With sunny skies and warm weather year-round, it’s no wonder so many Florida residents choose to ride their bikes. But while it may be an excellent source of exercise, a great way to save money on gas, and an environmentally friendly alternative to motor vehicles, recent studies show that cycling can also be very dangerous.
According to a Governors Highway Safety Association report last month, Florida is one of the most deadly states for cyclists in the country—second only to California. Florida also takes first place for the most automobile-related bicycling deaths in the nation.
Six Tips for Safer Cycling
There’s no need to go putting your bicycle into storage forever, however. By understanding the risks and taking steps to prevent accidents, cyclists can reduce their opportunity for injury. Here six tips for safer cycling.
Watch out for car doors. It’s a familiar scene—a biker is cycling down a line of parked cars when suddenly a car door flies open. Even if the biker manages to swerve out of the way in time, they run the risk of veering right into traffic.
To reduce your chances of falling victim to an abruptly-opened car door, make sure you keep at least three feet away from cars when cycling. Stay prepared by looking a few cars ahead, and always be ready to brake quickly.
Stay visible. What’s one of the most common excuses made by drivers who hit bicyclists? “I didn’t see them!” Cars are substantially larger than bicycles, and negligent drivers may fail to spot a cyclist even when they are right in front of them.
Protect yourself from visibility issues by being as conspicuous as possible. Wear bright clothing and reflectors, and never ride without a light when it is dark, foggy, or rainy. Try to limit your riding to daylight hours as much as possible—studies show that the majority of motor vehicle-related bicycle accidents occur at night when it is harder for both parties to see.
Steer clear of drunk drivers. Limited visibility isn’t the only danger of riding at night, however. Once the sun goes down, there are far more drunk drivers on the road, and auto accidents are more common.
Avoid alcohol-related crashes by restricting your nighttime riding. You should also avoid riding during holidays and events when there is a higher chance of encountering intoxicated drivers.
Look out for distracted drivers. The advent of smartphones and MP3 players has made mentally distracted driving more prevalent than ever. When drivers avert their eyes from the road for even a moment to glance at their phone or change the music, that’s all the time it takes to hit a cyclist from behind or turn right into a bike’s path.
There’s not much you can do to prevent the reckless, irresponsible, or illegal driving habits of others, but you can protect yourself by maintaining constant awareness of your surroundings when biking. By doing so, you will be better able to identify hazards, regardless of whether those hazards are legal or not.
Observe traffic laws. Of course, not all accidents are the motorist’s fault. When cyclists neglect to follow traffic laws—for instance, by ignoring a stop sign or breezing through a red light—they put themselves in great danger. Vehicles are expecting others on the road to follow traffic laws, and when you behave unpredictably, you will take them by surprise and increase your chances for an accident.
Don’t take chances with your safety—always observe traffic laws closely. By doing so, you not only protect yourself from accidents, you also protect your legal rights. If you are negligent while biking, you can severely reduce your chances of receiving compensation.
Follow safety guidelines. Similarly, when cyclists neglect to follow bicycle safety practices, they put themselves at risk for harm. Dangerous behavior—such as riding too fast or not wearing a helmet—can result in fatal injury.
To play it safe, always wear a helmet and reflective gear. Use hand signals to turn, and familiarize yourself with emergency maneuvers. Take your bike to the shop for regular tune-ups, and make sure it’s equipped with a bell, mirror, light, and working brakes.
Of course, even the most responsible bikers can get injured in accidents on the road. Regardless of whether you wear a helmet or follow traffic laws or not, negligent, careless, and irresponsible drivers will always pose a threat. If you or a loved one has been injured due to negligent driving, contact a personal injury lawyer with experience in biking accidents. With the help of a knowledgeable lawyer, you can take steps to protect your rights and get fair compensation.
About the Author:
Jeffrey Braxton is a trial lawyer in Fort Lauderdale who has devoted his 22-year career to the practice of personal injury law. As lead trial attorney for The South Florida Injury Law Firm, Jeff has litigated thousands of cases and is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, an exclusive group of attorneys who have resolved cases in excess of one million dollars.