When you are first learning to ride a bike, you take precautions to ensure your safety – perhaps by wearing a bicycle helmet, or by using training wheels. But as we become more confident bicyclists we tend to abandon those safety measures. However, the decision not to wear a bicycle helmet and to engage in dangerous bike riding behavior can lead to potentially fatal bicycle accidents.
According to a recent report released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in 2009 alone 630 bicyclists were killed in motor vehicle accidents and 51,000 bicyclists were injured. Of those bicyclists who were killed, the study showed that 91 percent of them were not wearing bicycle helmets. And according to the National Highway Safety Administration, only about 35% of bicyclists use bike helmets on a regular basis.
Illinois does not currently have a bicycle helmet law in place that would require bicycle riders to wear an approved helmet while riding their bicycles. In fact, only 37 of the 50 U.S. states actually require bike riders to wear helmets; most of the bike helmet laws in place only apply to riders aged 18 and younger.
One of the more common causes of bicycle-auto accidents is when either a bicyclist or motorists decides not to stop at a red light or stop sign. However, a recent change to the Illinois Vehicle Code could mean an increase in these types of bike accidents. The new law states that motorcyclists and bicyclist now have the right to proceed through a red light in cases involving signal failure. The law states that the motorcyclists and bicyclists must make a proper stop, but then may enter an intersection when a red light fails to change to green within a reasonable period of time or when the signal fails to detect the arrival of the vehicle.
And while the law only applies to municipalities with less than 2 million inhabitants, and carries a stipulation that the motorists must yield the right of way to oncoming traffic who have a green light, the law still increases the likelihood of bicycle-motorist intersection accidents. Bicycle safety does not seem to be the primary concern of the new Illinois laws; rather the laws are meant to increase motorists’ rights in the case of faulty traffic lights. Another component of the new law also voids automated traffic violations that occur due to signal failure or malfunctions. (625 ILCS 5/11-208.6 and 11.306)
However, even those changes to the roadways that are specifically meant to increase the safety of bicyclists are not 100 percent effective. Take for example Chicago’s designated bike lanes. These bike lanes are supposed to increase the safety of Chicago’s bicyclists, protecting them from both bike-car accidents and dooring. “Dooring” occurs when a motorist suddenly opens a parked car door in the path of a bicyclist, giving them no time to avoid the collision, and forcing the bicycle to run into the opened car door.
While Chicago’s bike lanes have in fact been helpful, they do not leave the bicycle completely free from danger on Chicago’s streets. Not to mention the fact that these designated bike lanes are limited and do not extend throughout the whole of Chicago. Therefore, if we want to improve bike safety and limit bicycle accidents, we also need to take measures to ensure that motorists and bicyclists respect each others’ rights and share the road.
Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Chicago bicycle accident lawsuits and Illinois automobile accident cases for individuals and families for more than 35 years in and around Chicago, Cook County, and surrounding areas, including Broadview, Brookfield, LaGrange, Countryside, Bedford Park, Homer Glen, and Stickney.
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