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Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents in California

Leading Causes of Bicycle Accidents

In 2020, 938 pedal cyclists (i.e. bicyclists and other cyclists including those who ride tricycles, unicycles, or other nonmotorized two-wheel vehicles) died in bicycle traffic accidents, which was a nine percent increase from 2019. Another 38,886 pedal cyclists were injured in crashes (see the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Bicyclists and Other Cyclists data sheet). Whether these incidents involve motor vehicles or other cyclists, what are the common causes of these bicycle crashes?

Below, we will discuss common causes of bicycle accidents. To learn how you can avoid a bicycle accident, you can read our previous blog, “California Bicycle Laws & Safety Tips,” and the NHTSA’s Bicycle Safety guidelines.

Right-of-Way Errors

Bicyclists are entitled to the same rights as other road users, and at traffic lights, four-way stops, and on the road, drivers should respect that bicyclists have the right of way in certain situations. However, some drivers forget to watch for cyclists and/or fail to yield to cyclists at stop signs or traffic lights and when turning or changing lanes. Drivers may also not pay attention when bicyclists signal, which can lead to right-of-way errors and accidents.

Tailgating Cyclists

When drivers follow too closely behind bicyclists, they risk rear-ending or side-swiping the cyclists, which can have dangerous consequences. Even a small tap from a car can lead to serious injuries as bicycles are not built to handle the force of direct contact. If a vehicle is traveling closely behind a cyclist or sounds like it’s close, the cyclist may also swerve or overcorrect to avoid the vehicle, which can lead to an accident.


When drivers speed, their reaction time and ability to maintain control of their vehicle decreases significantly. With a smaller margin of error, if they need to stop or maneuver around a cyclist, many drivers make catastrophic mistakes when speeding. Because they are driving at a higher speed, the more force the vehicle will impart in the accident, which can lead to more severe injuries.

Distracted Driving or Riding

If drivers or riders get distracted from the road and operating their vehicles, they risk being involved in an accident. Distractions can include:

  • Texting or talking on the phone
  • Snacking or drinking water (while in motion)
  • Fiddling with the GPS or radio
  • Adjusting in-vehicle or bicycle control
  • Talking to passengers
  • Daydreaming

Recklessness on Sidewalks or in Parking Lots

Many bicycle accidents occur in parking lots and sidewalks. In lots (and even on the street), drivers may open the door f their parked vehicles without checking their mirrors, and passing cyclists may collide with the open door. Cyclists, on the other hand, may not be paying attention to cars in driveways or pedestrians when they try to avoid traffic by driving on the sidewalk.

Impaired Driving & Riding

If drivers or cyclists are under the influence while they are on the road, an accident is likely to happen. Alcohol and drugs can reduce your reaction time, impair your judgment, prevent you from fully concentrating, and interfere with your depth perception. It is also important to note that drowsiness has the same affect on the body as alcohol, and driving drowsy can lead to a dangerous accident.

Injured in a Bicycle Accident? Contact Our Firm Today!

At Eliot Reiner, APLC, we are committed to helping our clients achieve the best possible case results. With over 30 years of collective experience, our attorneys offer each client personalized attention and solutions, and we can help you maximize your compensation and minimize your liability if you are injured in a bicycle accident. Once you retain our services, we can help you understand your legal options and advise you so that you can make informed decisions; whether you need help with negotiations or litigation, we can support you throughout the legal process.

Don’t try to handle negotiations or litigate yourself—we’re here to help. Learn more about how we can help you by calling (916) 778-3228 or reaching out to our team online.

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