Hawaii is a beautiful place to see by bicycle. Under Hawaii law, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as other motorists on the road. But they are also one of the most vulnerable road users. When bicycle accidents happen, riders significantly more likely than car occupants to sustain serious or fatal injuries.
According to the state Department of Health, more than 94 percent of bicycle accident fatalities that occurred within a five-year period in Hawaii involved cars colliding with bicycles. Many bicycle accidents are caused by drivers who are inattentive or simply not looking out for non-vehicles on the road.
Continue reading to learn more about the common causes of bike crashes in Hawaii. If you’ve been hurt, call or contact an experienced bicycle accident attorney at Recovery Law Center today for a free consultation.
Failure to Respect Cyclist’s Right of Way
Drivers are expected to share the road with cyclists by following traffic rules, including yielding the right-of-way in appropriate traffic conditions. Many failure-to-yield accidents occur because drivers are unfamiliar with the law or don’t see bicyclists in time to yield safely.
According to the Hawaii traffic code, bicycles are legally classified as vehicles. However, there are unique rules that apply specifically to bicycles.
For one, drivers are expected to yield the right-of-way to cyclists anytime they intend to turn across designated bicycle lanes. If drivers fail to slow down and scan their surroundings when they cut across bike paths, cyclists can easily be injured or killed in a collision.
A bicyclist’s right-of-way is also critical at stop signs, traffic lights, merge lanes, and other areas where motor vehicles and bicycles may meet. When drivers proceed through intersections or merge into neighboring lanes without recognizing nearby cyclists, they can cause devastating bicycle accidents.
Driving Too Close to a Bicycle in Traffic
By the nature of the sport, cyclists lack the same physical protection on the roads as other motorists. For this reason, drivers are expected to allow plenty of space when passing or driving near bicycles. Hawaii law recommends a minimum safe passing distance of three feet when drivers overtake cyclists on the road.
Unfortunately, a recent highway safety report released by the Hawaii State Department of Transportation (HDOT) revealed many drivers are not aware of this recommendation. Only 61 percent of respondents in a statewide traffic safety survey indicated that they knew to provide cyclists with at least three feet of passing distance.
Drivers who travel too close to cyclists in traffic can cause catastrophic bicycle accidents with even momentary lapses in judgment. To make matters worse, cyclists crowded in by larger vehicles are left with fewer escape routes when they need to steer clear of a crash.
Drivers who exceed posted speed limits pose unacceptable risks to everyone on the road, but speeding drivers are hazardous to cyclists. High-speed bicycle crashes tend to have severe consequences for bicyclists, ejecting them across the roadway in the violence of impact.
Some speed-related bicycle accidents occur when impatient drivers develop road rage around comparatively slow-moving cyclists. In others, speeding drivers collide with cyclists because they’re simply moving too quickly to stop in time to avoid a collision.
Bicycle accidents that involve speeding drivers often leave cyclists with catastrophic injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and complex fractures to multiple bones.
Bicycles are already more difficult for drivers to spot because of their small size. When drivers are preoccupied with text messages, phone calls, or other distractions, they are far more likely to overlook cyclists and cause disastrous wrecks.
Distractions can take many forms on the road. Any object or activity that takes your eyes away from the road, your hands away from the wheel, or your mind away from the task of safe driving can be considered a distraction.
It’s important to note that bicyclists are just as prone to distractions as motor vehicle drivers. Inattentive riders can independently increase their crash risk by cycling while checking mobile devices, listening to loud music on headphones, or focusing on external distractions.
Research suggests that the most common cyclist distractions include the behavior of other road users (83.6 percent), road obstacles (83.5 percent), and surrounding weather conditions (68.5 percent). Meanwhile, distractions have been demonstrated to cause approximately 17 percent of vehicle driving errors, leading to accidents.
Carelessness on Sidewalks, Parking Lots, and Driveways
The paths of bicycle riders and drivers commonly intersect on sidewalks, in parking lots, and driveways. Drivers should take extra precautions in these areas to recognize when cyclists are present and avoid causing accidents.
Cyclists are commonly injured on sidewalks by drivers who hit them while exiting from shopping centers or other driveways to turn onto main roads. In these scenarios, negligent motorists overlook oncoming cyclists because they are concentrating exclusively on vehicular traffic.
Parking lots are similarly hazardous to cyclists due to the tendency of drivers to look out more for cars or pedestrians than bikes. The confined nature of a parking lot also means drivers and cyclists alike have less space to maneuver safely.
Bicycle accidents also frequently occur on or near driveways in residential areas. Drivers can easily back into crossing cyclists as they reverse out of garages or concealed driveways. Even backover accidents that occur at low speeds can leave cyclists with crippling injuries.
Another mistake that drivers make is opening their doors into oncoming traffic without checking for bicyclists first. In these “dooring accidents,” cyclists may flip over or swerve erratically into traffic to avoid the sudden obstruction.
How to Reduce a Motorist’s Risk of Causing a Bicycle Accident
Motorists can reduce their risk of causing bicycle crashes and do their part to keep cyclists safe by:
- Yielding to bicyclists the same way they yield to other motorists
- Paying attention to cyclists’ speed when timing traffic maneuvers
- Taking special care near intersections, sidewalks, parking lots, and driveways
- Checking in all directions for cyclists and vehicles when turning right on red
- Observing posted speed limits and reducing speed appropriately when hazardous driving conditions are present
- Taking special care near cyclists who seem young, inexperienced, or disoriented
- Allowing at least three feet of space when passing cyclists in traffic
- Passing cyclists slowly and smoothly without speeding up to tailgate cyclists or dart around them abruptly
- Driving predictably
- Being careful about opening doors into the paths of approaching cyclists while parked
- Maintaining their vehicles regularly to ensure critical components such as brakes, steering systems, and horns are operational
How to Reduce a Cyclist’s Risk of Being Hit by a Car
Cyclists can decrease their risk of being involved in collisions with motor vehicles by:
- Selecting bicycles of an appropriate size, as oversized or undersized bikes are more difficult to control
- Inspecting bicycle tires, brakes, safety lights, and other parts routinely
- Wearing bright clothing and reflective safety gear to increase visibility
- Choosing appropriately sized helmets and adjusting safety straps to ensure a proper fit while riding
- Planning routes that involve less interaction with drivers and slower traffic speeds
- Riding with the flow of traffic and obeying relevant traffic signs and road markings
- Assuming that car drivers generally do not notice cyclists and acting accordingly
- Paying attention to road hazards, such as potholes, sewer grates, and train tracks
- Avoiding the use of earbuds, cell phones, or other distracting devices while riding
- Yielding to motorists, pedestrians, and other cyclists as appropriate
Need tips for safe bicycling tips in Honolulu? Check out this guide from AAA Hawaii.
Contact a Honolulu Bicycle Accident Attorney Today
At Recovery Law Center, we have more than 25 years of experience serving Honolulu personal injury victims in cases large and small. We understand how intimidating it may feel to hire an attorney after an accident. That’s why we’re committed to making the process as simple as possible.
When you contact us, we’ll answer all of your questions thoroughly in a free consultation. Expect to be treated like family from the moment you start working with us. Our bicycle accident lawyers practice with the philosophy that every client deserves a compassionate advocate who works aggressively for maximum compensation. You’ll never feel like “just another case” to us. Rest assured that protecting your physical, emotional, and financial health will be our primary concern.
There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain by scheduling a free consultation today. Contact us today to discuss the details of your Honolulu bicycle accident claim.