A car struck and killed a cyclist this week while attempting to cross the intersection of Bearss Avenue and N 16th Street, just north of the Village of Tampa. The motorist involved in the accident was unable to avoid the collision, because the cyclist was not immediately visible in the dark of night. The cyclist wore dark clothing and had no lights on his bicycle. The accident underscores the need for motorists to keep a watchful eye for cyclists on the road.
Sadly, this accident is just one of many in an area known for its frequent bike accidents. Florida has the highest bike death rate in the nation, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and these deaths overwhelming occur in our state’s biggest cities. Therefore, it’s essential for motorists in the Tampa Bay area to know how to navigate the road safely around cyclists and learn how to prevent car accidents.
Here are five defensive driving tips for motorists looking to avoid collisions with bicyclists.
Give Clearance When Passing Cyclists
It’s important to slow down and give at least three feet of clearance when passing a cyclist in order to avoid clipping them with your vehicle. This is not just common sense advice — in Florida, along with 25 other states, this clearance is required by law.
Watch Out with Those Right Turns
Be extra cautious when turning right on roadways where cyclists frequent, as a sudden and unexpected turn could result in the cyclist slamming into the side of your car. Cyclists generally ride on the right side of the road, so motorists should always check for bicyclists nearby before making a right turn to prevent a collision.
Check for Cyclists Before Opening Car Door
Even when your car is stopped, you still need to be aware of cyclists around you. Drivers who suddenly open their car door without looking can risk severely injuring or even killing cyclists caught in the “door zone.” A driver’s car door almost always opens into a cyclist’s lane of traffic, so it’s imperative to always check your side and rear-view mirrors for cyclists before opening your car door.
Don’t Honk at Cyclists
Some well-meaning motorists think it is customary to honk at cyclist to warn them of their presence. However, this practice can be very dangerous, according to bicycle safety awareness group Yield to Life. It may startle the cyclist and cause them to swerve into traffic or off the road. Instead of honking, slow down, give clearance, and stay alert until you have passed the cyclist safely.
Distracted driving is one of the greatest threats to all people who use the road, but studies show that this risky motorist behavior disproportionately harms pedestrians and cyclists. The number of bicyclist deaths rose by 30 percent between 2005 and 2010 due to distracted driving, according to the University of Nebraska Medical Center. This can be partially attributed to the increased use of cellphones while driving.
All drivers should remember that it only takes two seconds of distraction while driving to double your risk of a crash. Avoid eating, drinking, using your smartphone, adjusting your radio, and other distractions while driving to reduce the likelihood of a collision with a cyclist.
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