Preventing Bicycle Crashes—And What to do if You’re in One

Bicycling is a cost-effective and fun form of transportation for people of all ages. Bicycling is also typically very safe. Unfortunately, crashes do happen, and people can get injured. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 743 people were killed in bicycle crashes in 2015, and nearly 50,000 people were injured.

Most bicycle crashes are not caused by motorists, but by bicyclists getting injured alone. Common scenarios are falling off a bike, not paying attention to the road, or falling due to a crack in the walkway. Despite this, 29% of crashes are caused by a motorist/bicyclist collision.

If you’re a bicyclist, you need to do as much as possible to protect yourself from potential injuries. Because bicycles leave the ride completely unprotected, keeping your wits about you and riding safely could be the difference between life and death.

Ways to Ride Safely and Prevent Crashes

Don’t ride at dusk, and if you do need to ride at night, wear reflectors.
Nearly one-quarter of bicycle fatalities happen between the hours of 6 and 9 p.m. This is a time of the day where visibility is low, but bicyclists may not think it’s necessary to wear reflectors because it’s still daytime. Always wear brightly colored clothes and have reflectors on your bicycle, helmet, and clothing. Cars cannot avoid you if they cannot see you.

Ride sober!
This may seem obvious, but in nearly one out of three crashes, the bicyclist had a blood alcohol content higher than the legal limit of 0.08 g/dL.

Act predictable.
If you’re riding in a busy area such as a city, you will have a much higher chance of being involved in a crash with a motorist. The best way to prevent this is to ride predictably. Stay to the far right-hand side of the road when possible, use turn signals with your hand, and don’t come to sudden stops. If the motorist can guess where you’ll be, you will have a better chance of staying safe.

Wear your helmet.
Local ordinances and 21 states require riders of a certain age to wear helmets, but no one state has a law requiring every bicyclist to have a helmet. Helmets can prevent up to 85% of head injuries in crashes. You should always wear your helmet, no matter how short the ride or how rural the road you'll be on. It can save your life.

What to do After a Bicycle Crash

Sometimes, even the safest riders are hit by motorists. If you find yourself in a situation where you’ve just been injured in a bicycle/motorist crash, here is some information on what you should to protect yourself.

Step 1: Stay on the scene!
Your first instinct may be to leave the scene of the crash, especially if you feel like you haven’t been injured. You should stay at the site no matter how well you think you feel. This is because you may have injuries you do not know about yet. You also do not want to be blamed for an accident after you leave the scene. Even if the motorist seems very apologetic and takes blame for the crash, stay on the scene.

Step 2: Call the police.
If you were involved in a crash with a motorist, you will need to call the police. This is important to start an accident report and gather evidence on the scene. Never leave the scene of a crash without speaking to the police, even if you do not think you were injured or if you think the crash was your fault.

Step 3: Give the police your statement.
It seems like all too often, the police will only take the statement of the motorist and write the crash off as an “accident.” Be sure to go to the police yourself and tell them exactly what happened, with as much detail as possible. If you can, get the business card or contact information of the police officers dispatched to the scene.

Step 4: Get the contact information of the motorist.
You should also get the motorist’s insurance company’s contact information as well. This way, you’ll have an option to file a claim with their insurance company if you have any medical bills or need to recover the costs of your bicycle.

Step 5: Get the statements from any available witnesses.
You cannot always rely on police to gather every witness statements. Find any pedestrians around and ask them to share a statement and tell what they saw happen.

Step 6: Go to the hospital.
Again, even if you do not feel like you’ve sustained any serious injuries, you need to go to a hospital as soon as possible. This way you can document any injuries you’ve sustained. Some bicyclists will not feel any injuries until hours, days, or even weeks after the crash. Keep records of any medical bills or transportation costs you incur from visiting the hospital.

Step 7: Document your property damage.
Take photos of your damaged bicycle and helmet if applicable (you should always be wearing your helmet!) This way you can prove the extent of the damage you’ve incurred and be able to file a stronger claim against an insurance company to receive compensation for lost property.

You should be able to file an insurance claim with the motorist’s insurance company to receive compensation for your hospital bills and damaged property, assuming you were not at fault for the accident. To avoid the hassle of filing a claim, the best tip is to ride safe. If you want any additional information on how to file a claim against a motorist, you should contact a licensed attorney in your area.