In a recent article featured in Seacoast Online, it was reported that Darriean Hess, a 19-year-old will soon face judges of the Superior Court. She was being held at Rockingham County jail after she admitted to being distracted while driving. Her decision to take her eyes off the road led to her car crossing the center line and making fatal contact with two cyclists. Two women, Pamela Wells (60) and Elisa Bouchard (52), will not return to their families. Bicycle safety is always a good way to make sure this does not happen again.
The accident occurred less than eight hours after Hess was pulled over for an invalid ID. She was retained until a friend could come and drive her home. Despite her lack of responsibility, Hess was able to post bail and was released from jail. She will be returning to the courts shortly for her hearing.
This case is a reminder to us that distracted driving does kill. It also points out how essential it is for bicyclists to be prepared for the unexpected. While Wells and Bouchard likely wouldn’t have had time to react, many bicycle-related accidents are avoidable.
According to Bicyclinginfo.org, more than 650 people died in bicycle accidents in 2011. Thirty-eight thousand suffered injuries requiring medical attention. When a bike meets a car, the car generally wins and the cyclist will most often pay the greatest cost. Fortunately, there are several things that bike riders can do to decrease the chances of an accident.
Be Visible. Even during the day, but especially after dark, it is very important to make yourself as visible as possible when riding a bike in St. Petersburg. Reflectors, bright colored clothing, and battery-powered headlights are great starting points. The easier it is to see you, the less likely a car is to accidentally hit you. If you do notice that a driver isn’t seeing you at an intersection or before making a turn, be sure to wave your arm and attract attention.
It might also be useful to employ a bike horn. Though relatively unsophisticated, the traditional bike horn is often loud enough to get drivers to look your way.
Beware of Parked Cars. While a moving car is likely to do more damage, even parked cars carry risk. A person failing to pay attention is likely to quickly open the car door. If you are nearby, you and your bike are likely to be taken out.
A personal injury attorney can help you collect financial reimbursement for medical and repair expenses, but that isn’t going to keep pain at bay. Stay as far left as possible when passing a row of parked cars and keep your eyes peeled for drivers who may be ready to step out.
Be Wary of Red Lights. Many cyclists make the mistake of riding alongside cars stopped at a red light. This places the rider in harm’s way. It generally means being in the driver’s blind spot and also blocks you from a view of others on the opposite side of the car you are riding beside. It is much safer to ride behind the cars waiting at a red light.
Stay Behind. It is not only at a red light that being on the right-hand side of a car is dangerous. Should the driver decide to take a sudden right turn, you are likely to be knocked off your bike and seriously injured if not killed. As a cyclist, avoid passing on the right. If it is not possible to pass on the left, then be sure to get the driver’s attention before moving to his or her right.
If you are involved in a bike accident in Saint Petersburg, seek legal assistance. It may be possible to collect compensation for your medical and repair expenses.