A Portsmouth, Virginia (VA), bicyclist wound up hospitalized with injuries after being clipped by the passenger-side mirror of a dump truck The accident occurred during the morning rush hour of June 10, 2014, near the intersection of High Street W and Carney Farm Lane. Police charged the commercial truck driver with making an illegal pass, meaning the vehicle operator did not allow enough space between the truck and bicycle.
Virginia law requires drivers to leave at least 2 feet between their cars and trucks and bicycles. That passing distance will soon be increased to 3 feet, but either margin can be difficult to gauge, especially for people behind the wheels of very wide vehicles like dump trucks. The best rule of thumb to follow to ensure everyone can use the road safely is to not pass a bike unless it is possible to also change lanes completely.
At the same time, bicycles are vehicles under law. This makes bike riders responsible for following traffic regulations, including stopping for red lights and using bike lanes when available. Speed limits do not strictly apply to bicyclist, however. The stretch of High Street where the accident happened does not have a separate area for bicycles, sidewalks or usable shoulders. So it is reasonable to think that the dump truc kdriver was just trying to squeeze past a biker going a little too slowly for the four-lane road.
Despite that, nothing really excuses passing a bike so closely that you hit and injure its rider. Drivers must exercise patience when stuck behind bicycles, and they must attempt to pass only when doing so is undeniably safe. As a Virginia Beach-based personal injury and wrongful death attorney, I have seen too often how tragedy result when drivers do not share the road respectfully.