Protect Yourself: Tips to avoid or handle a collision

In the wake of yet another tragic  collision resulting in the death of a person on a bike, we think it’s important for our friends who ride bikes to be aware of the actions they can take to not only reduce their risk of being a victim, but to respond appropriately in the event of a collision as well. We would like to thank Deanna Power of Personal Injury Help for contributing the following article. We are dedicating it to the memory of all the cyclists killed in NC this year.

What to do After a Crash in North Carolina

If you are a bicyclist, you are a member of a growing community that enjoys using an economical, healthy, and environmentally friendly way to get where you need to go. While there are things that you can do to reduce your odds of being in a crash, there is always a risk that is real. One way to lower your risk of being involved in a crash is by making sure you are being safe and that you are adhering to North Carolina’s bicycling laws.

North Carolina Bicycling Laws

In North Carolina, bicyclists are treated like drivers of vehicles. They are encouraged to act responsibly and safely, the same as drivers of cars are. There are laws that are specific to bicycles as well, and those must be adhered to:

  •         Your bicycle must be equipped with a lighted headlamp that is visible from at least 30 feet in front of the bicycle.
  •         Your bicycle should have a red reflective mirror or light on the back that is visible from at least 200 feet from the rear when used at night. You can also wear a reflective safety vest.
  •         A bicycle should be driven at a visible spot within the lane and before making a lateral move, the rider should yield.
  •         Properly position yourself for your destination at intersections.
  •         Use the proper hand signals so your movement will be predictable. Let drivers know that you are turning or stopping. Give them time to know where you are going.
  •         Bicyclists cannot overtake other traffic on the right except when they are traveling in a separately marked travel lane.
  •        As a vehicle by law, bicycles have the right to “take the lane”, especially if they feel it is necessary for their safety or in preparation to make a turn.  An example of taking the lane for safety reasons is to discourage cars from trying to pass too close to you in the same lane.

Increase Your Visibility

By making yourself more visible, you are more likely to be noticed by drivers and reduce the risk of a crash. Wear brightly colored clothing, such as a safety vest or an orange, yellow, bright green, or red jersey. Add bright colors and reflectors to your helmet (and be sure to always ride with a helmet!). You may even add reflective tape to your clothing and your bicycle if you are riding after dark. Make sure your bicycle has reflectors visible from all sides, to ensure that drivers are aware of your presence in the road. Remember, a front and back light are now both required by law in NC.

If You Have Been in a Crash

If you have been involved in a crash, here are some tips to make sure you are treated fairly throughout the insurance claims process and that your rights are protected. By making sure you have handled the situation properly, you are preparing your claim accurately and effectively.

  1.       The first thing to do is to call 911. You want the police to come complete a report. If your injuries are serious, ask for an ambulance to be dispatched as well.
  2.       Make sure the police take a statement from you and not just the motorist. Some police will only speak with motorists during an investigation.
  3.       Exchange information with the drivers. Get names, contact information, and insurance information from everyone involved.
  4.       Speak with witnesses and get their statements, names, and contact information.
  5.       Take photos of the scene. Show the street, your bicycle, damage to the vehicles involved, your damaged clothing and helmet, and any injuries that you may have.
  6.       Go to the hospital and get medical treatment no matter what. Your injuries may be worse than you initially believe, or adrenaline could be keeping you from feeling any injuries.

After the Crash

After the incident, you should maintain the recommended medical care. Any medical bills and records of lost work should be kept for your insurance claim. You need to keep in constant contact with the insurance companies to make sure that your claim is progressing. If the crash was not your fault, the insurance company should be liable for replacing any damaged goods and covering your medical bills. If the driver’s insurance company doesn’t pay for your medical bills for some reason, you can take the claim to North Carolina’s small claims court if you need less than $10,000 in compensation. With good documentation however, you won’t need to step foot in a courtroom.

After visiting a hospital and getting treated, you can focus on what’s most important: Recovering from the crash.

2 thoughts on “Protect Yourself: Tips to avoid or handle a collision”

  1. Hey there Dawn, I’ve read most of the articles you have posted here, and I really appreciate the work O&S does for our community, so please don’t take this comment as an attack.

    The advice on what to do after a crash is spot-on.

    I have a couple of thoughts about the preventing a crash portion. It seems very similar to what the State DOT would put out as far as bikes following the laws. This is very “vehicular cycling” oriented advice. Following the laws might keep you from getting hassled by the police, but there’s lots more that could be done to avoid a collision.

    This vehicular cycling advice would seem to be in opposition to much of the advocacy of O&S & the City of Raleigh, which is moving towards a separated facilities model, in opposition to the vehicular cycling model.

    And I feel I must point out that imploring hesitant users to get a helmet re-enforces the idea that biking is a risky, high-energy sport only for the fit and fearless. And I’m not sure I approve of using marketing material from a personal injury lawyer as a source reference!

    Thanks for your work! Looking for ways I can help out…

    1. Thank you for the feedback, Dwight. You’ve raised some good points, and I don’t disagree with you. Ideally, we would live in a world where vehicles took the same amount of care and responsibility to ensure the safety of people on bikes that we do. Unfortunately that is not yet the case, and we believe that the responsibility of safety falls just as heavily on the people riding as the people driving. Outside of advocating with the city for stricter penalties on drivers who endanger cyclists, and being ambassadors for responsible driving ourselves, there is not much else that we can do to change the behavior of people who drive with little regard for the life of cyclists. Therefore, we must endeavor to lower our own risks as cyclists as best we can, by wearing appropriate safety gear (we absolutely advocate helmets, always–biking is certainly not just for the fit and fearless, a message that we continually strive to deliver, but there is no denying that there are risks involved) and riding in accordance with local laws governing cycling. We also regularly advocate with the local government to pass laws that are more considerate to the needs and realities of cyclists (or block those that are not), as well as for more separated (safe) bike facilities. As an organization that works closely with the City of Raleigh, I hope you understand why we cannot be seen as advocating behavior that is unlawful or irresponsible. Thank you once again for taking the time to read and respond to this post. Safe riding!

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