The bicycle is a tried and true method of transportation that permits individuals to travel quickly and conveniently throughout Pennsylvania and Philadelphia. Unfortunately, as nearly any cyclists can attest, drivers of cars and trucks and other motorists do not always respect the rights of bikers. Under Title 75 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, Chapter 35, Section 3501 riders of bicycles in Pennsylvania are “granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle.” However, all too often, drivers of other vehicles fail to exercise the-the due care required of them and treat bicyclists as a nuisance or an obstacle.
In some cases, this results in mere annoyance to the bicycle rider or riders. However, in other cases, particularly dangerous or even deadly situations can arise. Unfortunately, as bicycle ridership in Philadelphia and throughout Pennsylvania continues to increase it seems that the number of bike accidents also continue to increase.
Pennsylvania Law on Cars and Bikes
Pennsylvania state safe passing law HB 170 provides that drivers must provide for ample space when passing cyclists. In fact, Pennsylvania’s law requiring at least 4 feet of clearance when passing is the toughest and most generous in the nation. Furthermore, it is unlawful for the driver of a motor vehicle to force a cyclist off the road. Additionally, state law prohibits any turn by a driver of a motor vehicle from interfering with a cyclist proceeding straight on a roadway or shoulder of a roadway. However, cyclists are also required to ride prudently and follow the rules of the road.
Bicycle Accidents are Very Common in Philadelphia
While 2015 Pennsylvania bicycle accident statistics are not yet available, we can gain an understanding of the frequency of crashes involving cyclists by analyzing the 2014 Pennsylvania Crash Facts & Statistics. The report indicates that over the past 5 years the number of bike crashes has remained rather consistent with roughly 1,400 bicycle crashes occurring annually. Unfortunately, 2014 produced the second most fatal crashes during this five-year period. Fatal crashes peaked in 2010 with 21 deaths, but 2014 nearly equaled this number with its 19 fatalities.
Bicycle accidents with vehicles were most likely to involve a passenger car for crashes producing death, an injury, or property damage only. 55.1% of fatal bike crashes involved a passenger car. Crashes involving SUVs, vans, and light trucks were the second most prevalent crash. Crashes with heavy trucks accounted for 12.3 percent of fatal crashes and 5 percent of crashes that produced an injury. Crashes with motorcycles accounted for 16.6% of fatalities and 5.1 percent of injuries making it the third most prevalent source of bike injuries and deaths.
Bike Accidents and Death are More Common During the Day
The 2014 Pennsylvania crash statistics stated that just over 75% of all bike accident injuries occurred while it was light outside. By contrast, 20 % of injuries occurred when it was dark. As for deaths, 52.6% occurred during the day. For deaths that occurred during the dark evening hours, 26.3 percent occurred where street lights were present. 21.1 percent of nighttime bicycle deaths occurred where no street lights were present.
Hit and Run Bike Accidents are Also Common in Philadelphia
Unfortunately, hit-and-run accidents involving bicycles do occur and many motorists do not have the decency to remain at the scene of the accident or to call for needed medical care for the injured cyclist. In fact a 2003 NHTSA report indicated that 20 percent of motorists who hit a bicyclist or a pedestrian will flee the scene of the accident.
For instance, in April 2016, a 26-year-old man suffered life-altering injuries when he was riding his bicycle in West Philadelphia near the intersection of 45th Street and market Street. The man suffered a severe traumatic brain injury in the crash and was in extremely critical condition at Presbyterian Hospital following the accident. Unfortunately, the motorist never stopped. Just one month later, a similar incident occurred in also in West Philadelphia near the intersection of 52nd Street and Irving Street.
In July 2015, a bicyclist was killed in a hit-and-run that occurred in Hunting Park. Here, the driver was attempting to pass another car when she hit the cyclist. She did not stop and fled the scene. She was latter apprehended by police at 7th and Atlantic streets.
Bicycle Accidents Can Lead to Serious Injury and Death
While many people still consider bicycle deaths and injuries to be something that more frequently impacts children and teens, the truth is that all age groups from children, to adults, to senior citizens are affected by bike injuries and deaths. In fact, adults from ages 20 to 34 accounted for 21.1 percent of bicycling deaths and 32.7 percent of all cycling injuries. Similarly, adults ranging from age 45 to age 44 accounted for nearly 16 percent of cycling fatalities and 8.3 percent of deaths. Adults aged 55 years to 64 years accounted for 21.1 percent of cycling deaths. In all, these three age cohorts accounted for nearly 60 percent of all cycling deaths.
Reporting a Bike Accident to the Philadelphia Police
Since bicycles are considered a vehicle in the eyes of the law in Pennsylvania, it is wise to report the accident and treat it as if it were a crash in a motor vehicle. However, it is important to note that police in Philadelphia and some other jurisdictions are not generally required to complete an accident report where no injuries occur and both vehicles are able to drive away. Police may also be hesitant to consider a damaged bicycle a “vehicle” despite what Pennsylvania law has to say on the subject. Furthermore, due to a variety of reasons, it can sometimes be challenging to get police to show up even when there are minor injuries. However, making a report of the accident is always a wise step even if police will not come to the scene
If You’re in a Bike Accident and Police Won’t Report Your Accident
In the case that you do sustain serious and potentially life-altering injuries, the police should make a report and you should focus on getting the medical treatment you need. But, if the police won’t come to the scene of your bike crash, there are certain steps you should take before you leave the scene provided that you are medically able to do so. If you are involved in a bike crash with a car, truck, motorcycle, or other vehicle do not leave the scene of the accident without first obtaining the license plate number of the vehicle, the name and contact information of the driver, and the driver’s insurance. Furthermore, you should obtain the name and contact information of any individuals who witnessed the crash or who can provide information regarding the accident. If a police officer comes to the scene but won’t make a report, it is also a good idea to get their name and badge number.
You should then take this information to the local precinct office. It is likely that an officer at this location will provide you with a PA Driver’s Accident Report. This form should be completed and submitted as stated on the form. If you are having difficulties completing the form, working with a bike accident lawyer can be the first step to making your claim.
Our Philadelphia Bicycle Accident Attorneys Can Help
If you have suffered serious injuries due to a collision with a car, truck, motorcycle, or other vehicle in Pennsylvania you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. In some cases, a bike accident injury demand letter is sufficient to obtain the compensation you need to cover the medical expenses related to the treatment of your serious injuries. However, in other cases, the responsible driver or his or her insurance company may fight your attempts to obtain reasonable compensation at every step in the process. In these situations, working with an experienced bicycle accident and personal injury lawyer can make all the difference in holding a responsible party financially accountable.
For more than 36 years, the lawyers of The Reiff Law Firm have fought for injury victims in Philadelphia and throughout Pennsylvania. We fight aggressively and strategically for injured people when it seems like their world is falling apart and they have nowhere to turn. To schedule a free and confidential legal consultation at their Philadelphia law office by calling (215) 246-9000 today.