Bicycle riding is becoming increasingly popular throughout the country as a means of exercise, transportation and recreation. This is especially evident in Phoenix, with its 500 miles of bike trails and numerous bicycle clubs. People of all ages bike to school, to work and for fun, but riding a bike is not without risks. Injuries can range from minor abrasions due to falls to more serious injuries and even death when motor vehicles cause bicycle accidents. Just as bike riders have a duty to ride safely and follow the laws applicable to them, motorists also owe a duty to those on bicycles.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website, in 2011, nearly 680 bicyclists were killed in traffic accidents throughout the United States; this number represented two percent of traffic-related fatalities. During the same year, there were 28 bicycle riders killed in crashes in Arizona, which accounted for three percent of deaths in car crashes. Unfortunately, since many young people are active bike riders, there are numerous fatal accidents involving children each year. Minors aged five to 15 years old make up 20 percent of bicyclist deaths. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute 2010 analysis, helmet use by bicyclists has been estimated to reduce head injury risk by 85 percent. Unfortunately, during the past few years, only about one in 10 fatally injured bicyclists were wearing helmets.
A fatal accident
As reported in azcentral.com, an 11-year-old boy was riding his bike in Chandler last summer. Although the boy usually wore his helmet, on this day, he had forgotten it. In addition, he was riding across a street mid-block instead of using the crosswalk to walk his bicycle from one side to the other. As the boy crossed, a truck approached. Although the driver of the truck did see one child riding his bike across the multi-lane road, he did not see a second bike rider following the first, and he accidentally struck the boy. After the fatal crash, the driver left the scene. The boy had made it across five of the seven lanes of traffic before the truck hit him.
Witnesses to the accident provided information about the truck, including the license plate number, to responding officers. Within two hours of the accident, police officers found the truck, which the driver had driven to his apartment complex and left parked there. The driver returned to the scene of the crash, where officers arrested him after speaking to him. The charge against the driver was failure to stop for an accident involving death. On July 5, 2013, in the Maricopa County Superior Court, the driver pled guilty to this charge. He will be sentenced in August.
After the boy’s death, police reminded bicyclists to wear their helmets and to follow traffic laws. It should be noted that while Arizona statute requires operators and passengers of motorcycles and ATVs who are under 18 to wear helmets, there is no similar provision applicable to bicycles.
Recovery following an accident
If you have been injured by a motorist while you were riding a bicycle, a Phoenix bicycle accident lawyer can advise you about the merits of your case and whether you may be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering, medical bills or lost wages. In addition, if a family member has died as the result of a bicycle accident, you may be able to recover damages for your relative’s wrongful death.