With gas prices rising over many years, it is unsurprising that more and more people have turned to bicycles to satisfy their transportation needs. Sadly, though, the increase in the number of cyclists on the road has led to additional bicycle accidents. According to the Centers for Disease Control, bicycle trips make up only 1% of all trips in the United States. However, bicyclists account for over 2% of people who die in a crash involving a motor vehicle on our nation’s roads. In any given year in the United States, roughly 1,000 bicyclists are killed and another 130,000 are injured in crashes.
Most bicycle accidents are preventable when the right safety precautions are being taken. In particular, drivers are much more likely to hit bicyclists when they are speeding or distracted. More often than not, accidents are more likely to occur at intersections where bicyclists and passenger vehicles are likely to cross paths. What follows are some rules of the road that both drivers and bicyclists should follow to stay safe.
1. Share The Road: This rule applies equally to bicyclists as well as drivers. Under Georgia law, bicyclists have the same rights as motorists on the roadway. However, bicyclists face many unique challenges because they are smaller, less visible, and more exposed to harm. This is why it is so important for drivers to watch out for bicyclists. In many situations, drivers are simply not expecting to see bicyclists.
For example, a driver may encounter a bicyclist in their blind spot as they are attempting to make a right turn. Likewise, when a driver is making a left-hand turn, they may be focusing on opposing traffic and fail to see a bicyclist crossing the street. Georgia law requires drivers to maintain a safe distance from bicyclists. Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 40-6-56, (a) The operator of a motor vehicle approaching a bicycle shall approach the bicycle with due caution and shall proceed as follows:
(1) Make a lane change into a lane not adjacent to the bicycle if possible in the existing road and traffic conditions; or
(2)If a lane change under paragraph (1) of this subsection would be impossible, prohibited by law, or unsafe, reduce the speed of the motor vehicle to a reasonable and proper speed for the existing road and traffic conditions, which speed shall be at least ten miles per hour less than the posted speed limit or 25 miles per hour, whichever is more, and proceed around the bicycle with at least three feet between such vehicle and the bicycle at all times.
2. Avoid Prohibited Areas: Don’t ride your bicycle on the sidewalk or the interstate. It is actually illegal in Georgia to ride a bike on the sidewalk. There are some exceptions to this rule for children 12 and younger. Everyone else on a bicycle must share the road with vehicles. It is also illegal and very unsafe to ride a bicycle on an interstate. Virtually no drivers are expecting to see bicyclists on the interstate.
3. Stay Illuminated: Use lights when you are riding your bicycle at night. If you are riding a bicycle at night, Georgia law requires you to have a white headlight visible from at least 300 ft. Bicyclists must also have a red taillight or a red reflector. In other words, the reflector is fine if it’s all you have in the back of your bike. But you must have the white headlight if you plan on riding at night.
4. Avoid Dark Clothing: Though not required by law, it is best to avoid dark clothing when riding a bicycle at night. Dark clothing absorbs light thereby making the wearer much more difficult to see. If you are going to ride between dusk and dawn, it is best to wear light colored clothing or reflective clothing. By doing this, you are making yourself much more visible to motorists.
Unfortunately, as we all know, there are drivers out there who are just not paying attention and aren’t looking out for bicycles on the road. Our team of Atlanta bicycle accident attorneys at Butler Kahn want to raise awareness of the safety issues bicyclists face in their commutes. If you’ve been injured in a bicycle accident, we may be able to help you. We can examine the unique facts of your case free of cost and let you know if you have a valid claim. You are always welcome to contact us anytime at 678-940-1444.