Georgia Laws: Using Bicycles on Public Roads
In Georgia, bicycles are classified as vehicles and have to follow all of the same rules of the road that car and truck drivers have to follow, including stopping at stop signs and red lights, yielding the right of way, and signaling before turns. They also have to follow the speed limit, although this is not usually a critical issue for cyclists. If riding at night, you need to equip your bicycle with a headlight and either a red rear light or a red rear reflector.
Like motor vehicle drivers, cyclists must yield to pedestrians. If a pedestrian is in a crosswalk, cyclists are legally required to stop and wait until the pedestrian has completely finished crossing the road. Cyclists are required to yield to pedestrians at all times, even if what the pedestrian is doing is technically illegal, such as jaywalking.
Also, there are specific laws that only apply to bicycle operators. For example, bicyclists need to ride as close to the right-hand side of the road as is safely possible except when turning left. Before turning left, the bicyclist needs to move into the left-turn lane or to the left-hand side of the road.
It is illegal to ride a bicycle on a sidewalk in Georgia. In Georgia, anyone under the age of 16 who is riding a bicycle on a public road must wear an approved safety helmet. Minors under the age of 16 who violate bicycle use laws will not be fined or imprisoned, but their parents or guardians can be charged with a misdemeanor.
Bicyclists can be convicted of reckless endangerment, reckless driving, illegal obstruction of roadways, and hit-and-runs if they cause an accident and leave the scene without identifying themselves, or providing assistance to anyone who may need help.
What Are the Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents in Georgia
In Georgia during a recent 10-year period, there were 5,834 accidents caused by a car and a bicycle colliding, which resulted in 4,482 injuries and 63 fatalities – a 77% injury rate and a 1.4% fatality rate.
These bicycle accident statistics were characterized by the following:
- The bicyclist was assigned some or all of the fault in 50% of the accidents.
- The bicyclist was a man or teenage boy in 77% of the accidents.
- The mean age of the bicyclist was 31 years.
- Slightly over half of these accidents occurred in large cities.
The most common scenario of a vehicle/bicycle collision is when a motor vehicle suddenly turns right or left, directly into the path of the bicycle. In most cases, the driver admits they did not notice the bicycle was there. In some cases, the driver saw the bicycle but mistakenly assumed there was plenty of time and space to turn safely before the cyclist arrived at the intersection. Similar situations occur when drivers suddenly change lanes and end up right in front of a cyclist, who cannot stop in time and hits the vehicle.
Another common cause of bicycle accidents is when a driver or passenger in a parked car suddenly opens the door of the vehicle right into the path of a cyclist, who either hits the door or gets hit by a moving vehicle after swerving to avoid the car door.
Common themes in these accidents are that motorists don’t see cyclists, don’t look for cyclists, or notice them but underestimate their speed and ability to react quickly.
Reckless driving by both cyclists and motor vehicle operators can also cause bicycle accidents. Cyclists who weave in and out of traffic, run stop signs and red lights, and don’t stop at crosswalks are at high risk of hitting a car or a pedestrian or being hit by a car. Likewise, car drivers who use excessive speed and drive recklessly are more likely to fail to notice a bicycle or be unable to react quickly enough to avoid hitting a cyclist.
A final factor in bicycle accidents is poor road conditions. Cyclists who hit potholes can crash, and debris accumulating on the shoulder of the road can cause cyclists to crash or swerve suddenly to the left, directly into the path of oncoming vehicles.
Injured Bicyclists May Seek Compensation for Damages
Cyclists injured on public roads have the right to seek compensation for damages. If the accident is caused by poor road conditions, such as potholes or debris on the road, the governmental agency responsible for maintaining the street can be found liable. If the accident is caused by the reckless or negligent behavior of a motor vehicle driver, the driver can be required to pay compensation to the injured cyclist.
In Georgia, a cyclist must be found to be less than 50% responsible for a bike collision or accident to be eligible for compensation.
Some common reasons why a cyclist might be considered responsible for a bicycle accident include:
- Not stopping at a stop sign (19% of accidents)
- Riding the wrong way, against traffic (15% of accidents)
- Failing to yield the right of way (10% of accidents)
In addition, cyclists could be assigned some of the blame for an accident if they failed to give hand signals before stopping or turning, did not have a headlight or reflectors, were riding under the influence, or were cycling recklessly in hazardous weather or road conditions.
Cyclists aren’t required to carry liability insurance because even if they technically caused the accident, the cyclist usually incurs most of the damage. The majority of bicycle accidents are caused in full or in part by reckless motor vehicle drivers, who are responsible for the injuries and damage that occur due to their negligence.
However, regular cyclists should consider obtaining some form of liability insurance coverage. If you are a victim of a hit-and-run or an uninsured driver, your insurance may cover your expenses. If not, the state does maintain a special fund for victims of uninsured drivers, or you could file a civil lawsuit against the driver. If the driver was working at the time of the accident (an Uber driver or food deliverer, for example), the employer might be liable for your expenses. It is essential to consult a bike accident injury attorney under these special circumstances to determine the best strategy to pursue.
How to Stay Safe While Biking and How Drivers Can Help Keep Cyclists Safe
Some necessary steps to improve safety while biking include:
- Wear an approved helmet specifically designed for cycling.
- Use a headlight and reflectors. In Georgia, only a headlamp and one rear red reflector are required, but additional reflectors, such as ones placed in the spokes, on the pedals, and wrapped around various parts of the bicycle frame, can significantly improve the visibility of the bicycle to motorists.
- Consider wearing a high-visibility traffic vest while biking to improve your visibility.
- Use a rear-view mirror mounted on your helmet or handlebars to improve your awareness of traffic behind you.
- Learn the hand signals for left and right turns and stopping, and use them consistently to warn others of your upcoming movements.
- Never pass a motor vehicle that is stopped at a crosswalk, stop sign, or red light.
- Be wary of passing parked cars. Watch out for doors suddenly opening right in front of you.
Drivers of motor vehicles can significantly improve road safety by following some simple rules. First, be aware there are cyclists out there and look for them before doing things like making sudden right-hand turns or opening the door of a parked car. In addition, by law, in Georgia, motor vehicle operators are required to maintain at least a three-foot distance from cyclists.
Why You Need a Bicycle Accident Attorney
If you or a loved one was injured in a bicycle accident, it is essential to consult an attorney. The other party (or their insurance company) will likely do everything they can to try to shift some or all of the blame onto you to avoid having to pay you what you’re owed for your injuries. Our team of attorneys stands ready to make sure that doesn’t happen.
If you’ve been injured in a bicycle accident, Geiger Legal Group, LLC, will fight for the compensation you need to cover your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, property losses, and more.
We are a local, family-run, five-star-rated law firm who cares about our community, and the people in it. We are able to provide high-quality representation every time because, at our firm, every client’s case is unique and warrants our personalized attention.
Contact us online or call us today for a free consultation and case review. We’re here to help.