Bicycle accidents can go from frightening to deadly in a matter of seconds. When a vehicle strikes a bicycle, the latter always bears the brunt of the collision. The smaller, weaker bicycle cannot withstand the forces the larger car or truck exerts upon it. Unfortunately, the bike’s rider may absorb the impact, leading to serious injuries. Riding a bicycle in Atlanta can be dangerous, even in marked bike lanes. If you or someone you love was recently in a bicycle accident in Fulton County, come to Kaufman Law, P.C. for help.
Bicycle Laws in Atlanta
Although every roadway operator should obey Georgia’s traffic laws, bicyclists have more to lose by ignoring them. A bicyclist is much more likely to suffer serious or fatal injuries than a motor vehicle driver in a collision. Bicyclists should know and follow all applicable laws in Atlanta to reduce their risk of an accident. Other motorists should also understand bicyclist rights and responsibilities. This can decrease risk of a crash and make bicycle actions more predictable on the road. Here’s a brief overview of some of the most important cyclist laws in Atlanta:
- The law considers bicycles “vehicles.” Therefore, they have the same rights and responsibilities as all other vehicles on the roadway, except where there are special regulations for bikers.
- Bicycling on sidewalks is illegal for anyone over the age of 12 in Atlanta. Bicyclists must ride in bike lanes or in the roadway when bike lanes aren’t available, in the same direction as motor vehicle traffic.
- Bicyclists should keep as close to the right side of the road as possible. They have the right to use the entire travel line when road conditions are poor. For example, if there are potholes or debris on the right-hand side.
- Bicyclists do not have to wear helmets if they are 16 years old or older. Those under 16 must wear helmets that meet federal safety standards, and that fit appropriately. Bikers must also have a white front light and a red rear light visible from at least 300 feet.
- Motor vehicles must stay at least three feet away when passing a bicyclist. Driving aggressively around bicyclists is a misdemeanor in Atlanta.
Breaking traffic rules increases the risk of bicycle accidents. Following the rules makes bicyclists more predictable to other drivers – thereby increasing safety. If a motorist breaks any of Atlanta’s traffic laws, causing a bicycle accident, he or she may be guilty of negligence per se. This means that the courts will assume the driver’s negligence since he or she broke the law. An attorney can help you navigate all the bicycle laws applicable in your specific case.
Common Bicycle Accident Causes and Risk Factors
Bicyclists face all the same risks as other motorists. These include speeding, bad drivers, and dangerous roadway conditions. Yet they are more vulnerable than other roadway users to many hazards. A simple pothole might not present an issue to a car, but it can completely dismount a bicyclist. Bicyclists must remain vigilant at all times to avoid hazards that could result in serious injury or death. These hazards include roadway debris, poor weather, and drivers who don’t pay attention to bike lanes. The most common risk factors for bicycle accidents are as follows:
- Age. Adults 50 to 59 have the highest bicycle accident death rates, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children five to 14 and young adults ages 15 to 19 have the highest rates of injuries in bicycle accidents, accounting for more than one third of all related hospital visits.
- Sex. Males are six times more likely to die in a bicycle accident and four times more likely to suffer injuries than females. Male bike riders should be especially cautious in Atlanta non-intersection locations and urban areas, as these are where most bicyclist deaths occur.
- Alcohol involvement. At least 37% of fatal bicycle accidents involved alcohol impairment, by either the cyclist or the motor vehicle driver. Bicycling while impaired can result in a driving under the influence (DUI) charge, since Georgia categorizes bicycles as vehicles.
No bicyclist is safe from accidents. All must take due care to bike defensively, and to pay strict attention to their surroundings while cycling in downtown Atlanta. Never assume that other drivers will see your bicycle or yield the right of way. If you do get into a bicycle accident, retain an attorney for guidance. You may need legal assistance in fighting for due compensation.
Bicycle Injury Because of Road Defects
Hundreds of bicycle accidents occur every year, not because of other drivers, but because of roadway defects. Potholes, loose gravel, fallen trees, and debris in the road can all lead to a bad accident for bicyclists. The hazard could burst the bicycle’s tires or eject the rider from the seat. Ejection accidents pose a high risk of injuries such as broken bones and concussion. Even a bicycle helmet may not be enough to prevent brain injuries when the head comes into contact with asphalt.
When a roadway defect causes an accident, the victim may be able to bring a claim against the entity in charge of maintaining the road. In Atlanta, the city is this party. It is possible to sue the local government for your bicycle accident if negligent roadway maintenance contributed to your injuries. For example, another bicyclist reported a pothole a month ago, but the government had done nothing to remedy the situation. Suing the government follows special rules and requirements in Georgia. Always enlist help from an attorney for these types of cases.
Ways to Stay Safe on Your Bike
Bicyclists can’t always prevent accidents. However, they can significantly reduce the odds of a crash by following a few proven safety tips. If you like to bike around Atlanta, use the Georgia Department of Transportation Bike Sense Guidebook. This guide provides advice on how to stay safe while biking in Georgia’s metropolitan areas. Suggestions include maintaining your bicycle, investing in the right equipment, and using safety gear such as a rear-view mirror.
Bicyclists should use hand signals to make their actions more predictable to drivers, and be as visible as possible. Wear bright colors, and use eye contact to communicate with others on the roadway. Never ride against traffic, and use extra caution when approaching driveways and other entries. Drivers may pull out without looking both ways for bicyclists. Practice extreme caution when bicycling at night. Adjust your speed appropriately, and wear reflective clothing. If a crash does occur, remain at the scene and call 911.
When to Talk to a Bicycle Accident Attorney
Bicycle accidents result in personal injuries the majority of the time. Injuries may be as minor as scrapes and bruises, or as serious as internal bleeding and fatal damage. Talk to a bicycle accident attorney if your injuries are severe enough to lead to significant medical costs, missed time at work, physical pain, and emotional suffering. If the accident resulted in a loved one’s wrongful death, talk to an attorney. These serious harms deserve attention from experienced legal professionals.
You should also speak with an attorney if your accident involved a hit-and-run driver, or if the at-fault driver doesn’t have car insurance. In these cases, your own insurance may kick in to cover your costs. There is special uninsured/under insured motorist insurance coverage available that can help in these situations. Another remedy may be to file a civil lawsuit against the driver. If he or she was working at the time (e.g., an Uber driver or delivery person), you may have a case against the employer. A conversation with an attorney can help you understand your legal options after an accident. Contact Kaufman Law for a free consultation in Atlanta.