A Gloucester County, Virginia (VA), crash between a pickup truck and a bicycle left the bike rider dead. The fatal collision happened in the 8600 block of Guinea Road, between Rowes View Lane and Sarahs Cove Drive.
State Police troopers received the call about the wreck near the town of Hayes just before 6 pm on January 3, 2017. They determined that the pickup driver was heading west when they struck the bicyclist, who multiple news outlets identified as 47-year-old Michael Troy Smith.
The bike rider died on impact while the driver suffered no injuries. Investigators concluded that neither alcohol nor speed played a role in causing the deadly crash, but they did not issue a finding on why the collision happened. Evidence collected from the scene and statements from witnesses will be passed to the commonwealth’s attorney for Gloucester County to decide whether any charges will be issued.
This fatal bike accident illustrates two sad realities. The first is that bicyclists will almost surely suffer serious injuries or lose their lives when a car or truck hits them. During 2015, the last year for which complete data is available, the Virginia Department of Vehicle recorded 689 crashes involving a bicycle. Those wrecks caused injuries to 661 people and led to 15 deaths.
The other undeniable truth highlighted by this tragedy in Gloucester County is that drivers and bike riders must work at all times to share the road safely and respectfully. For their part, bike riders must travel in the same direction as motor vehicles and obey stoplights and other traffic regulations. Drivers mostly need to pay attention and exercise caution. For these reasons, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration notes on its webpage dedicated to improving the safety of bicycling that “a large percentage of crashes can be avoided if motorists and cyclists follow the rules of the road and watch out for each other.”
The federal agency further reminds drivers that “bicycles have the same rights as people behind the wheel” and offers these tips for respecting those rights:
- Yield to bicyclists as you would motorists and do not underestimate their speed. This will help avoid turning in front of a bicyclist traveling on the road or sidewalk, often at an intersection or driveway.
- In parking lots, at stop signs, when packing up, or when parking, search your surroundings for other vehicles, including bicycles.
- Drivers turning right on red should look to the right and behind to avoid hitting a bicyclist approaching from the right rear. Stop completely and look left-right-left and behind before turning right on red.
- Obey the speed limit, reduce speed for road conditions and drive defensively to avoid a crash with a cyclist.
- Give cyclists room. Do not pass too closely. Pass bicyclists as you would any other vehicle — when it’s safe to move over into an adjacent lane.
My Virginia wrongful death attorney colleagues and I urge all drivers to practice these lifesaving behaviors at all times.