in case he or she suddenly turns right in front of you. If necessary, take control of your lane to remain safe.
3. Dooring Accidents
Dooring accidents occur when drivers exit their vehicles while they are parked along the sides of roads in the path of oncoming cyclists. This type of collision frequently occurs in areas with bicycle lanes next to parking areas on city streets. Once the motorist opens the vehicle's door, the door either hits a passing cyclist or causes a cyclist to collide into the door while traveling at a high speed.
To avoid a dooring accident, be careful when you are riding on streets that allow on-street parking. Move over further to the left of your lane while you pass a line of parked cars. Motorists need to check for cyclists before they open their doors. However, you shouldn't count on people to check for you when they are preparing to get out of their cars. Always try to remain at least three feet away from parked cars, and watch ahead to see any motorists who appear to be getting ready to get out of their vehicles.
4. Alley Exit Crashes
This type of accident, also called an alley-oops bicycle collision, happens when a vehicle pulls out of an alley, garage, or parking lot and collides with a cyclist or pulls into a cyclist's pathway without the cyclist having enough time to avoid a collision. In many cases, these types of collisions happen when motorists fail to check for cyclists, pedestrians, and vehicles before pulling out of alleys, parking lots, or garages.
To avoid this type of collision, do not ride on the sidewalk. Frequently, these types of crashes happen when cyclists are riding on sidewalks. Watch ahead for vehicles that appear to be preparing to pull out of parking lots, alleys, or garages as you approach so that you can take evasive action or brake if necessary.
5. Rear-End Bicycle Collisions
Rear-end bicycle accidents happen when motor vehicles collide with the backs of bicycles that are traveling in front of them. Like with rear-end accidents in general, the rear drivers are frequently at fault. However, a cyclist may share some of the blame if he or she does not have proper lights on his or her bicycle or does not wear reflective clothing when riding at night.
To avoid a rear-end bicycle collision, make sure to wear bright clothing during the day and reflective clothing at night. You should have a red light on the back of your bicycle and a headlight when riding at night. It is very important to make yourself as visible as possible to motorists to help reduce your risk of all types of collisions, including collisions from the rear.
Other Tips to Avoid Bicycle Crashes
In addition to taking basic steps to avoid the five common types of crashes listed above, there are some general steps you should take to avoid any bicycle collision or to reduce your risks of serious injuries if a crash cannot be avoided. Make sure that you always wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet whenever you ride. Doing so can help to reduce your risks of suffering serious head injuries in a bicycle accident.
Whenever you ride, obey all traffic signs and laws. Ride with the flow of traffic, and use hand signals when you are preparing to turn or change lanes. Remain in the far right lane except when you are moving over to prepare to turn left. Remain alert at all times and watch other motorists so that you can anticipate any sudden moves that they might make.
Keep both of your hands on the handlebars except when you are making hand signals. Always wear bright clothing, and keep the right lights on your bicycle. Never ride your bicycle after ingesting alcohol or drugs, and avoid listening to music on headphones so that you can hear the traffic around you.
Plan the route that you will take ahead of time, and try to choose one that has less traffic. Make sure your bicycle is in good working order, and tuck any shoelaces inside of your socks to prevent them from catching in your bicycle's chain.
Even if you take every safety precaution and follow all of the laws, you might still be involved in a crash with a car or truck through no fault of your own. If that happens, get a medical examination immediately to properly identify and promptly treat any injuries. Once you have sought medical care, you can then pursue a claim against the motorist who negligently caused your crash and injuries.
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