It’s an unfortunate fact, bicycle accidents are common. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), bicycle accident fatalities account for over 2 percent of all traffic-related deaths. Surprisingly, hospital data shows only a fraction of injury-causing bicycle accidents are recorded by police. Whether your bike is your primary mode of transportation, you ride for exercise, or you are a serious cyclist, the reality is that you face risks every time you put your foot to the peddle. Did you know that for insurance purposes, collisions between bicyclists and vehicle drivers are considered “auto accidents”? At, Tucker, Yoder and Associates, we know anytime injuries result from carelessness or a reckless driver, it is grounds to pursue a claim for compensation. That means that if you’ve been injured in a bicycle accident, you could be entitled to collect damages to cover hospital bills, lost wages and other costs. In this article, we’ll take a look at some bicycle accident statistics, some of the most common causes, and the laws that govern bicycling.
An estimated 47.5 million Americans ride bikes. Here in the Southwest, it’s easy to see why. Our clear skies and warm weather make this area a particularly ideal place for cycling. Unfortunately, the combination of bicycles and motorized vehicles sharing the road can be deadly. According to the NHTSA, at least two people a day are killed in bicycle accidents across the United States.
New Mexico Bicycle Use Laws
Just like any other state, New Mexico requires bicyclists to follow the same rules and regulations as motor vehicles. This means that bicyclists are required to obey traffic laws and stop for traffic lights and stop signs. As an overview, here are some of New Mexico’s bicycle specific laws to keep in mind when riding:
- A protective bike helmet must be worn by any person under the age of 18 while they are riding a bike as either an operator or a passenger.
- New Mexico requires that bikers ride as close to the right side of the road as is practicable and exercise due care when passing another vehicle.
- Bikes are not officially considered vehicles, but a bicyclist does have all of the rights and responsibilities of a driver of a vehicle.
- While bicycles are not specifically defined as vehicles under New Mexico Laws, bikes should not be operated while intoxicated and bicyclists may be charged with a DUI as they are still subject to the responsibilities applicable to vehicles.
- Bicyclists are legally required to come to a complete stop when directed by traffic control devices.
- In New Mexico, it is a misdemeanor for any person to open the door of a vehicle on the side of traffic unless it is reasonably safe to do so, for the safety of bicyclists and drivers.
Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents
In 2020, according to research by Outside magazine, there were around 700 cyclist deaths in the US, but that’s with COVID-19 cutting traffic by as much as 41 percent for months at a time. When a bicycle accident involving a motor vehicle results in injuries, there is a common misconception that it is the cyclist who is probably at fault. However, statistics show motorists are more often at fault. Let’s look at some of the most common causes of bicycle accidents.
- Poor Roads
Potholes and bumpy roads are other common causes of bicycle accidents. The local government is required to maintain proper roads—especially bike lanes. When the local government fails to do so and results in a bicycle accident, they can be held liable for their negligent behavior.
- Distracted Driving
Distracted driving is a leading cause of all types of vehicle collisions, including those involving bicycles. When drivers are paying attention to their phones instead of their surroundings, they are significantly more likely to cause dangerous collisions. Common forms of distraction include reading and responding to text messages, dialing phone numbers, talking on the phone, and using social media.
- Failing to Leave an Adequate Buffer
Drivers who follow cyclists too closely and who pass within less than three feet of a cyclist unnecessarily create extremely dangerous situations. Not only are these drivers more likely to hit cyclists, but they are also leaving cyclists (and themselves) with far fewer options to avoid collisions and other accidents.
- Not Following Posted Speeds
Speeding increases drivers’ stopping time while limiting the amount of time they have to make decisions on the road. Although high-speed accidents are more likely to result in severe (or even life-threatening) injuries, even accidents at relatively low speeds (e.g., if a driver is speeding in a residential neighborhood) can be extremely dangerous for cyclists.
- Weaving Through Traffic and Unsafe Lane Changes
Drivers who are weaving through traffic are less likely to see cyclists who are sharing the road. However, even if a driver is not weaving, making any unsafe lane change can still be dangerous. Bicycle accidents involving unsafe lane changes and weaving typically result from drivers merging into cyclists’ lanes without first looking to ensure that the lane is clear.
- Failing to Look Before Turning
At many intersections, drivers will have a green light to turn while still having an obligation to check for cyclists and pedestrians. Turning without checking for bicyclists is a frequent (and completely avoidable) cause of bicycle accidents at intersections.
- Running a Red Light or Stop Sign
Running red lights and stop signs is another common cause of intersection accidents. This is true in neighborhoods and suburban areas as well as in city centers and other urban locations. While running a traffic sign or signal is dangerous in itself, the risks are magnified when drivers fail to look for cyclists who have the right of way.
- Impaired Driving
Individuals who make the decision to drink or get high and then get behind the wheel are a danger to themselves and everyone else on the road. Alcohol and drug impairment significantly reduce drivers’ ability to make smart decisions and avoid causing accidents, and far too many collisions involving cyclists are the result of driving while impaired.
- Driver Fatigue
Although the risks of driving while fatigued are not as well known as the risks of driving while impaired, studies have shown that they are similar in terms of their severity. Drivers who are out early, out late, or trying to get home after a long day at work can be at a significantly increased risk for causing serious collisions.
- Crashing or Colliding with a Fixed Object
In other circumstances, bicycle accidents occur due to user error. If a bike rider isn’t keeping their focus on the road, it can cause them to collide with a fixed object. Major impact with a fixed object can result in serious injuries if a bicyclist isn’t wearing protective gear.
As you see, bicycle accidents on public roadways can result from a variety of different factors. If you were injured in an accident, seeking financial compensation can be an important part of the recovery process. However, in order to seek compensation, you first need to determine the cause of the accident, and this means hiring an attorney to conduct an investigation as soon as possible
Regardless of what happened, if you have been seriously injured in a bicycle accident it is important that you speak with an attorney as soon as possible. To schedule a consultation contact the office of Tucker, Yoder and Associates now.
DISCLAIMER: The information on this blog/site is NOT, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. It is for general informational use only. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. Further, this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.