By Brett Steele, Attorney at Law
Despite riding my bike safely and obeying all traffic laws, I was still hit by a car.
I was riding my bike home from school in the midst of my first semester of law school. I was riding down a very common bicycle route with many safety measures in place—a bike lane nearly the same width as the traffic lane, a low traffic speed limit, and various ways to differentiate between the bike lane and traffic lane. At the same time, there are many small roads and alleyways that feed into the route on both sides of the road.
As I rode home, I saw an older black Mercedes pass me. It slowed down 20 feet in front of me but did not use a turn signal or begin to turn. I quickly caught up to the Mercedes and began to ride past it. At the last minute, the Mercedes turned into me and clipped the back half of my bike. I remember time moving in slow motion as I was thrust into the curb and flipped over my bike, flailing helplessly through the air before landing on my back on the side of the road.
The first thing the driver said was, “I thought you were dead!” Several drivers in the area stopped and tended to me until paramedics arrived. It took several months to deal with the injuries from that accident. All things considered, I was very lucky that it was not worse. I came out of it having learned many valuable lessons. As you read through some of these lessons, please do not think forget that 1) us vulnerable road users are often victims of others’ negligence, no matter what precautions we take; 2) drivers are still liable to you for their own negligence, even if it’s “just an accident” and; 3) these lessons are from my own experience and “your mileage may vary.”
Make Yourself Visible
Vulnerable road users like cyclists and motorcyclists are often invisible to drivers. While there are times when impatience and road rage escalate into physical contact, most collisions with cars are because drivers simply do not see us. I was an avid road cyclist for years leading up to my accident. Unless I was riding in the dark, I never used a headlight or taillight. After my accident that all changed. From that day forward, I started riding with a very strong strobe headlight and taillight. There are a couple brands that make lights designed for daytime visibility. Familiarize yourself with any relevant laws on light usage so that you are not violating any laws. After that, do all the law allows and light yourself up like a Christmas tree.
Imagining you are Invisible to Drivers is Often not Enough
As a cyclist I often hear the cliché “pretend you are invisible”. I have found that I am a more defensive cyclist when I think of myself as a target. With that mindset, my head is on a swivel as I anticipate every car about to collide with me. To help with cars behind you, there are radar/taillight units that alert you when cars are approaching from behind. I understand that very few drivers, if any, actually want to hit me, though this mindset greatly enhances my awareness as a vulnerable road user.
Get the Care That you Need ASAP
Directly after you have been involved in a collision of any kind, there is a strong probability that adrenaline will be pumping through your body. That adrenaline will mask a lot of injuries that will rear their ugly heads later. When I was hit, I immediately jumped to my feet as if nothing had happened. Within a couple hours, I was in serious pain. Go get checked out ASAP. There are many legitimate and debilitating injuries that are not as obvious as cuts and broken bones. Immediately get checked out by a medical professional and get that process moving. You are entitled to be made whole again. Part of that is getting prompt medical attention.
In the event that you are not able to avoid a collision, the most important thing is taking care of yourself. Do not downplay injuries that may not appear as serious as others. Often those can be your greatest cause of pain and discomfort as you undergo the recovery process. Once you are on the road to recovery, keep records of anything related to your accident—medical, property damage, etc. If you or a loved one has had the misfortune of being hit by a car, call us at (480) 545 – 0700 or visit Chuck Franklin Law.com and we can discuss making you whole again.
Serving Arizonans Since 1987