More and more New Jersey residents are cycling. It is great exercise, provides an efficient method of burning calories, and, particularly in urban settings, can be a great way to get to work. Unfortunately, cyclists can’t win for losing. That is to say – many are caught in a dangerous sort of Catch-22.
The law requires that they ride as far to the right side of the street as possible, so as not to obstruct traffic. Yet in doing so, they run the risk of “dooring”– when a motorist or passenger, without warning, opens a car door into the cyclist’s path. The result can be devastating for the cyclist.
The Cyclist Usually Has No Warning
All too often, the cyclist is completely unaware that someone is about to exit the car. Many vehicles have tinted windows, making it impossible to see into the passenger compartment for signs that someone is about to exit the car. Some small cars can be virtually invisible if parked between two SUVs. Weather can also play a role. On sunny days, the cyclist has to contend with glare.
Many States Have Passed Special “Exit” Laws
According to The League of American Bicyclists, some 40 states – although not New Jersey – have special traffic laws requiring that a driver verify that he or she can safely open the car door before doing so. Typical laws mandate that the driver also determine that opening the door will not interfere with moving traffic and that the door is not open for any longer than necessary. Evidence appears to show that states that have enacted such laws have seen a reduction in dooring accidents.
Tips to Avoid or Minimize Dooring Accidents
Although the cards seem stacked against the cyclist, there are some measures that can be taken to avoid dooring accidents, or at least minimize the injury if one occurs. They include the following.
- Not assuming that any car is safely parked. This, of course, is easier said than done, but if you see any activity within or near a car, assume someone is about to exit.
- Wearing your helmet to prevent serious head injuries.
- Being mindful of your surroundings. A lot has been written about drivers who are distracted. The same sometimes applies to cyclists. A distracted cyclist is much more susceptible to dooring than one who is vigilant.
- Avoiding heavy traffic areas. If traffic is light, the cyclist has more freedom to stay out of the “door zone.”
Have You Had a Cycling Accident?
Have you or a member of your family been in a cycling accident? In spite of the fact that New Jersey has no special laws to protect cyclists, the usual rules of the road apply and, if you can establish negligence on the part of the driver, you can recover substantial damages if you’ve been the victim of a dooring event.
The legal team at Petro Cohen, PC can provide you with caring and aggressive legal assistance regarding your injury and claim. We have the experience and know-how to give you an honest assessment as to the compensability of your injury. Our attorneys are skilled at case management and can often negotiate a favorable settlement. Cycling claims can be difficult to establish, but Petro Cohen, P.C. has the experience to handle them. Call toll-free today at (888) 675-7607, or fill out our online contact form and we will be in-touch promptly.