Stephen Hasner | Bicycle Accidents | May 6, 2020
Even though hitting a bicyclist with your car may be distressing for you, it can be fatal for the cyclist. Leaving the scene is not an option. If you do, you will almost surely face serious legal consequences.
The number of cyclist commuters in Georgia continues to grow. Among them are more than 50 cycling clubs.
With so many cyclists on the roads, Peach State drivers need to be far more cautious, maintain a safe distance between them and cyclists, and be proactive when accidents happen. Here’s what to do it you were injured in a bicycle accident in Atlanta.
What Steps Should I Take If I Hit a Bicyclist?
The numbers are staggering. While over 66 million cyclists enjoy our streets and roads each year, about 870,000 use their bicycles for commuting.
When a two-ton vehicle hits a cyclist, the potential for life-threatening injuries is very real. Follow these steps to protect yourself from negative consequences:
- Stay on the scene. Check on the health of the cyclist and yourself. If you’re even tempted to leave the accident scene before police and medical personnel, don’t give in. You have a legal responsibility to stay put.
- Be aware of your own health. In addition to the health of the cyclist, you need to keep your own health in mind. It’s always in your best interest to be seen by a licensed doctor after any type of car accident. Symptoms of some injuries can take days or even weeks to reveal themselves.
- Watch what you say. When talking with anyone after an accident, it’s best to keep your conversation to a minimum. When talking with police, stick to the facts about how the accident occurred.
- Document the scene. Take as many pictures as possible of the accident scene. This includes the position of the bike and your car, and any damage to both.
- Get a copy of the police accident report. The report made by the responding police officer will be vital for insurance coverage protection and any legal actions that may be taken later.
- Speak with a personal injury attorney with successful bike accident experience. If you hurt a cyclist with your car, hiring an attorney is the best way to legally protect yourself.
The key takeaway from this section is that regardless of how minor you feel the crash to have been, stay on site until help arrives.
How Can I Reduce the Chances of Hitting a Cyclist?
We wrote in a previous entry about how cyclists can stay safe.
Remember that in the eyes of Georgia law, a bicycle is considered a “vehicle,” and deserves the same consideration you’d give to other drivers.
- Be aware that cyclists may be around. A common response from a driver after hitting a cyclist is that the cyclist “came out of nowhere.” As you drive, remember that cyclists are on the road, and enjoy the same road rights as you.
- Keep a safe distance between your car and cyclists. Georgia is one of 30 states that requires you to keep a three-foot distance when passing a cyclist. When you do pass, make sure you have clear lines of sight.
- Never tailgate a cyclist. We all know what it’s like to get in a hurry when driving, but you should never follow a cyclist too closely. Sharing the road with cyclists is a law in Georgia.
- Use your right hand to open your car door. Many bicycle accidents occur when stopped drivers unexpectedly open their door. To prevent this from happening, reach around with your right hand to open the driver’s side door. This action will force you to turn your head, so you can look for any nearby cyclists.
Whether cyclists are commuting or merely getting out for exercise, drivers using as much precaution as possible means accidents are less likely to occur.
What Can Happen If I Leave the Scene After Hitting a Bicyclist?
Again, leaving the scene after hitting a cyclist – or anybody – after an accident is simply not a good idea. The legal risks alone include fines of up to $1,000 and a year in jail – or both. That’s just for a first offense.
Instead, the wise course of action is to stay on site, check on the health of the cyclist, document as much as you can, let a doctor examine you, and then see a lawyer.
With the growing number of cyclists and the thousands of vehicles on the road together each day, accidents are bound to happen. By showing just a bit of precaution and awareness, though, you can greatly reduce the odds of being involved in an accident with a cyclist.