On Friday August 2nd Gerald Mullen, 48, was heading southbound on McMullen Booth Road. As he entered the marked crosswalk for Union Street he was struck by a 2009 Porsche Cayenne driven by Brian Wolstein, 50, of Tampa. Wolstein failed to stop for a red light when turning right onto McMullen Booth Road. After the vehicle-bicycle accident Mullen was airlifted to Bayfront Medical Center with critical injuries.
Vehicle-bicycle collisions are not uncommon. According to the National Highway Transportation Authority, in 2011 vehicle vs. bicycle accidents resulted in 677 cyclist fatalities. That number accounts for 2% of all traffic fatalities in the United States. Florida saw 120 of those 677 deaths. In addition to fatalities, approximately 38,000 more cyclists were injured as the result of a motor vehicle collision. However, it is estimated that only about 10% of all vehicle-bicycle injuries are reported by the police so the number of injuries is actually much higher.
Furthermore, cyclists are not the only ones who may be subject to injury due to distracted driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 4,280 pedestrians were killed and another 70,000 were injured in the United States in 2010. Based on these numbers, a walker is injured every eight minutes, and killed every two hours. In fact, pedestrians who have been hit by automobiles account for 13% of all traffic fatalities; one out of every four auto-accident fatalities involves a person on foot.
Most vehicle-bicycle accidents and pedestrian-bicycle accidents are caused by the driver’s inattention. Distracted driving habits such as texting, changing the radio station, or eating take the driver’s focus away from the road and the surrounding area, making it difficult to notice bicyclists. Furthermore, these distracted driving habits make it more likely for a driver to swerve, possibly side-swiping a cyclist in the process (particularly in areas where no designated bike lane exists). More egregious instances of driver negligence usually result from the driver simply being in too much of a hurry. Speeding/reckless driving, attempting to pass a city bus or failing to stop when a school bus arm is extended can be dangerous to the driver and is often deadly to pedestrians. Driving under the influence is also a major cause of ambler accidents.
Outside of a helmet, cyclists have no real physical protection in the event of a collision, often resulting in severe or fatal injuries when hit by an oncoming automobile; pedestrians lack protection entirely. More severe injuries in either scenario include broken bones throughout the body, spinal damage or herniated discs, damage to internal organs such as the kidney, spleen and liver, traumatic brain injury, and even death. In the event of a fatality, surviving family members of the deceased cyclist or pedestrian may be able to recover from the negligent party under Florida’s wrongful death statute.
There are a number of ways to stay safe while cycling. In order to minimize the risk of intersection accidents with cars, cyclists need to maximize their visibility, understand the rules of the road, learn to recognize some of the most dangerous intersection hazards, and take safety precautions when approaching and riding through an intersection; the same holds true for those traveling by foot. The following are some bicycle safety tips to keep in mind:
- Always look and stop: Look left-right-left for traffic before entering a roadway.
- Go with the flow: Always ride on the right side of the road, with traffic, just like cars do. It’s the law.
- Avoid Riding at Night: Avoid dark conditions, narrow roads, and roads with speeds over 35mph. Use white front lights, red rear reflectors or lights, and special retro-reflective clothing if you must ride at night
- Be Predictable: Always ride in a straight line. When preparing to change your lane position look behind you and yield to overtaking traffic. When making a turn use the proper hand signal.
- Obey all traffic signals and signs: Watch for traffic signals. Walk your bicycle across busy intersections.
If you or someone you know has suffered an injury as a cyclist or an injury as a pedestrian caused by a motorists’ negligence or inattention, faulty road conditions, or a poorly designed bicycle please contact the personal injury attorneys at Dolman Law Group for a free consultation and case evaluation. 727-451-6900.