Whether a bicyclist is at fault for a collision with a car often depends upon who had the right-of-way. If the car had the right-of-way, absent other circumstances, the bicyclist will most likely be considered at fault. Even when the bicyclist has the right-of-way, however, the cyclist may be surprised to find that the driver and, often, police officer, may view the bicyclist at fault. This is partially due to public sentiment, which stems from the prevalence of cars on our roads.
Bicyclists are most at risk of getting hit by a car at intersections. The most prevalent intersection crash involves bicyclists proceeding through stop signs where the intersecting traffic does not have a stop; in these instances, absent other circumstances, the bicyclist is at fault. The next most prevalent intersection collision involves cars proceeding through a stop sign where the intersecting bike does not have a stop sign; in this scenario, absent other circumstances, the car driver is at fault.
Following the rules of the road will help prove your case. In addition, do not assume that cars see you; bike defensively. Some other ways you can reduce your risk of getting hit include maximizing visibility; understanding the rules of the road, learning to recognize intersection hazards, and taking safety precautions when approaching and riding through an intersection.
Following are some ways to decrease your chances of getting involved in a crash with a car:
Increase your visibility. Car drivers fail to see bicyclists for many reasons – sometimes they are not looking for bikes, other times, even where drivers are looking for bikes, they may not see one because bikes are smaller and can blend into the background due to the color of the biker’s clothing, the angle of the sun, or other reasons. Wear bright or reflective clothing, and use lamps on your bike.
Learn right-of-way rules. At uncontrolled intersections and intersections with stop signs, the first vehicle to arrive is the one that has the right-of-way. If both vehicles arrive at the same time, the one to the right has the right-of-way. If the intersection is between a minor street and a major street, the traffic on the major street has the right-of-way. Where an intersection is controlled by traffic signals, follow the traffic signal.
Adjust your lane position. Always ride with the flow of traffic and not against traffic; drivers do not expect to see bikes coming the wrong way, and you increase your chance of colliding with a cyclist who is travelling with the flow of traffic. When you are approaching an intersection, adjust your lane position to the left so you will be more visible to drivers who are not looking near the curb. Coming to a stop in the center of the lane, rather than between a car and the curb, increases your visibility to drivers.
Adjust your speed at intersections. One common type of crash involves a car turning left and colliding into on oncoming bicyclist who is traveling straight. Although the car will most likely be considered at fault in this type of collision, fault will not matter while you are in the hospital. Adjusting your speed allows you to brake quickly if necessary to avoid this type of accident.
Come to a complete stop. If you do not come to a complete stop at an intersection, even if the driver is mostly at fault, you may be held responsible for the collision.
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