According to the Ontario Road Safety Annual Report, 18 people died and more than 2,500 people were injured in bicycle accidents in 2010 in the province. Nearly half of those accidents involved a bicyclist who was “driving properly” at the time of the crash. Data suggests automotive drivers may have been to blame in roughly half of bike crashes that year.
In the interest of providing a safe traffic environment for both bicyclists and drivers, below are four safety tips for drivers:
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Tip 1: Understand Ontario’s Bicycle Laws
Bicycles are classified as vehicles under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. This means bicyclists are subject to the same rights and expectations as those driving cars or trucks.
A few of the most important laws for bicyclists include:
- bikes belong on the road or in designated bicycle lanes (contrary to what some drivers believe, bicycles should not be ridden on the sidewalk and, in fact, are prohibited from doing so in many municipalities);
- bicycles are expected to stay to the right side of the lane (even so, a driver should overtake a bicyclist only when it is safe to do so);
- bicycles are required to obey traffic lights and signs (use this to anticipate a bicyclist’s actions at an intersection but know not all bicyclists will obey this law); and
- bicyclists are required to signal a turn and may use an arm to do so.
As a driver, you are expected to treat bicyclists with the same courtesy and duty of care you would extend to any other vehicle. Failure to do so may constitute liability in the event of a collision.
Tip 2: Exercise Patience and Share the Road
If you must pass a bicycle on the left, do so efficiently and at a low speed. Do not pass if the maneuver would require you to accelerate quickly to avoid striking an oncoming car – this indicates it is not a safe time to complete the pass. Leave the same following distance between your vehicle and a bicycle as you would with any other vehicle.
Tip 3: Do Not Be a Distracted Driver
A distracted driver is a danger to all who share the road, but bicyclists and pedestrians may be particularly vulnerable to the effects of distracted driving. While driving, refrain from behaviors such as:
- texting and/or using a cell phone (Ontario Regulation 366/09 under the Highway Traffic Act bans the use of handheld devices while driving);
- playing with the radio or other car controls;
- eating; and
- looking at accidents, billboards or other external distractions.
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Tip 4: Make it a Habit Always to Look Twice for Bikes
Learn to anticipate and expect bicycles in a variety of driving situations:
- check both rear and side mirrors for bicyclists before completing turns (in particular, a right turn when a bike approaching from behind may continue going straight); and
- look for approaching bikes before opening a driver-side door after parallel parking on a street.
Other ways to prevent accidents of any kind include not drinking and driving and obeying all traffic laws. If you or someone you love has been injured in a bicycle crash in Ontario, contact the Preszler Law Firm to discuss your legal options and right to compensation. Call 1-800-JUSTICE®.