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As the popularity of bicycling soars, so do accidents

BICYCLING: MORE POPULAR AND MORE ACCIDENTS

As a sport, bicycling has become increasingly popular. No longer primarily the province of spinning classes or the hard-core triathlete, bicycling is now an open road adventure participated in by all age groups of all fitness levels for all sorts of reasons. More and more, bicycling has also become a healthy and clean mode of transportation. As cities and even suburban roads become gridlocked with motor vehicles, people are choosing bicycling as the preferred method of commuting to and from work, to and from social gatherings, and to just about anywhere else.

Unfortunately, more bicyclists on the roads means more accidents. In 2012, 722 bicycle fatalities occurred nationwide according to data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. This represents a 16% increase from 2010. Delving into the statistics for 2012 a bit further and focusing on the State of Georgia shows the following: 681 bicycle-motor vehicle crashes occurred that year resulting in 509 injuries to bicyclists and 543 total injuries; 47 hit and run crashes occurred in the metro-Atlanta area alone, resulting in 36 injuries; 18 bicycle fatalities occurred in 2012.

In a collision between a motor vehicle and a bicyclist, it is not hard to understand why the latter often ends up grievously injured or worse. A bicyclist has no protective hulk of steel around him or her and no safety equipment such as airbags to soften a direct impact. These types of accidents can cause fractures and organ damage. Very often a bicyclist is thrown from his or her bicycle upon impact, leading to traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries.

BICYCLE SAFETY AND THE LAW

The serious injuries that can and do happen in bicycle accidents have led to the passage of new law and policy in Georgia. The "Safe Distance" provision, part of a law passed in 2011, requires motorists to leave at least three feet of space when passing a bicycle. The Complete Streets Policy is a forward-looking strategy that will incorporate bicycle, pedestrian, and transit accommodations into transportation infrastructure projects.

But perhaps existing law--Georgia statutory code--is the most important legal protection bicyclists have. Under Georgia law, bicycles are considered vehicles, and are therefore equal to motor vehicles. Of course, having the same rights to the road also means having the same duties. Bicyclists are required to obey all traffic signs and lights, signal their turns, travel as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, and travel at the speed of traffic.

In addition to following the same rules of the road as motor vehicles, bicyclists must take a few additional precautions. Cyclists riding at night must equip their bicycles with a headlight and a rear reflector to increase their visibility. Although not a legal requirement, it is certainly a good idea to wear reflective clothing while bicycling at night. For those under 16 years of age in Georgia, a helmet is required when bicycling.

NEXT GENERATION

For those required to wear a bicycle helmet, and even those who are not but realize its value, a new design is about to revolutionize bicycle safety. Called the "Next Generation Bicycle Helmet" by Lumos, the helmet has turn signal indicators that are controlled wirelessly from a handlebar attachment and a brake light that comes on automatically as the cyclist slows down. The helmet also contains two LED lights on the sides, to further increase the cyclist's visibility. The gear is re-chargeable and waterproof. The launch of this revolutionary piece of safety equipment is planned for April 2016.

CONTACT YOUR ATTORNEY

Bicycle accidents unfortunately can result in devastating, life-changing injuries. Recovering for medical expenses, lost wages and future income, and pain and suffering requires the representation of an experienced personal injury attorney. If you or a loved one has been injured in a bicycle accident, contact Dave Thomas at The Thomas Law Firm for a free evaluation of your case.

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