The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that over one thousand bicyclists died in traffic accidents in 2015. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, these fatalities represent a 12.2 percent increase over the previous year. The National Safety Council also reports that bicycle injuries and death cost Americans over $4 billion every year. These statistics show how bike accidents can seriously devastate victims and their families.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that, while bicycle riding only accounts for about one percent of trips in the United States, bicyclists face a higher risk of injury or death than motor vehicle occupants. This is largely due to the added protection a vehicle affords to its occupants. With the odds stacked against them, how can Virginia riders stay safe on the road?
Staying Safe On Your Bike
Bicyclists can reduce the risk of being involved in an accident by enacting safe driving habits:
- Make sure your bicycle and equipment are in good working condition before riding. Take special note of the brakes and chain. Tires should be fully inflated and free of debris.
- Always wear a helmet. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that helmet use reduces the chances of sustaining a head injury by fifty percent. It also reduces the chances of sustaining a head, neck or face injury by thirty-three percent.
- Both your bike and your safety equipment should be a good fit for you. Make sure that children have helmets which are properly fit to their head sizes.
- Model and teach safe riding habits to children at an early age. It is easier for children to learn safe habits from the start than to try to re-learn riding behaviors at an older age.
- See and be seen! Drivers are not always expecting to see bicycles on the roadway. Wearing light-colored clothing or reflective devices (such as wristbands or safety vests) to help drivers see you. Be particularly cautious when riding at night, during inclement weather, and any other time that visibility is limited.
- Ride defensively. Never assume that a car will yield the right of way to you (even when it is legally required to do so).
- You should also avoid unpredictable movements, as this makes it even more difficult for cars to avoid you. Signal your movements whenever possible.
- Always be aware of your surroundings. Do not become so engrossed in a smartphone or navigation system that you fail to see and respond to hazards in the roadway. If you are listening to music, leave one earbud or headphone out so you can hear oncoming traffic.
- Be cautious in parking lots or when passing parked cars along the street. Doors can open unexpectedly, and drivers in parking lots have diverted their attention to the task of parking. Leave plenty of space between your bike and a parked vehicle. Use extra caution whenever a nearby vehicle is backing up.
Recovering Damages in a Bicycle Accident
If you have been injured in a bicycle accident in Roanoke, you should know that not only can you recover damages from the at-fault driver's auto insurance policy, you may also be able to file a claim with your own insurer under uninsured/ underinsured motorists provisions. This coverage would come into play if the at-fault driver's coverage either did not exist (or it was a hit-and-run crash) or if the coverage was insufficient to cover your damages.
Although bicyclists are not required per Code of Virginia § 38.2-2206, most people who drive a car are covered by such a policy, and would be covered by it even though they were operating a bicycle as opposed to a motor vehicle at the time of injury.
Injury victims can protect their legal rights by consulting with an experienced Roanoke bicycle accident attorney as soon as possible after any accident.