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Bicycle Safety Means More Than Wearing a Helmet

Posted By Regan Zambri & Long || 20-Apr-2010

Posted by: Salvatore J. Zambri, founding partner
                                                                                                     

"Around 33,000 people die in car crashes in the U.S. each year.  About 1 in 41 is a bicyclist."

In addition, an estimated 600,000 people were treated in emergency rooms for bicycle-related injuries, in a single year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Chilling statistics, aren’t they?  According to BicycleSafe.com, real bicycle safety is about not getting hit even more so than about wearing helmets.  Most bicycle safety guides emphasize the importance of wearing helmets. However, helmets don’t prevent bicyclists from getting hit by another vehicle in the first place. BicycleSafe.com focuses on avoiding getting hit by cars. The ten illustrations following explain the most common ways to get hit and how to avoid those collisions:

  • Collision Type #1: The Right Cross. This is the most common way to get hit (or almost get hit). A car is pulling out of a side street, parking lot, or driveway on the right.
    • Ways to avoid this collision:
      • Use headlights, both on your bicycle and on your helmet.
      • Honk your horn.
      • Slow down, especially if you haven’t made eye contact with the driver.
      • Ride further left.
  • Collision Type #2: The Door Prize. A driver opens his door right in front of you. You run right into it if you can’t stop in time.
    • How to avoid this collision: Ride far enough to the left to not run into an unexpected door opening.
  • Collision Type #3: The Crosswalk Slam. You’re riding on the sidewalk and cross the street at a crosswalk, and a car makes a right turn, right into you.
    • How to avoid this collision:
      • Get a headlight.
      • Slow down.
      • Don’t ride on the sidewalk in the first place.
  • Collision Type #4:  The Wrong-Way Wreck. You’re riding the wrong way (against traffic, on the left-hand side of the street). A car makes a right turn from a side street, driveway, or parking lot, right into you. They didn’t see you because they were looking for traffic only on their left, not on their right. They had no reason to expect that someone would be coming at them from the wrong direction.
    • How to avoid this collision: Don’t ride against the traffic.  Ride with traffic, in the same direction.
    • One study showed that riding the wrong way was three times as dangerous as riding the right way, and for kids, the risk is seven times greater.
  • Collision Type #5: Red Light of Death. You stop to the right of a car that’s already waiting at a red light or stop sign. They can’t see you. When the light turns green, you move forward, and then they turn right, right into you.
    •  How to avoid this collision: Don’t stop in the blind spot. Simply stop behind the car.
  • Collision Type #6: The Right Hook. A car passes you and then tries to make a right turn directly in front of you, or right into you.
    • How to avoid this collision:
      • Don’t ride on the sidewalk.
      • Ride to the left.
      • Glance in your mirror before approaching an intersection.
  • Collision Type #7: The Right Hook, Pt. 2. You’re passing a slow-moving car (or even another bike) on the right, when it unexpectedly makes a right turn right into you, trying to get to a parking lot,driveway or side street.
    • How to avoid this collision: 
      • Don’t pass on the right.
      • Look behind you before turning right.
  • Collision Type #8. The Left Cross.  A car coming towards you makes a left turn right in front of you, or right into you.
    • How to avoid this collision:
      • Don’t ride on the sidewalk.
      • Get a headlight.
      • Wear something bright, even during the day.
      • Don’t pass on the right.
      • Slow down.
  • Collision Type #9. The Rear End. You innocently move a little to the left to go around a parked car or some other obstruction in the road, and you get nailed by a car coming up from behind.
    • How to avoid this collision:
      • Never, ever move left without looking behind you first.
      • Don’t swerve in and out of the parking lane if it contains any parked cars.
      • Use a mirror.
      • Signal.
  • Collision Type #10. The Rear End, Pt. 2. A car runs into you from behind. This is what many cyclists fear the most, but it’s actually not very common, comprising only 3.8% of collisions. However, it’s one of the hardest collisions to avoid, since you’re not usually looking behind you.
    • How to avoid this collision:
      • Get a rear light.
      • Wear a reflective vest or a safety triangle.
      • Choose wide streets.
      • Choose slow streets.
      • Use back streets on weekends.
      • Get a mirror.
      • Don’t hug the curb.

Please be careful on the road whether you are driving a vehicle or riding a bicycle. Preventing accidents is everyone’s responsibility. 

About the author:

Mr. Zambri is a Past-President of the Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C. and has been rated by Washingtonian magazine as a "Big Gun" and among the "top 1%" of all lawyers in the Washington metropolitan area. The magazine also describes him as "one of Washington’s best–most honest and effective lawyers" who specializes in personal injury matters, including serious truck and car collisions. Mr. Zambri has also been repeatedly named a "Super Lawyer" by Law and Politics magazine–a national publication that honors the top lawyers in America.

Mr. Zambri is regularly asked to give presentations regarding product defects, automobile accident litigation, and safety improvements.  If you want more information about your legal rights, please email Mr. Zambri at szambri@reganfirm.com or call him at 202-822-1899.

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