Plea in fatal bike accident draws focus to proposed bike law

May is national Bike Month and in Ohio, a series of fatal car versus bicycle accidents have drawn focus to some tragic statistics. Numbers taken from the most recent data compiled by the Ohio Department of Public Safety indicate that there were 1,928 accidents involving cars and bicycles throughout the state in 2012. Of that number, 18 bicyclists died as a result of those collisions, while 1,525 were injured.

A bill that is now in committee in the Ohio House of Representatives seeks to reduce those numbers by increasing the distance which cars are allowed to pass by bicyclists. Presently, the law only says that cars must maintain a safe distance away, but the proposed bill would enumerate that distance by requiring at least three feet of clearance.

Last month a 49-year-old woman from Martin, Ohio, pleaded no contest to misdemeanor vehicular homicide for her role in the death of a 21-year-old bicyclist from Massachusetts. The accident happened on Sep. 23, 2013 on State Rt. 163 in Clay Township. According to witnesses, the victim was riding her touring bike properly to the right of the road's edge when an SUV driven by the defendant struck her from behind at approximately 55 mph. The proposed law might have prevented this tragedy because the defendant told police that the glare of the sun had obscured her sight. She might have missed the victim if she had kept a three-foot distance.

The president of the Ohio Bicycle Federation says in addition to the space requirement, the bill would also help cyclists by extending the same rights and obligations as cars. For example, motorists would have to yield to cyclists at intersections just as they would do to another car.

Although sometimes fatal, car versus bike accidents seriously injure people much more frequently. Broken bones and expensive medical bills are just some of the costs that injured drivers might experience in such a crash. Cyclists who suffer injury should know that they may be entitled to recover compensation after being hit by a negligent driver.

Source: Norwalk Deflector, "Killed bicyclist helps put spotlight on safety" Mark Reiter, May. 12, 2014

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