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Some Tips on Avoiding Being in a Crash, and
What to Do When a Motor Vehicle Crashes Into You
by David Mozer

Until there is a protected, safe infrastructure for bicycling, bicyclists will be one of a long list of things that motorists crash into (our local DOT tweets dozens of crashes a day, bicycling around town we regularly see road signs tilted over, fender dents in trees and poles, skid marks on curbs, the driving wounded (cars full of dents), etcetera.) Fortunately, cyclists use a lot of their own cunning to evade the motor monsters and not become statistics. Regardless of the trope, drivers are mostly playing bumper cars with each other and fixed objects, but when they head for a bicyclist or pedestrian the results can be tragic.

Hopefully, you are reading this at a time you can be proactive. Bicyclist should have as much freedom of access as other travelers, but they don't. Preventing being crashed into has a lot of similarities to guarding against other assaults:

  • Be sensible, alert and aware of your surroundings and how drivers drive in those situations.
  • Pick well-lit routes and make yourself visible, and keep yourself visible.
  • Listen: If you are wearing headphones (which may be unlawful), don't turn up the volume so high that you cannot hear outside noises.
  • Know how people drive in your location. Take counter-measures around drivers doing crazy stuff.
  • Heighten your awareness at every intersection, parking lot exit, driveway, or blind spot where cars can enter or exit a road and when you are most susceptible to common crash types.

Just in case you are the brunt of a motorist's bad choice (driving too fast for conditions (including the presence of a bicyclist), distracted driving, or general incompetence), and you are still conscious, it is helpful to be prepared:

  • Ride with a cell phone, personal identification, emergency contact, and something to write with.

When a motorist wrecks your day, and hopefully it is only a day or so:

  • If your location is not safe because of traffic, try to get to a nearby location that is safe. If you are too injured to move, wait to get treatment in place by qualified emergency responders.
  • Leave your bike in the same state it was after the crash, if possible. It is best if the police see the accident scene undisturbed.
  • Dial 911 (or the local emergency number): call the police or an ambulance immediately. If you are unable to do so, ask someone to help.
  • Obtain the contact information for the driver and of any witnesses. If possible, get the name of the driver, as well as his or her address, phone number, driver's license number, vehicle license number, and insurance information. In addition, try to get names and contact information for everyone who witnessed the accident. Don't assume the police report will include all of this information -- it might not. If you are injured and cannot get this information yourself, ask a bystander to do it for you.
  • Always wait for the police to arrive and file an official report. A police report provides documentation detailing the incident, including the identity of witnesses. This is important to start an accident report and gather evidence on the scene. They may be more likely to ticket the driver, which may be useful in settling the case with the insurance company.
  • Never leave the scene of a crash without speaking to the police, even if you do not think you were injured or if you think the crash was your fault. Do everything you can to get your side of the story into the police report. And by all means, report all of your injuries, no matter how minor. Remember, those minor injuries may later become more serious.
  • Get the business card of the officer.
  • If despite your efforts, the police refuse to include your statement in the accident report, you can later have the report amended. If you can, make mental notes about the accident: what happened; how it happened; where it occurred; when it occurred; and road, traffic, and weather conditions. Then, as soon as you are able, write all this information down.
  • Your first instinct may be to leave the scene of the crash, especially if you feel like you haven’t been injured. You should stay at the site no matter how well you think you feel. Some very serious injuries may not manifest themselves until hours later. You may have injuries you do not know about yet. You also do not want to be blamed for an accident after you leave the scene. Even if the motorist seems very apologetic and takes the blame for the crash, they may deny it later or even deny being involved in the crash or at the scene. Stay on the scene.
  • Immediately seek medical attention, either at the scene, the emergency room, hospital or doctor's office. When in doubt go to the ER! Give all complaints to the doctor. Medical records are proof that you were injured and document the extent of your injuries. Start a journal of your physical symptoms and make entries every few days.
  • Take multiple photos of injuries and your bicycle.
  • Leave your bike and other damaged property in the same state as after the accident -- don't attempt to fix anything or have anything inspected. Don't wash your clothing. And don't send your bike, helmet, or any other equipment to anyone other than your attorney.
  • Take multiple photos of your damaged equipment.
  • Never negotiate with the driver of the vehicle, regardless of who may be at fault. Get the driver's name and his or her insurance information, along with the names of any passengers.
  • Make no statement to insurance until you talk to a lawyer. Personal Injury attorneys are specialists in crash litigation.

We wish you a quick recovery.

 
 

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The International Bicycle Fund is an independent, non-profit organization. Its primary purpose is to promote bicycle transportation. Most IBF projects and activities fall into one of  four categories: planning and engineering, safety education, economic development assistance and promoting international understanding. IBF's objective is to create a sustainable, people-friendly environment by creating opportunities of the highest practicable quality for bicycle transportation. IBF is funded by private donation. Contributions are always welcome and are U.S. tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

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