Articles Posted in Bicycle Accidents

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1214589454Q2B5aO.jpgIt makes sense that when we get on a bicycle or motorcycle, a helmet can keep us from serious brain injury. But many riders still resist the use of helmets even though they keep riders safer. Helmet use has not risen, but bike riding has. Perhaps riders don’t like to use a helmet because they assume that they cannot be seriously injured in the event of an accident or they believe that a helmet hinders their ability to see. But in my experience over two decades as a Gwinnett County bicycle accident lawyer, serious injuries can sometimes be avoided with the use of a helmet.

In some cities and states, bicycle helmets are required for all riders. In Georgia, our laws are a little different. We have several laws that provide for protective gear while riding a bicycle. Georgia’s bicycle helmet law found in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) section 40-6-296 (d) (1)) focuses on children and teens and states that “[n]o person under the age of 16 years shall operate or be a passenger on a bicycle on a highway, bicycle path, bicycle lane, or sidewalk under the jurisdiction or control of this state or any local political subdivision thereof without wearing a bicycle helmet.” Helmets are also required to meet or exceed the standards for bicycle helmets set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or the Snell Memorial Foundation.

Similarly, under OCGA section 40-6-292 (c) children under the age of one may not be passengers on a bicycle on a highway, roadway, bicycle path, or sidewalk unless certain equipment is used. This provision allows for the transport of young children using an infant sling or bicycle trailer as long as the manufacturer’s instructions are followed and the child is wearing a bicycle helmet.

Sharing the road with motor vehicles increases the danger that in the event of an accident or even a fall, the cyclist could be injured. For example, if a cyclist goes over the bike’s handlebars, serious injury can result.

Physicians see a lot of head injuries when helmets are not worn. As noted in one recent report, doctors and other experts favor helmets due to the nature of the brain’s tissues which is comprised of a soft, complex network of tissues that is not well-protected. They note that brain tissue is delicate and that the skull is not enough protection from serious injury to the brain in many bike crashes.

Unfortunately, many riders don’t realize that even in a low velocity crash, they can be injured seriously. But wearing a helmet often completely avoids significant head injury and riders often walk away from accidents if they have been wearing a helmet. Amazingly, the large study done in the late 1980’s showed that “wearing a helmet reduced the risk of head injury by 85 percent and of brain injury by 88 percent.” More recent statistics collected by researchers has revealed that “91 percent of bicyclists killed in 2008 weren’t wearing helmets.”

Doctors note that they cannot heal brain injuries in the same way that they can help patients heal broken bones or soft tissue injuries. As we have posted previously, traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be mild to severe, and symptoms vary greatly depending on the location of the injury. Even with milder TBI, symptoms can interfere with cognition and other functions, such as memory loss, sleep and concentration. Wearing a helmet decreases the risk of skull fracture and serious injury, although concussion can still occur when the brain moves inside the skull in an accident even with a helmet.

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Cyclists on country side roadCyclists know what it feels like to be vulnerable on the road. One of the dangers cyclists understand is the danger from the driver who does not see them or who is too impaired to avoid a bicycle crash. Because cycling has become one of the most favorite outdoor activities across the country, there are more bikes on the road. Cycling enthusiasts are found in so many settings, on mountains, on roads and on city streets; bicycles are all around us. We have become more like other countries around the world in which bicycles are prevalent. Not only are some Americans becoming less dependent on car travel, those riding are people of all ages.

There is always the potential that a cyclist will meet up with an impaired or distracted driver. Tragically, this happened here in Georgia last week. Athens, Georgia was the scene of a tragic bicycle accident that took the life of a 25 year old University of Georgia grad student. Two friends riding with her were injured in this Georgia bicycle accident. Reports indicate that she and the others were struck by a driver who was under the influence of drugs. The driver crossed over into the oncoming lane or traffic in this crash. The cycling community rode in her memory and is mourning the loss of her life.

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iStock_000006752189XSmallIt is with a heavy heart that we post about a recent tragic bicycle crash in Hampton. We have written repeatedly about a growing trend across America. That trend is the apparent difficulty that motor vehicles are having sharing the road with pedestrians and cyclists. And now a beloved Henry County doctor has lost his life in a bicycle accident. He was riding his bicycle with a group of others and was struck by a vehicle. As the group was riding, a motor vehicle hit the doctor’s bike from the rear. No other bicyclist was hit or harmed. However, the doctor was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital and passed away from his injuries.

Although we do not normally name the victim of accidents in our blog posts, we believe the public should know about this wonderful man. Dr. John A. Harsch, the victim of this accident is said by all to have been a beloved physician and a popular and enthusiastic cyclist. His community and the wider Georgia cycling and medical communities mourn his loss. His devotion to medicine and the healing arts are only some of the important things for which he was known. He loved cycling and had a generous heart — going out of his way to help those in need.

The accident occurred in a location that involved a curve in the road. After the vehicle made a turn, for unknown reasons, the driver struck the cyclist. Authorities have said that the accident is under investigation. At the present time, it is not determined whether charges will be filed against the driver for the death of the cyclist. A grand jury will make the decision whether the driver will be charged.

