Every year, thousands of bicyclists travel on the roads for various reasons. Some want to get some exercise in, while others prefer avoiding the financial and environmental issues with cars. As the populations in major cities continue to increase, so do the number of bicyclists on every street corner, side walk and crosswalks.
Unfortunately, the Department of Transportation has noticed growing issues when it comes to motor vehicle safety around bicyclists. North Carolina is one of the most hazardous states in the country for bicyclists as the Department reports that over 850 cyclists are hit by vehicles every year. There are several recurring issues that lead to these incidents. Bicyclists need to keep these problems in mind should they find themselves in a motor accident.
Drivers do not see well at night.
The North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program made a graph to determine what time of the day bicycle accidents tend to happen on. Using the bicycling fatalities from 2011-2015, they determined that nearly half of cycling accidents occur between 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. The report also states that 14 percent of these accidents include cyclists who do not make themselves visible at night.
However, drivers can still make several mistakes in the evening. Nearly 30 percent of those accidents occur between 6 to 9 p.m., when the sun sets. Sunsets can be particularly blinding to drivers and impairs their vision, meaning they will not see cyclists on the side of the road as well as they usually can. When the sun is down, drivers that cannot see well in the dark, are drowsy from a long day, or just came back from the bar can roam the streets.
Drivers do not give bicyclists the necessary room.
Not all roads have sidewalks to separate bicycles and cars. Highway Patrol troopers recommend giving cyclists at least four feet of space to prevent accidents. While this can feel difficult in areas with high speeds or single lanes, it is necessary to ensure everyone’s safety. Similar to passing trucks or slower vehicles on the highway, some drivers might think that simply speeding up to pass the cyclist is the solution. This can lead to more risk.
If a bicyclist is in the vicinity of a turning car, drivers must mind their surroundings and yield to the cyclist. Some have cut in a bicyclist’s path while turning. Others did not check the sidewalk for pedestrian traffic when exiting their garage or parking lot.
What cyclists can do.
Cyclists must take necessary safety precautions before going out on the road to minimize the chances of personal injury from an accident by wearing a helmet, reflective clothing and equipping their bikes with proper lighting. They also must yield to other riders, pedestrians and cars when they plan on making turns according to traffic laws.
Despite taking precautions, accidents still happen and, as the statistics show, many times another person is responsible because they weren’t sharing the road. Anybody who rides a bike should know how to stay safe, but also needs to know their right to share the road.