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What Happens When Drivers Do Not Give Bike Riders Enough Space While Passing?

Google Maps -- https://geo0.ggpht.com/maps/photothumb/fd/v1?bpb=ChAKDnNlYXJjaC5UQUNUSUxFEmYKOAkLYdiG3KW6iRG3keEA2GsuKhokCxDThbhCGhsSGQoUChIJC2HYhtyluokROiVZ5siH3I8QhAcMEgoNQDzgFRX_BH3SGhIJVVRQ9NKouokRd_FJFn3-JXsqCg1APOAVFf8EfdIaBgjwARCYAw&gl=USBike riding increases each year as Virginians become more health-conscious, more concerned for the environment and more interested in saving money on vehicles and gas. But, as my Virginia Beach-based personal injury and wrongful death law firm colleagues and I know from our caseloads, more bicycles, cars and trucks sharing the road means more serious crashes.

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The driver does not cause every collision with a bicycle, of course. And too many bicyclists fail to take basic safety precautions like wearing properly fitted helmets, using lights at night and riding with the flow of traffic. But when a car or truck does crash into a bicycle, the injuries to rider are often disabling and deadly. No helmet provides absolute protection against traumatic brain injuries. Padded bicycle shorts may minimize road rash while doing nothing to ward off neck injuries or broken bones.

One of the most-common situations involves drivers running into bike riders from behind. Virginia law classifies bicycles as vehicles and gives bicyclists the right to ride on any pretty much every road and state highway, barring them only from interstates. Local ordinances may also restrict bike riders’ use of sidewalks and pedestrian paths, but the basic rule is that a bike rider can go anywhere a car’s driver can.

This puts bicyclists at risk from speeding, distracted and inconsiderate drivers, especially on rural highways like the one pictured above. Where there is no shoulder, bicyclists must travel in the roadway. The pictured area in Chesapeake, VA, was the scene of a rear-end collision that hospitalized a bike rider and brought charges against a driver who failed to move far to the left (i.e., 3 feet) to pass safely.

There is rarely a valid excuse for such an act of negligence while driving. The person approaching a bike rider should spot the danger and either slow down or move over. Failing to do either sets the stage for a rear-end collision or sideswipe from which the bike rider may never recover.

EJL

Richard N. Shapiro
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Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia