Hey, car drivers and bicyclists, let's cut each other some slack

Over the decades, Nashville and communities throughout Middle Tennessee have seen an increase in the number of bicycles on our city streets and country roads. And every Spring, we can read and hear complaints from cars and bikers about sharing the road. Since both cars and bicycles are likely to continue to increase in our region, we thought it would be a good idea to share some information about bicycle accidents, as well as some tips about simple things we can all do to make room for each other.

The most common types of car-bike accidents

The Federal Highway Traffic Safety Administration (FHTSA) has been tracking bicycle accident data nationally since the 1970s. In a recent course guide on traffic safety, they reported that bicycle accidents predominantly fall into two broad categories. The first category is single-bike accidents, which will not concern us here.

The second, and more important category for our discussion, is bike accidents caused by some type of interaction with a motor vehicle. The interaction can be an actual collision or perhaps a car causing a bike to swerve off the roadway, with no contact taking place.

Here are some facts we find interesting, but perhaps not too surprising:

  • Approximately 75 percent of all bike/car accidents occur at intersections. This percentage has not changed since the 1970s.
  • Young riders under the age of 15 are involved in the highest number of accidents with motor vehicles.
  • The bike rider suffers serious injuries or death in more than 18 percent of all accidents involving a collision with a motor vehicle.
  • Although biker alcohol or drug use accounts for a very low percentage of the accidents (5 percent), for riders between the ages of 25 - 44, the percentage jumps significantly -- up to 15 percent.
  • Roughly 65 percent of car/bike accidents take place in the late afternoon. Researchers speculate that it may be because of increased traffic during reduced daylight and visibility. It might also be because drivers and riders are more tired and impatient with each other.
  • Outside of the cities, about more than half of all bike-car accidents happen on narrow, two-lane roads and highways.
  • The biker and car driver share the fault about 50-50 in these types of accidents.

Some simple things to do to share the road

Obviously, when bikes and cars interact on our streets, the bike rider is put in the greater amount of physical danger. It is incumbent upon everyone using our roads to make room for each other.

In a recent article, The Washington Post published these common sense tips for getting along with each other out there and sharing our over-crowded roads.

  • Car drivers can take a second or two longer at intersections and cross streets to make sure a biker isn't approaching to enter onto the road. Drivers are accustomed to look for pedestrian; start looking for bikes, as well.
  • Car drivers should avoid parking in bicycle lanes. Period.
  • Car driversshould check their side-view mirrors before opening their doors when parallel parked.Bikersare often forced wide into the street out of fear of being "doored" by an inconsiderate parked driver.
  • Bike ridersshould come to a full stop at stop signs and red lights and signal their turns. Always remember they are a vehicle and must obey traffic laws. They do not get to choose when to follow the laws that suit them.
  • Bike riders should also remember that they will be expect to handle their bikes in heavy traffic. Inexperienced riders should take this into account before diving into crowded traffic conditions.
  • Car drivers should crowd or rush the biker. If they can't pass immediately, have patience. There will be somewhere safe up ahead.
  • Bike ridersneed to hear their surroundings in heavy traffic. Consider removing your ear buds or headphones when in heavier traffic.
  • Bike ridersshould stick to the driving lanes. Don't try to slip between lanes of traffic to get to the head of the line at a traffic light. And don't use the curb gutter to squeeze past cars.

If you have been injured in a bike accident involving a car in the Nashville area or anywhere in Middle Tennessee, contact our law firm.

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