Ohio Enacts 3-Foot Rule for Bicyclists

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Other than wearing a helmet, bicyclists frequently have no other protection in the event of a collision with a vehicle, which makes them more vulnerable to catastrophic or deadly injuries. But Ohio’s new 3-foot rule might help protect both our cyclists and our drivers.

A rising number of bicycle accidents have been identified across Ohio, with Allen County and Lima among the most dangerous mid-sized population areas for bicyclists. Lima, for instance, has 222 bicycle crashes per rate of 100,000 people. Meanwhile, in the entire state in 2015, more than two dozen bicyclists were killed and nearly 1,300 were injured.

Although passengers inside a car have the benefit of seat belts as well as other protections, a person on a bicycle can easily be thrown off the bike and into stationary objects or even into traffic.

As more individuals are choosing to take their bicycles out for recreational or commuting purposes, legislators around the country are looking into opportunities to make biking a safer way to get to work or to enjoy the great outdoors. The streets of Ohio are expected to get much more friendly to bikes, as Ohio House Bill 154 requires motorists to overtake and pass bicyclists on a road with no less than a 3-foot cushion. A previous law didn’t specify a safe passing distance.

This 3-foot rule, which became law March 21, 2017, will help ensure that bicyclists have appropriate room to maneuver on the road and are at less risk of being sideswiped by a vehicle attempting to pass them. If violated, drivers face a misdemeanor and a $150 fine.

3-Foot Rule in Ohio — How Does it Work?

Although Ohio is the 40th state in the U.S. to enact some kind of safe-passing legislation, four of our cities — Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Bay Village — had previously enacted the 3-foot rule on a municipal level. According to the National Conference of Safe Legislatures, only 28 states mandate a specific distance motorists must maintain in order to avoid becoming involved in an accident with a bicyclist.

Some states still have no passing requirements on the books, including Indiana and Kentucky. Supporters of Ohio’s new law believe it will be crucial for helping to prevent bicycle accidents, but that it also will raise awareness about how prevalent bicycles are on some of Ohio’s most dangerous roads.

Bicycle Accidents by the Numbers

Compared to motor vehicle accidents, bicycle accidents are much less common. However, the primary reason that bicycling has gotten so much attention in recent years is that more individuals are choosing to partake in the activity, but motorists are not becoming more aware of these higher numbers of bikes on the road. This is a deadly combination when a motor vehicle hits a bicyclist because it is frequently the bicyclist who will suffer the most extensive injuries.

Approximately 40,000 motorists die on America’s roadways every single year, but the number of cyclists’ fatalities has decreased since the 1970s to several hundred instead of 1,000 per year. Although pedestrian and motorcycle deaths are up, cycling deaths are down despite the millions of new riders hitting the streets on their bike.

Individuals hurt in bicycle accidents are primarily adults, but kids become injured, too (five children between the ages of 6 and 15 in Ohio were killed in bicycle accidents in 2015). Adult riders are more aware of the importance of sharing the roadway with cars and being drivers themselves, understand how the drivers are most likely to react in any given situation.

Most Common Types of Bicycle Accidents

There are several common issues that frequently cause accidents between motor vehicles and bicyclists. These include:

  • The right-hook turn. A car and a bike may both be waiting at a light and the car may cut off the bike or strike the bike when the light changes. In other situations, the bike may be passing a slower car on the right and that car will then make a right turn directly into the bike.
  • The left cross. This occurs when a bicyclist and motorcyclist come to an intersection from different directions and the motorist turns left, hitting the cyclist in the intersection. Usually the motorist will do this because they did not see the cyclist.

However, the most frequent types of intersection collisions representing up to 10% of all intersection accidents involves situations where a cyclist has a stop sign and the motorist does not. In order to avoid being injured in a serious bicycle accident, take all necessary steps as a cyclist and make use of Ohio’s 3-foot rule to minimize your potential for being seriously injured.

Staying Safe on Ohio Roads

Being a knowledgeable rider and being aware of your surroundings are some of the key steps that you can take in order to prevent a serious bicycle accident. There are a few things that you want to always have with you before you head out on the road:

  1. Insurance cards and proper identification: In the event that you are unable to speak for yourself, this information can be provided to authorities to assist you with getting the help that you need. It’s also just a good idea to have this on your person anytime you leave the house. Make sure to keep your health insurance card close by, as well as your car insurance, if you’re also a driver.
  2. A cellphone: It goes without saying that having a cellphone gives you a life line in the event that you are involved in an accident. It may seem tempting to leave it at home if you’re just going for a leisurely bike ride, but you never know when tragedy will strike. Use it to call for help and take pictures of the damage and the other party’s insurance information.
  3. Pen and paper: Being able to exchange contact information with someone at the scene of the accident, particularly if you aren’t able to use your phone to take notes, makes it easier if you have to move forward with an insurance claim. You also want to always have this data in case you need to reach out to this person or provide it to your personal injury lawyer. It may help to store a pen and small notepad in a bag you take with you on your bike, or one you keep attached to your bike frame.

What to Do If You’ve Been Injured in a Bike Crash

Many individuals who are involved in an accident may be tempted to get up and check on their bike right away. It is important to do a self-assessment and determine whether or not you have suffered any serious medical injuries before checking on the bike. It is always a good idea to contact 911 and the authorities so that you have a chance to file a report and get checked out.

Getting medical attention can be crucial if you choose to move forward with a bicycling personal injury claim. While you are still at the scene of the accident, make sure to gather relevant evidence including videos and photos of the scene itself, your bike, the damage to you and your clothing, and the intersection or area in which it occurs. It is not a good idea to get your bike fixed right away, as the bike could be crucial evidence in your personal injury case.

If you’ve been in an accident with a motor vehicle, the experienced attorneys of Dyer, Garofalo, Mann & Shultz may be able to help you get the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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