While Illinois is amending its motor vehicle laws to offer more protection to bicyclists, an advocacy group is petitioning for additional safety measures. The Active Transportation Alliance (ATA), an organization whose mission is to make Chicago streets safer for bicyclists, motorists, and pedestrians, is campaigning to increase the public’s awareness regarding the dangers of bicyclist and car door collisions.
A bicycle-car door collision occurs when a driver opens his or her car door without first checking whether any bicyclists are coming; the bicyclist typically does not have enough warning to avoid the car door and ends up crashing into it. According to the ATA, car door accidents are the most common manner in which Chicago cyclists are injured; however, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) does not maintain records on the number of bicycle-car door accidents in Illinois.
Illinois averaged over 3,500 crashes between bicyclists and motor vehicles each year from 2005 to 2009. According to IDOT, 18 to 27 of those crashes result in cyclist’s deaths and over 3,300 injuries every year. However, IDOT does not currently track the number of bicycle accidents in which a motor vehicle’s door is thrown open in the path of a moving bicycle. Without official records documenting the degree of the problem it is difficult for advocacy groups like ATA to raise motorist awareness and effect change in driver habits. In addition, a spokesperson for ATA stated that excluding dooring accidents from Illinois crash reports could decrease Illinois’s vehicle-bike accident report statistics by 15 percent.
While the IDOT might not record the incidences of bicycle-car door accidents, Illinois recently past a new law, Public Act 96-1007, which states
that a person driving a motor vehicle shall not, in a reckless manner, drive the vehicle unnecessarily close to, toward, or near a bicyclist, pedestrian, or a person riding a horse or driving an animal drawn vehicle.
Under this new law, it a Class A misdemeanor if the violation does not result in great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement. However, if the violation results in great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement to the victim, then it is classified as a Class 3 felony. The law also requires a motorist to leave a safe distance, not less than three feet, when passing a bicyclist or individual.
While this law lends hope to those who wish to increase bicycle safety, its effectiveness depends on how strictly it is enforced. The City of Chicago has had a law in place since 2008 which carries a fine from $150 to $500 for motorists who open a vehicle door in a bicyclist’s path. Yet only three tickets were issued by the Chicago Police Department for bicycle-car door incidents in 2010.
The importance of reporting these types of bicycle accidents becomes apparent when one considers that bicycle-car door collisions often result in serious injuries, with even one fatality being documented in Chicago. A Chicago Tribune article cited one Chicago Andersonville resident who was “doored” in October 2010. She suffered multiple injuries, including a dislocated rib, when a parked motorist opened his car door in the path of her bicycle.
For more information on bicycle safety, visit Illinois Secretary of State’s website for bicycle rules and safety tips.
Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Chicago bike accidents and Illinois car accident lawsuits for more than 35 years in and around Chicago and Cook County, including Berwyn, Chicago Heights, Prospect Heights, and Morton Grove.
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