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1214589454Q2B5aOThis past May, Georgia General Assemby passed the “Motorcycle Mobility Safety Act,” also known as Senate Bill 76. This legislation included language for both motorcyclists and bicyclists to allow them to carefully enter intersections and go through red lights under limited circumstances. The light weight of bikes and cycles can be an issue at some intersections. Given the small size and light weight of many bikes and almost all cycles, engineers have yet to alter many traffic lights in Georgia to ensure that lights will change to green. Under the SB 76, a rider would be responsible for determining whether or not it was safe to enter the intersection. If a Georgia bike crash resulted, the accident would be evidence that necessary caution was not used.

Known as the “dead red” bill, many cyclists and bike riders were involved in helping to get SB 76 through to law. Governor Deal vetoed the legislation. In his veto statement he expressed his “sympathetic concern” for riders in these circumstances, but also stated that allowing bicycles and motorcycles to pass through these intersections would present confusion to motorists. He also expressed safety concerns about a provision of the bill that would have eliminated the 15 inch height controls on motorcycle handlebars. He noted that increased height can make it more difficult to control and steer a motorcycle. Ultimately, he vetoed the bill because given that 13 percent of Georgia’s fatal accidents involve bicyclists and motorcyclists, the bill would not improve Georgia’s road safety.

Some states have enacted laws to deal with these “dead red” zones. These stops are also “Idaho Stops,” since Idaho is one state that has had such legislation on the books for several decades. There are a few states which have also enacted the type of law that the Georgia legislature passed, but by far most states do not have such provisions. The Governor’s veto of the legislation and the Georgia cycling community’s support of it, demonstrates the ongoing dialogue necessary for greater sharing of the road. Public right of ways allow use by trucks, cars, motorcycles and bikes. The question continues to be how all these vehicles can safely travel.

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1214589454Q2B5aOLast week, a pedestrian walking his bicycle was hit and killed by a driver in southwest Atlanta. The Atlanta police are searching for the suspect who may have owned the vehicle that killed the man … the vehicle was abandoned nearby. This situation may have been intentional, as the driver turned on the road and hit the cyclist while he was on the sidewalk. Or perhaps it was some sort of road rage. We do not know at this point, but what is true is that pedestrians and bicyclists are vulnerable to careless drivers not only in Atlanta, but all over the country.

Recently, the League of American Bicyclists studied how bicycle accidents and fatalities occur and how they are reported. Their study which was called “Every Bicyclist Counts” determined that by far the greatest danger to a bicyclist is a rear end collision. A stunning 40 percent of those bicyclists who lose their lives on their bikes in this way … the vehicle essentially overtakes the bicyclist. Additional factors that contributed to these bike crashes that were attributed to the driver involved were revealing as well. In over 40% of these fatal accidents, the driver was inattentive or careless. And other sobering statistics included that the drivers causing fatal injury to bicyclists were under the influence in about 12% of the accidents studied and had left the scene or hit and run in about 36% of the accidents.

The study also made it clear that it is important for governmental entities to ensure that roads are safe for those riding bicycles. It is also clear that the media and law enforcement need to do a better job in reporting facts after these accidents. Often critical data is not reported regarding these crashes and that makes it difficult for researchers to study why and how such fatalities occur.

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1214589454Q2B5aOBicyclists love this time of year … the good weather and sunshine makes riding a real joy. And with so many beautiful rides in Georgia and many events that are aimed at bike enthusiasts, our state is a great place for a great ride. One recent bicycling event was a somber reminder that our roads can also be unfriendly at times. Earlier this week, Roswell City Hall was the site of a memorial for those who have lost loved ones and friends due to bicycle or pedestrian accidents. There were opportunities to memorialize those tragedies and the people who have lost their lives on foot or on a bicycle. In addition, a forum was created during this event in which those attending were given two minutes each to express their feelings and ideas about how Georgians can lower the fatality rate for those who are sharing the road with motor vehicles of all kinds.

The Georgia Department of Transportation keeps tabs on many aspects of road safety and statistics and is reporting a very steep rise in bicycle fatalities since last year. The alarming statistic is that as compare to 2014, these fatalities have risen a shocking 63 percent. Overall, those most vulnerable sharing the road such as bicycle riders and pedestrians, comprise over 15 percent of Georgia’s traffic and road fatalities. On their Twitter feed, GDOT notes that in the first three months of 2015, 17% of fatalities on our roads were either bicyclists or pedestrians.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 1214589454Q2B5aO.jpgLast month, we posted about a Morningside hit and run involving a person driving a vehicle and a cyclist, which apparently was the result a previous interaction between the two. The vehicle’s driver has now been arrested. The accident … which authorities allege was an intentional collision … seriously injured a cyclist who was hospitalized for an extended time and is now recovering from brain trauma at another location under medical care. The suspect in the hit and run was taken into custody and is charged with several serious charges, including attempted murder and serious injury by vehicle found in Official Code of Georgia sections 16-4-1, 16-4-1(a) and 40-6-394. The cyclist and the vehicle’s driver had an interchange only minutes prior to the hit and run. Although he tried to extricate himself from the verbal altercation, the cyclist was tracked down and according to police intentionally struck by the driver. In addition, another person (apparently the driver’s girlfriend) has been arrested for evidence tampering. This too is a serious crime in Georgia set out in Official Code of Georgia section 16-10-94 which prohibits interfering with evidence or with the apprehension or prosecution of persons involved in potentially criminal activities.

