Bicycling is a great way to exercise, travel, or just enjoy some recreational time. Unfortunately, as bike accident statistics reveal, it can also be dangerous. Each year, there are almost 1,000 people killed and more than 450,000 injured in biking accidents. Last year, Virginia reported more than 550 bike accidents, resulting in the death of eight victims. Just last week, our firm reported on two fatal bike accidents that occurred just hours apart from each other near Richmond, VA. In order to help keep cyclists safe, Virginia lawmakers passed two laws that just went into effect July 1.
Virginia Bike Law
The first law addresses vehicle drivers who are passing cyclists on the road. The law requires at least three feet between the passing motor vehicle from the left of the bicycle. All passing must be done at a reasonable speed. If the lane of travel is not wide enough for the motor vehicle to pass the cyclist in the above manner, then the driver of the motor vehicle must change lanes in order to pass, even if that means crossing over a yellow double line to do so. The motor vehicle must not proceed back to the lane of travel until they have safely and fully passed the bike. In addition to bicycles, the new law also applies to electric bikes, mopeds, electric personal assistive mobility devices, animals, or animal-drawn vehicles proceeding in the same direction as the motor vehicle.
The other change to the law is allowing bike riders to ride two abreast in a lane. Prior to the change, cyclists were allowed to ride side by side in a lane but were required to move into a single line if a vehicle was trying to pass them. Bicycle safety advocates say this change is especially welcome news to families who ride together because parents will now be able to ride next to their child instead of in front or behind them, creating a much safer riding experience for the child and decreasing their risk of being injured in a bike accident.
Safety Stop Study
Lawmakers also voted to have the Virginia State Police conduct a study on whether the state should adopt a Safety Stop law that would allow cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs.
One of the most dangerous places for a cyclist is a busy intersection. There is often confusion over who has the right of way, the cyclist or vehicle driver, as well as the issue of drivers failing to see the cyclists when they are turning their vehicle in the direction of the cyclist.
In a safety stop, the cyclist is legally allowed to treat a stop sign as a yield sign if the cyclist has slowed down to a reasonable speed and there is no other traffic. The cyclist must still yield to vehicle drivers and pedestrians who are already in the intersection or have the right of way.
Studies have shown that in communities where cyclists are allowed to do safety stops, bike accident injuries decline by almost 15 percent.
Let a Virginia Personal Injury Attorney Help
If you were injured in a bicycle or any other type of motor vehicle accident, it is critical not to delay contacting a Virginia bicycle accident attorney from Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn right away. Virginia injury laws have strict rules regarding how long you have to file your personal injury claim. If the statute of limitations expires, you will be unable to collect financial damages for any medical expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering, or any other losses you may be entitled to.
Families of victims killed in bike accidents may be able to pursue a wrongful death claim against the driver responsible for the accident. Our personal injury law firm has more than three decades of experience helping families get the financial justice they deserve for their loved death. Call our office today to schedule a free and confidential consultation.