Bike accidents involving a motor vehicle usually result from a driver’s inattention or even purposeful failure to yield the right of way to the cyclist. The five scenarios described below are the most common causes of bike accidents. As an avid cyclist, attorney Ben Sansone also offers safety tips on avoiding common situations where accidents may occur while riding a bicycle.
What is it? The “Right Cross” occurs when a car pulls out of a side street, alley, driveway, or parking lot exit to a cyclist’s right. The cyclist has already passed the front of the motor vehicle, which then strikes the cyclist. Or the car pulls out far enough at the last second to block the biker’s right of way, making it impossible for the cyclist to avoid a collision with the side of the car.
How to avoid it: Cyclists should be more visible to drivers. Use a headlight or flashing light on the front of your bike, even during the daytime. Cyclists should also anticipate cars pulling out from the right. Wave, yell, or try to make eye contact so you know the driver sees you. Ride further out to the left, creating more angles of visibility and allowing you more maneuverability to stop or swerve.
Laws violated by the driver: Typically the driver is negligent by failing to keep a proper lookout and yielding to the bicyclist’s right of way. Missouri Statute 307.188 states that every person riding a bicycle on a street “shall be granted all of the rights and be subject to all the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle[.]” A cyclist in the “Right Cross” situation is no different than a car, meaning the vehicle pulling out needs to yield the right of way.
What is it? The “Right Hook” commonly occurs in two ways. One situation arises when a bike rider is in front of the cross street and is struck because the driver of the car fails to see the bicyclist when making a right turn. The second more common situation occurs when a motor vehicle operator overtakes a bicyclist then cuts them off when making a right turn. The car passes the biker, forgets about them or assumes they have passed them with sufficient space, and then quickly makes a right turn causing the cyclist to slam into the side of the car. Bike Accident Caused by “Right Hook”.
How to avoid it: A cyclist should ride farther left in the lane, causing cars to pass the cyclist more deliberately. Even if cut off, you will already be positioned further to the left as a head start on swerving to avoid a collision.
Laws violated by the driver: Missouri Statutes 300.411 and 304.678 require that a car maintain a safe distance when overtaking a bicycle. A driver “shall leave a safe distance, when passing the bicycle, and shall maintain clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle[.]” In Illinois, a car must stay at least three feet away from a bike when passing. Maintaining a safe distance includes not cutting off a biker with a “Right Hook” maneuver.
What is it? The “Door Prize” collision occurs when the driver of a parked car opens the car door directly in front of a bicyclist. The opened door blocks the biker without enough notice to allow the biker to stop or swerve out of the way.
How to avoid it: Bikers should ride farther to the left, even if this puts you more into the lane of car traffic. This makes bikers more visible to the cars driving behind them as well. If possible, keep a lookout for drivers in parked cars to your right. If someone is seated in a driver’s seat, safely move to the left and then move back to the right after passing that car.
Laws violated by the driver: Bikers have the same rights as cars. A moving car damaged by someone flinging open a door of a parked car into a traffic lane would have a viable negligence claim. The situation is no different if a bicyclist is injured by striking a suddenly opened car door. The negligence claim is based on a failure to keep a lookout and a violation of the cyclist’s right of way.
What is it? Bicyclists are most concerned about rear end collisions and resulting injuries. It is not an uncommon situation. In fact, the rear end collision is the most common way that drunk drivers hurt or kill cyclists. St Charles Bike Accident Settled – “The Rear End”
How to avoid it: Most importantly, bicyclists should take steps to be visible and select the safest time and roads to ride on. Headlights, taillights, and reflective gear may not be cool, but they can save your life. “Bike Lights for Safety: See and Be Seen” It may be counterintuitive, but do not ride close to the curb. Car drivers will pay more attention to you if you ride about six inches inside the white shoulder line, and not outside of it or on it.
Laws violated by the driver: Laws in Missouri and Illinois require motor vehicle operators to maintain a safe distance when overtaking a bike. General negligence laws require drivers to be very careful, keep a safe lookout, and to not violate the right of way of other vehicles, including bikes.
What is it? The “Left Cross” occurs when a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction makes a left turn in front of a bicyclist, and either strikes the left side of the biker, or cuts off the biker forcing the biker to hit the right side of the vehicle.
How to avoid it: Bicyclists should not ride on sidewalks, which are for pedestrians, not bikes. Drivers are not paying attention to or looking for bikes on sidewalks. Keep scanning several seconds ahead of you for potential dangers, and be aware of your visibility if it is concealed by traffic, bushes, or parked cars.
Laws violated by the driver: The driver violates negligence laws by failing to yield the right of way and/or failing to obey traffic signals. This is similar to car accidents where drivers make a left turn on a solid green light without yielding the right of way to traffic in the opposite direction, or they make a left turn across traffic without leaving themselves enough time to clear traffic. Bikes have the same rights as motor vehicles.
Just because a bike is substituted for a car does not change the responsibility of motor vehicle operators regarding the right of way for bicyclists.