Increase in bikers leads to more crashes on California roads

Posted on in Car Accidents

May is National Bike Month, and across the country, there couldn't be a better time to celebrate the joys of cruising along streets on two or three wheels. But it's also a good time for motorists in California to be increasingly mindful of bicyclists, especially in light of recent car accidents involving bikes.

In Santa Cruz, a bicyclist was seriously injured as he entered an area where two lanes of car traffic merge into one, creating a hazard for bicyclists who share the narrowing road with motor vehicles. The next thing he knew, he was heading to a hospital in an ambulance with four cracked vertebrae and three fractures in his skull. He spent two days in a trauma center and said he feels lucky to be alive and on his way to a full recovery.

The intersection where the crash happened was the scene of at least four other serious bike accidents, and it's just one of many in central California where bicyclists have died in collisions with cars. The specific causes vary widely, although according to statistics from the California Highway Patrol, the most common cause is unsafe turns, which account for one of every six bike and car collisions. The second most common cause is unsafe speeds, followed by traffic violations such as running red lights and stop signs. Another familiar culprit: drivers opening car doors in front of passing bicyclists. The list goes on and on, and drivers aren't solely to blame. Bicyclists may be ticketed for riding while intoxicated, which can be just as dangerous as drinking and driving a car, especially to the biker's own safety.

It goes without saying that bikers are at more serious risk of injury or death than people in motorized vehicles, which is why transportation officials often remind bikers of ways they can protect themselves from harm. For example, a California Highway Patrol spokeswoman recommends that they "light themselves up like a Christmas tree" so motorists can clearly see them.

And even though it may seem safer to ride on the sidewalk instead of next to cars on the road, you can be cited for this practice, which is dangerous to pedestrians. For small children it's acceptable, but anyone capable of watching out for cars and using proper hand signals should ride on the street. And cars should respect that rule by maintaining a safe distance, particularly when passing.

Source: Mercury News, "As biking picks up, so do crashes: Collision data shows county's accident hot spots," Jason Hoppin, May 10, 2012

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