Many drivers engage in behaviors which cause bicycle riders to be in danger. There are a lot of reasons for this. One problem is sometimes drivers simply do not realize what it takes to keep a bike rider safe. Another issue is drivers are sometimes unwilling to do what it takes to protect bicycle riders because they resent the presence of bicyclists on major roadways. Slate discussed this phenomenon, indicating many drivers "hate" bicycle riders because they don't accept biking as a real means of transportation like driving. If cars don't see bicycle riders as "equals" on the road, they are less likely to share the road in a responsible manner.
This has really serious consequences, especially in Florida. Florida has the highest death rate of bike riders nationwide, according to Tampa Bay Times. Many of the accidents which are fatal to bike riders happen as a direct result of the fact a driver failed to be safe when sharing the road. If a driver does cause a collision by not respecting the rights of a bicycle rider, the driver can be held accountable by the bike crash victim or by the family of a victim if the crash was a fatal one.
Share-the-road accidents can happen if:
- Drivers get too close to bicycle riders and cause a sideswipe accident or knock the biker off balance.
- Drivers open their car doors into the path of an oncoming bicycle rider when the car is parking and the bicyclist is passing.
- Drivers fail to yield to a bicycle rider when the bike rider has the right-of-way.
- Drivers don't check for the presence of a bicycle rider when making a turn or changing lanes.
- Drivers bring their vehicles into the bicycle lane.
These are just a few of many examples of situations where the actions of a driver put bicycle riders in jeopardy of serious injury or even death. Drivers who engage in these dangerous behaviors can and should be held accountable. Not only are drivers expected to exercise reasonable care to share the road in a safe way to protect bicycle riders, but there are also specific laws applicable to how riders and drivers share the road.
For example, Florida Statute 316.083 requires that a driver who is passing a bicycle rider must leave a "safe distance" of at least three feet between the driver and the bicycle rider. If a driver fails to follow this rule, or other rules determining how to safely share the road, the driver's violation of a motor vehicle safety law can create a presumption the driver was negligent and is thus responsible for any injuries resulting from an accident his negligence has caused to occur.