The hit and run appears to have been solved through the offering of a reward and the type of investigative work we have discussed previously in hit and run accidents. In this situation, the authorities were able to locate evidence that matched up to the arrested suspect’s vehicle. In addition, the reports on the arrests reveal that investigators also had some video recorded evidence that shows the suspect’s girlfriend who has also been arrested, with doing something with the evidence in their possession. The investigation was also greatly guided and supported with the use of video from the scene. Cameras captured an unusual sequence of events that unfolded on a quiet evening in Morningside.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for bicycles on georgia roadEarlier this month, a cyclist ended up in critical condition after an incident in Morningside. The situation is complicated by the fact that a driver involved in this incident has not yet been located and the police are asking for the public’s help. The police have said they need anyone with information to help find an SUV driver who allegedly intentionally struck the cyclist after a traffic incident. After viewing videos of the situation, authorities intend to charge the driver of the SUV with aggravated assault which is found in Official Code of Georgia section 16-5-21. They need to find him first. A $15,000 reward has now been raised to help find the suspect.

The cyclist who remains hospitalized with catastrophic injuries to his head and neck, was struck by an SUV after what appears to be an altercation. The authorities have been assisted by a video that shows an SUV driving on Flagler Avenue in one direction, going out of view and then driving in the opposite direction. The video also reveals the cyclist riding very fast in that same direction being followed by the SUV. Those who witnessed the event, have told the police that they heard a verbal dispute between the driver and the cyclist prior to the cyclist being struck. The cyclist had a close call with the SUV on an intersecting road prior to being hit on Flagler. The cyclist apparently was speeding off trying to avoid being further involved with the driver when allegedly (and the video indicates this) the SUV driver turned around to follow him and allegedly to intentionally strike him. The vehicle involved is a Dodge Nitro, in a burgundy color. It is anticipated that there might be damage to this SUV.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for bicycles on georgia roadAs we approach the holiday season, there is a greater likelihood that fun and holiday cheer will result in tragedy on the road. In modern life we have become somewhat used to the hectic nature of the season and the losses made more poignant by this season. And when loss occurs during this time of year, families suffer a greater sense of this loss because this is a time when families gather. Sadly, a Cobb County incident involving a DUI, resulted in the death of one person and injuries to the allegedly drunk driver and a bicyclist just before the holiday season in late October. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that charges have already been filed against the driver in this incident and an arrest is likely to follow.

The nature of the charges including the most serious first degree vehicular homicide which is found at Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-393 , derive from an incident that occurred earlier this fall. The reported facts are that the driver was traveling at a high rate of speed and struck the bicyclist, then hit a tree. His passenger was killed also the man riding his bicycle on Riverside Parkway was seriously injured. Unfortunately the bicycle rider sustained injuries that involved the spinal cord and cervical spine, but were said to be survivable. The driver also sustained some level of injury.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Motorcycle rider on fall roadway.jpgA series of horrific crashes around Atlanta and Georgia earlier this month has left motorists, including bikers and cyclists injured and worse. These accidents were not due to bad weather or visibility, but apparently were just a constellation of terrible circumstances with tragic results. We posted about a string of deadly and serious accidents on our Atlanta Injury Attorneys Blog.

In one bike crash, a 46-year-old rider died after losing control of his motorcycle. His bike left the road on Cobb Parkway near Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta. In another incident on the same night, two bikers from Lithia Springs, were both killed after hitting a car stopped on I-285 southbound between Camp Creek Parkway and Washington Road. And a third motorcyclist, 43-year-old of Douglasville, was also injured in the accident.

And on Georgia 400, a woman riding on the back of a bike, was thrown off of it when her brother, the driver clipped a wall. She was then hit by another vehicle that left the scene and police are still trying to find that driver. The driver of the bike who is the deceased woman’s brother, was not seriously injured. He has been arrested and charged with DUI, reckless driving, failure to maintain his proper lane and first-degree vehicular homicide.

First degree vehicular homicide or homicide by vehicle, is a felony found in the Annotated Code of Georgia section 40-6-393 (a). This provision states that a driver under the influence of alcohol or drugs that causes the death of another person can be sentenced to up to 15 years of imprisonment. The minimum sentence can be longer for habitual DUI violators.

Late the same night, a 52-year-old man was struck and killed while riding a bicycle on Georgia Highway 6 in Paulding County. This cyclist was struck by a car driven by a young adult from Hiram.

It is difficult to imagine what all the injured are dealing with and it is even more difficult to imagine the sense of loss for families who have lost a loved one in these crashes. It goes without saying that we are saddened by any loss of life in the biking community. The sense of loss is worsened when we consider that avoiding drinking and driving is something that all of us can and should do. In at least one of the accidents here, if the allegations are true, this might have saved at least one of the lives lost in recent days.

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