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Monday, April 6, 2015

What cyclists can and should do when they encounter bad drivers

What cyclists can and should do when they encounter bad drivers
By:  Michael Lander

Because of bad drivers, the road can be dangerous, especially for
cyclists who have nothing to protect them except any defensive
actions that they can take to prevent a collision.

None of us who drive on our
Memphis city streets care to share the road with reckless, careless, hostile, angry, distracted, or impaired drivers, but sadly, there seems to be far too many of them, especially in big metropolitan cities like our own.

As much of an annoyance and a danger that bad drivers are to other motorists, they are an even bigger threat to cyclists who are even more vulnerable since they don’t have the added protection that comes from being inside an automobile.

In spite of all the efforts to make roads and vehicles safe for everyone, thousands of people die on the roads in this country each and every year. 

According to the
Center for Disease Control, (CDC), there are an average of 33,804 motor vehicle-related fatalities on U.S. roadways each year, which equates to about 10 deaths for every 100,000 people.

In 2013, the
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recorded 32,719 deaths across the U.S. with 995 of them in Tennessee.  In Memphis, the Accident Data Center shows that there were 15 vehicular deaths from April 2014 to April 2015.

For cyclists, in 2012, the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that 726 cyclists were killed and an additional 49,000 injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes.  This was a rise from 677 cyclists killed and 48,000 injured the year before.   

In the Memphis area, we have averaged 
the death of one cyclist each year since 2010.  There was one death in 2011, one in 2012, one in 2014, and two thus far in 2015.

Memphis area cyclists have experienced a relatively low number of
accidents and fatalities since 2010, but one is really too many and
so cyclists and motorists alike to need to do what they can to
ensure that the roads remain safe for everyone.

As the
City of Memphis puts down more bike lanes and trails, we can anticipate seeing more cyclists taking to the road and, with that, we can expect to see a greater potential for accidents.  This doesn’t necessarily need to happen, however, so long as cyclists and motorists are more careful on the roads that they share together.

Even though cyclists may not have anything to insulate and protect themselves from being struck as motor vehicle operators do, they can minimize some of the risks by remaining vigilant, being visible by wearing bright and reflective clothing, having lights on the front and back of their bikes, by always being predictable, and by always following the rules of the road. 
For more safety tips, click on this link.

Over a hundred years ago, the roads were filled with horses, pedestrians, and cyclists and, before the advent of the automobile; it was the
cyclists who fought to have paved roads. 

After the automobile came on to the scene, the roads were filled with vehicles, and everything else that came before them.  They all shared the road with one another, but the automobile eventually took over most roads and that is about all that we have seen on them since then.

Today, we are seeing a resurgence of the bicycle and so it may be a sign that we have come full circle and it’s now time for the motorists to learn to share the roads once again with those of us on bicycles.

Some drivers on the road today do not believe that cyclists have a right or need to be on the road, but that has a lot more to do with them not knowing or understanding that cyclists have every right to be on the roads as they do.

By law, motorists in Tennessee must give a minimum of 3-feet of
separation between them and the cyclist and they should
recognize the fact that the cyclist has every right to be on the
road as much as they do.

Every state in the country has laws on the books that permit cyclists on the roads and there is not a single state that prohibits them from riding except on interstate highways. 
Click here to read more about the laws in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas.

Even though cyclists have every right to be on the road, they do have some inherent risks that may come from motorists who are distracted or impaired.

If you do ever encounter a driver who appears to be impaired and is weaving and driving recklessly, call
911 and report it.  Depending upon the circumstances, you may also need to also call 911 if you come across a hostile driver and experience anything like road rage.  If you are able, try to diffuse the situation or try to get away so that you can avoid being hit or seriously injured.

Whenever cyclists experience an injury, a road rage incident, or some other encounter, such as being intentionally run off the road, from a hostile or impaired driver, you will want to immediately report the incident to
Memphis City Police.  Provide them with as much information as possible about the incident so that they can file a police report and press charges for you.   

When talking with police, be sure to tell them when and where the incident or accident occurred, the details surrounding it, a description of the driver, and the make, model, color, and the tag number of the vehicle involved.  You will also want to give them the names of any witnesses and cyclists who were with you when this took place.

Cyclists should report any incidents or accidents involving a
vehicle including any that they witness or experience for
themselves involving impaired, distracted, or hostile

If you suffered any injuries and/or any damage to your bike from an encounter with an impaired, distracted, or hostile driver, you will want to contact a personal injury lawyer since you may be entitled to some amount of compensation from it if they are found and apprehended. 

If you talk with a lawyer, they will want to know what injuries you sustained and what damage that you specifically had to your bicycle.  They will also want to know the details of the incident, what actions that you took, and whether or not you have contacted the police and if you captured it on video. 

Having a video can be especially useful in helping make your case for you, particularly when it might come down to your word against someone else's. 

When looking for a lawyer, be sure that you find one who has experience in working cases that have involved cycling-related injuries or death and, for those,
Amy Benner Johnson may be one of the best attorneys in the State of Tennessee to contact.  She is located in Knoxville and is a cyclist herself who has worked many cases for cyclists and their families when a cyclist has either been injured or who has died as a result from incidents involving dogs, unsafe road conditions, or negligent and hostile drivers.

It may be difficult to always avoid coming across bad drivers, but knowing what you can and should do when you do encounter them could make all the difference in minimizing or eliminating the risks that they might pose to you.

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