If you have been cycling on Florida streets for any length of time, you are probably well aware of how dangerous it can be. The vast majority of our roads were designed with cars in mind, not bicycles, so any time you have to share the road with motor vehicles, you are putting yourself at risk.
Getting into a collision with a car can be devastating for a cyclist because you do not have the same kind of protection available to you as someone in an automobile. What would likely be a minor fender bender for most drivers can lead to serious injury or even death for someone riding a bike, so you have to do whatever you can to protect yourself and avoid bike accidents.
Part of this means using safety gear and safe riding practices. Helmets, for example, are a must. So is reflective clothing or materials if you plan to bike at night or at other times when visibility might be a problem. Bells and horns can help, but some drivers still might not hear them, so you need to make sure you learn the proper signals to let drivers know when you plan to turn or change lanes. But there is something else that all cyclists should do to reduce their chances of getting into an accident: watch out for dangerous drivers.
Signs That Someone Is Driving Dangerously
What exactly makes a “dangerous driver”? It is not always easy to tell, but there are several warning signs that should put you on high alert and let you know that you should stay as far away as you possibly can.
Their eyes are on their phone. Despite the fact that the state of Florida enacted a ban on texting while driving last year, far too many drivers still engage in this dangerous activity. One big indication that someone is texting while behind the wheel is if they keep looking down at their lap. In order to text, drivers have to take their eyes off the road for significant periods of time, and that means that you – and everyone else around them – is in danger. Even if someone is just looking down to check for GPS directions, you still want to stay away for safety’s sake.
They are parked. Cars that are not moving seem like they would be safer, but unfortunately that is often not the case. A significant percentage of cycling accidents occur because riders are forced to travel past parked cars and the drivers are not paying attention. Sometimes this inattention results in a cyclist slamming into a door that suddenly opens in front of them. Other times drivers may even pull out from parking spaces directly into a cyclist’s path because they were looking for cars and simply didn’t notice that you were there. Regardless of the reason, you should always take extra care when biking near parked cars and watch for brake lights.
They engage in pushy behavior. By and large, drivers are not going out on the road with the intent to run a cyclist down. However, there is a significant portion that seems to be personally affronted by the fact that cyclists have the legal right to share the road. If you are on a road without a bike lane and encounter drivers that follow too closely or even honk and yell at you, the smartest thing that you can do is get out of their way. It may not feel good to give in to these types of drivers, but it is better than letting their pushy behavior continue until it results in a mistake that both of you are going to regret.
They are hugging the shoulder. When a driver hugs the shoulder of the road, it tends to mean that they are distracted, under the influence, or nervous and trying to be careful. Obviously you do not want to go anywhere near a driver who is not paying attention or who seems intoxicated, but nervous drivers can be just as bad. Even though it does not seem like it would be a bad thing, nervousness tends to make drivers overreact and can cause big problems.
They refuse to look at you. Besides being rude and dehumanizing, drivers who act this way are often avoiding your gaze because they intend to try to pass you or turn in front of you before you can move. Dealing with this kind of behavior is frustrating, but no cyclist should try to pick a fight with a motorist, because the car is always going to win – it simply is not worth your safety to prove a point to a driver. If you suspect that someone is going to try to cut you off, let them have their way.
Do your best to stay away from these drivers and your ride will be significantly safer. Of course, sometimes a driver crashes into you despite your best attempts to ride safely. If you are hit due to a driver’s negligence, seek medical care immediately and then contact an experienced bike accident lawyer who gets results as soon as possible. Drivers have to know that you have as much right to be on the road as they do.
About the Author:
Ben Murphey is a personal injury lawyer and a partner at the firm of Lawlor Winston White & Murphey. Mr. Murphey has 10.0 Superb AVVO rating, was named Top 1% of Car Accident Attorneys by Car Accident Lawyer, and was named a Super Lawyer by Super Lawyers in 2014. Mr. Murphey is based in South Florida but represents people and businesses across the state who have been harmed by the wrongful acts of others.