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While the family of a 22-year-old California man are grieving their loss this month, investigators with the San Diego County Sheriff's Department are looking into the events that led up to the young adult's death. In the end, the driver responsible for hitting the 22-year-old bicyclist may be considered negligent, which begs the question: could a wrongful death claim soon follow?

Some of our readers here in Santa Clara may not have heard about the fatal bicycle accident that happened this month in San Marcos. According to police, the 47-year-old driver of a cement truck had briefly stopped at the intersection of Grand Avenue and Las Posas Road before making a right turn. Unfortunately though, at this very moment, the 22-year-old was trying to cross the street on his bicycle. The collision with the large commercial vehicle caused fatal injuries from which the bicyclist died.

Although news reports indicate that the bicyclist may not have had the right-of-way at the intersection, it's possible to argue that neither did the truck driver who, according to reports, had a red light at the time of the collision. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, drivers are supposed to yield right-of-way to pedestrians crossing roadways, even if they are not in a marked crosswalk. Provided the pedestrian also heeds caution to the traffic around them and does not suddenly move into traffic, a driver must exercise caution and slow their vehicle.

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Being involved in a car accident is upsetting even when the damage is minor, but when a crash results in serious injuries or death, some drivers become so overwhelmed and panicked -- even if the accident isn't their fault -- that their first instinct is to leave the scene. It's not until later that their thinking clears and they realize it wasn't a smart or ethical move. But by then, they face a high risk of a hit-and-run charge. It's then up to the driver to decide whether to admit to driving away and face the consequences.

San Jose police are hoping that the driver who hit and fatally injured a bicyclist recently will make the right decision and come forward. The bicyclist was discovered lying in a road near the city's border with Campbell, California, on the night of July 27. The 50-year-old man was later declared brain dead at a hospital. He was expected to be taken off life support soon afterward, though it's not yet clear when or whether that has happened.

Police said that judging from the accident scene, the man likely collided with a small or midsized SUV, but that damage to the man's bicycle suggests the car driver may have struck the bicyclist without knowing. If that's the case, police hope the motorist will learn of the accident and come forward.

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The Bay Area has long been heavily populated with bicyclists, but their numbers continue to increase. San Francisco alone has seen a 71 percent rise in bike traffic in the past five years, and more bike lanes are being added to city streets all the time. Unfortunately, with this increase comes a higher risk of injuries or death from bicycle-related car accidents.

Some of these crashes happen when drivers don't see bicyclists on the road, either due to bad weather or bicycle riders' failure to make themselves visible with lights and reflectors. Others are caused by drivers or bikers who violate traffic rules. Regardless of their cause, most would agree that when an accident does happen, both drivers and bikers have an obligation to remain at the scene and check on the welfare of the others involved.

A man who police say fatally struck a bicyclist late one night in May is accused of shirking that responsibility. He pleaded not guilty last week to charges of felony hit-and-run and misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter in connection with the accident. According to police, a 57-year-old man was riding or walking his bike down a street in Dublin, California, at 11:30 p.m. when a 2012 black Mercedes-Benz ran into him. The car's driver didn't stop and check on the man, but instead drove away, police said. The bicyclist was pronounced dead at the scene.

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Regular readers of this blog know that car accidents are a common theme. They cause injury or death to thousands of people each year across the state of California, just as they do in other states. But they aren't the only danger on the roads to pedestrians. In March of this year, a pedestrian suffered a fatal brain injury when a bicyclist ran into him.

The 71-year-old San Francisco man was walking east along Castro Street when he entered a crosswalk. Just then a bicyclist heading south entered the intersection and ran into the man, knocking him down. Both the pedestrian and the bicyclist were taken to a hospital, where the pedestrian's condition quickly deteriorated. He developed pneumonia and breathing problems, finally succumbing to his injuries four days later.

The bicyclist was treated and released from the hospital. Later that day, someone using the bicyclist's name posted a message about the collision in an online forum for a local cycling group. The poster said the stoplight had turned yellow just as he was approaching the intersection, "but I was already way too committed to stop."

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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.

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Cycling in California has become increasingly popular in recent years, and with good reason. It's great exercise and better for the planet than driving a car. But biking on the state's roads can also be dangerous if car and truck drivers aren't paying attention or willing to share the road. A bicycle rider has very little protection in the event of an accident with a motor vehicle.

If an accident does happen, a car's driver is required to stop and call for help or render aid. That didn't happen in a crash three years ago, in which a BMW hit two cyclists, one of whom suffered a brain injury. The man suspected of driving the car is on trial this week in Saratoga, California.

Prosecutors say the 72-year-old man sped away after hitting the two cyclists, a married couple in their 20s, on Highway 9. He pleaded not guilty to three counts of hit-and-run driving. He did plead no contest to driving with a suspended license, which had been taken away because of a drunk-driving conviction. Although there were no other witnesses to the crash, a mechanic testified that about two weeks after the accident, the man told him his girlfriend had crashed his BMW but didn't report the incident to police. As a result, the man wanted the mechanic to order a replacement for the broken passenger-side mirror from outside the area.

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Riding a bicycle can be so liberating, especially in metro areas where traffic seems perpetually gridlocked. You can zip past cars, feel the breeze on your skin and revel in the fact that you're exercising and getting somewhere at the same time. But biking can be dangerous, too. Cars may not see you, especially in the dark. A group of late-night cycling enthusiasts who regularly ride together may have assumed there's safety in numbers. But that wasn't the case last June.

A California woman is accused of plowing into the group of cyclists in her car, injuring 13 of them. Authorities said the car accident happened because the woman was both driving drunk and using her cellphone, which is against state law without a hands-free device. She was charged with two drunk-driving-related felonies and will be arraigned later this month.

Initially police said the riders were partially responsible because authorities allegedly found alcohol, condoms and marijuana at the site where the bikers had been hanging out. But after the police report was submitted to the district attorney, it was the driver who was found to be at fault and charged.

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