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Why are so many bicycle crashes the fault of drivers?

On Behalf of | Mar 29, 2024 | Auto Accidents |

Technically, bicycles are vehicles, even though their source of energy is the human body and not a motor. Cyclists sometimes use dedicated paths when biking on public property, but they may also share the roads with enclosed motor vehicles. Those driving vehicles have to monitor their surroundings for safety and should treat bicycles with the same regard as any other motor vehicle. Drivers should yield to bicycles when appropriate at intersections and give them adequate space in traffic when there isn’t a designated bike lane.

Unfortunately, a review of bicycle crash data makes it clear that drivers are to blame for a large number of these wrecks every year. One factor connects many bicycle crashes caused by motor vehicles, as drivers often report the same issue causing a collision.

Bicycles are hard for drivers to see

The first explanation a driver offers after causing a bicycle crash is often a frantic apology asserting that they did not see the cyclist. People say as much even when cyclists wear brightly-colored and reflective visibility gear or when they install flashing lights on their bicycles.

Although people sometimes dismiss such claims out of hand, there is a degree of validity to those assertions. Psychologists have identified intentional blindness as a major safety issue for cyclists, pedestrians and others in traffic. Inattentional blindness is the technical term for how people overlook crucial visual information.

The brain only notices what it intentionally prioritizes. Driving, even at low speeds, exposes someone to far more sensory stimulation than they can reasonably expect to process. The brain prioritizes what seems to have safety implications. Usually, bigger vehicles and other concerns that seem safety critical draw someone’s attention, while pedestrians and bicycles may never cognitively register with someone operating a motor vehicle.

Drivers can overcome these limitations by intentionally scanning traffic for cyclists and also people walking or riding on motorcycles. While there may be a medical explanation for why people hit cyclists, that explanation is not an excuse.

A cyclist hurt by an inattentive or distracted driver could potentially file an insurance claim or a lawsuit to hold a driver responsible for their injurious bicycle-car crash. Cyclists can potentially recover lost wages, medical expenses and property damage losses by taking action when drivers make safety-critical mistakes in traffic.

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