Biking accidents in Connecticut: A primer

In some situations, bikers can hold drivers accountable for accidents.

Biking is a healthy and environmentally friendly means of transportation. Although often enjoyable, bikers can find themselves in dangerous situations. Unfortunately, accidents are not uncommon. The United States Department of Transportation's (DOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) report roadway crashes result in an annual average of 48,000 bicyclists injured and an additional 800 bicyclist fatalities. The agency also reports these numbers are rising.

How can we reduce the risk of bicycle accidents?

The FHWA recommends a four-pronged approach that involves engineering, enforcement, education and emergency services. Cities and municipalities can engineer the area to better ensure cyclist safety. Examples include the use of bicycle lanes and trails. Local police can help by enforcing the rules of the road and holding educational sessions at schools and events. Emergency services can help by promptly responding to accidents with the needed preparation to treat injuries.

Local initiatives can make a big difference. In Connecticut, for example, the Share the Road initiative works to educate all who use the roadways on the rules of the road. It stresses the "Three-Feet" passing law, a state law that requires drivers provide a minimum of three feet of separation when passing cyclists. Drivers who fail to do so can get a ticket and a fine.

Cyclists can also take a proactive approach to reduce the risk of a crash. Bike safety tips to help achieve this goal include:

  • Consider visibility. Cyclists can reduce their risk of getting into an accident by taking steps to increase their visibility. This can include everything from wearing brightly colored clothing to using lights and reflectors.
  • Ride defensively. Cyclists are wise to focus on the road and the traffic pattern. Anticipate the moves of others and be prepared to react. It is also a good idea to presume the others on the road, especially drivers, do not see you.
  • Wear a helmet. Bikers can reduce the risk of a head injury in the event of an accident by wearing a properly fitting helmet.

Victims of a bicycle accident can also help reduce the risk of future accidents by holding the responsible party accountable for their wrongdoing. If the biker was injured because of a driver's error, a personal injury lawsuit can hold that driver accountable and deter other drivers from making the same mistake. This legal tool can serve to increase the safety of the victim's community.

What happens if there is an accident?

Those who ride their bike and those who drive a vehicle are expected to follow the rules of the road. This generally means the biker and driver are expected to operate their bike or vehicle with care and to follow applicable traffic laws. A failure by either can result in liability if the failure contributes to an accident.

Liability in an accident generally involves the legal theory of negligence. Cyclist may bear responsibility if they crossed the roads at inappropriate times or failed to stop at a stop sign. Examples of negligence on the part of the driver can include operating the vehicle over the posted speed limit or drifting into a bike lane.

Those who wish to hold a driver accountable for an accident will need to gather evidence to support their claim. This can include evidence the driver failed to abide by traffic laws, that the failure led to a crash and that the crash resulted in injuries. An attorney experienced in this area of the law can discuss the victim's options and help build the case on their behalf.