As cycling continues to grow in popularity in many metropolitan areas, including Philadelphia, so does the number of automobile-bicycle collisions. These accidents can result in serious injuries and are often fatal for the bicyclist. In 2020, a total of 22 victims lost their lives in fatal bicycle crashes in Pennsylvania. Identifying the most common causes of bicycle-vehicle collisions can help prevent these disasters.
Distraction is a major cause of motor vehicle accidents around the world. Distracted driving was responsible for 3,522 deaths on American roadways in 2021, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Driver distraction can be caused by eating, drinking, texting, other cell phone use, personal grooming, chatting with passengers, reading billboards or daydreaming. Anything that distracts the driver’s attention from the road or takes the hands off the wheel could potentially cause an accident.
Since bicycles may be difficult to see, driver distraction is especially dangerous around cyclists. A driver who is not paying attention to the road may miss a bicyclist crossing an intersection or coming up to the right side of the vehicle. This could lead to a bicycle T-bone collision or right-hook accident. Pennsylvania law bans the use of handheld cell phones while driving in an effort to prevent driver distraction and protect vulnerable road users such as bicyclists.
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can make it impossible for a driver to operate a vehicle safely and prudently around bicyclists. Intoxication increases the risk of an automobile-bicycle accident by causing confusion, delayed reaction times, poor judgment and reckless driving behaviors, such as speeding or driving the wrong way. Drunk or intoxicated driving also increases the risk of a hit-and-run bicycle accident.
Failure to Yield the Right-of-Way
Right-of-way laws are extremely important. They determine who has the legal right to proceed across a road or intersection, such as at a four-way stop. Ignoring or violating the right-of-way could lead to a bicycle accident anywhere these two types of traffic intersect. A driver that fails to yield to a cyclist may collide with the bike by being in the intersection when it was not his or her turn to proceed.
A common example is a left-turn accident, where a driver ignores a bicyclist’s right-of-way and turns left into an oncoming cyclist who is proceeding straight across an intersection. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the majority of bicyclists hurt in 2020 were injured at intersections. Four-way intersections accounted for 40.8 percent of bicyclist injuries and T-intersections accounted for 19.4 percent.
Following Too Closely
Bicyclists are entitled to the same use of the roads as other drivers. They are allowed to ride on the road or the shoulder of the road in the same direction as the flow of traffic. They deserve caution from other motorists who are driving around them. State law requires drivers to leave at least four feet of distance or clearance when passing a bicycle. Unfortunately, some drivers get irritated by the lower speeds of bicycles and end up tailgating them or following too closely. Driving too closely to a bicyclist increases the odds of a collision by reducing the amount of time a driver has to make a correction.
Poor Road Conditions
Lightweight bicycles are more susceptible to dangerous road conditions than standard passenger cars. While a heavy motor vehicle may be able to roll over a pothole or crack in the pavement easily, the same road defect could trip a bicycle and cause an accident. It is the government’s responsibility to adequately maintain its roads. If a public road in Philadelphia was in a state of disrepair – with potholes, storm debris, missing guardrails or other hazards – and this caused the bicycle crash, the victim may be able to bring a claim against the government.
If you have been injured in a recent bike accident, contact a bicycle accident lawyer in Philadelphia at Youman & Caputo for a free case consultation. You may be entitled to financial compensation.