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Avoiding common bicycle accident scenarios: Tips for Springfield cyclists

963955_rollin.jpgRecent research suggests that more and more Americans are using bicycles as their regular method of transportation, citing factors like economic benefits, health advantages and the impact on the environment. Spring is here, and our Springfield personal injury lawyers want to encourage all motorists to share the road safely with bicyclists. We also recommend that cyclists take certain precautions to avoid auto accidents.

Avoiding Missouri bicycle accidents: Common scenarios in collisions involving bicycles and motor vehicles

Scenario 1: A driver pulls out of a side street or driveway on the right and either (1) strikes an oncoming cyclist or (2) pulls out in front of the cyclist, forcing the bicycle to strike the vehicle.
Avoiding this accident: It can be difficult for drivers to see bicycles coming straight towards them, so this kind of collision is fairly common. Be sure to ride with traffic rather than against it - after all, drivers won't be looking for traffic coming from the wrong direction. Also, using a headlight - even during the day - can help make cyclists more visible. If you're afraid a driver doesn't see you, consider waving your arm from side to side as you approach the vehicle - the side-to-side motion is easier for drivers to detect. And if all else fails, slow down enough so that you can stop if needed. It might be an annoyance, but it's far better to be annoyed than to be involved in an auto accident.

Scenario 2: A bicyclist moves slightly to the left to avoid a roadway obstruction and is rear-ended by a motor vehicle approaching from the behind.
Avoiding this accident: Don't shift into the traffic lane without checking for vehicles approaching behind you. Many cyclists use mirrors (attached to their handlebars, helmets or glasses) so they don't have to physically turn to check. Always signal before you move left, even if the movement is slight - some drivers don't allow extra space for cyclists, so shifting even an inch or two can put you at risk of being rear-ended.

Scenario 3: The driver of a parked vehicle opens his or her door right in front of an oncoming bicyclist.
Avoiding this accident: Unfortunately, this kind of collision happens frequently in metropolitan areas, where bike lanes tend to be placed as far to the right as possible. Cyclists use the term "door zone" to refer to the three to five-foot space in which a bicycle is in danger of being struck by a vehicle's door. To protect yourself, ride far enough to the left so that you won't be struck by a suddenly-opened door. It may mean that you have to ride in the traffic lane briefly, but you're less likely to be involved in an accident. Again, be mindful of other vehicles as you shift to the left.

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Newly Released Data Reiterates Risks of Bicycle Accidents in Springfield, Missouri and Elsewhere

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released its latest information illustrating the dangers of being involved in a bicycle accident in Springfield, Missouri and elsewhere in the United States.
In the U.S., 630 bicyclists were killed in 2009 because of traffic accidents. Another 51,000 suffered injuries from these incidents.

Our Springfield car accident attorneys recognize the dangers of bicycling on our Missouri roads, especially during the spring and summer months when traffic increases significantly. Even though the number of bicycle fatalities decreased from 2008 to 2009 by 12 percent, the roadway is still a very dangerous place for our two-wheeled travelers.

The NHTSA's release reports that 70 percent of the bicycle fatalities that occurred in 2009 happened in urban areas and non-intersections. This number jumped 5 percent from 2008 calculations.

Roughly 75 percent of bicycle fatalities happened during the daytime hours, between 4:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. This is also an increase from the previous year -- 6 percent.

The Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation urges bicyclists to enroll in Bike Education Classes to help decrease your risks of a serious accident.

Ken Kifer's Bike Page would like to tell you about these common mistakes that bicyclists make. Making tiny adjustments can help you increase your safety on our roadways:

-Making your seat too low. Folded legs are more likely to result in cramping. Just as you shouldn't drive while fatigued, you shouldn't bike that way either. Make sure your bike is positioned comfortably for your size and weight. Make sure your leg can fully extend when pedaling.

-Be sure to stop for stop signs and follow all of the other road rules that motorists do. As a biker, you are to abide by the same laws as a motor-vehicle driver. This goes for red lights as well. By Missouri state and local law, bicyclists are allowed to use the road and by law they have the same rights and duties as other drivers.

-Be sure you're riding in the correct lane. Always ride with traffic, never against it. Avoid riding on sidewalks. Sometimes sidewalks can be more dangerous than the roadway because of pedestrian congestion.

-Make sure your headlight and taillight is working. These lights help you to be more visible to motorists during the evening hours. Also, remember to wear light colored clothing. Every little bit helps. Do as much as you can to be seen by motorists.

For your enjoyment, a complete list of Missouri bicycle trails and trail maps can be found on the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation website.

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