Cyclists Facing Road Rage
Legally speaking, Florida bicyclists have as much right to the road as any motor vehicle driver (see F.S. 316.2065 ). Even so, many motorists display outright contempt for bicyclists in Fort Lauderdale.
Cyclists are too often the target of road rage, the wrath of aggressive drivers who disdain them for daring to ride on the same roads. These incidents are sometimes referred to as “bike rage,” and the consequences of cyclists facing road rage can be serious – even fatal.
The Fort Lauderdale bicycle accident attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm are committed to fighting for the rights of road rage victims. It’s important to point out there are some unique challenges in these cases because auto insurance companies may refuse to cover damages caused by “intentional acts.”
Although drivers take the view that cyclists are often to blame for their own injuries, extensive research has established that the majority of bicycle vs. car accidents in South Florida occur when motorists don’t see the cyclist and fail to yield the right-of-way.
The reality is, many of our roads were designed for motor vehicles. We can blame that on a lot of different factors, but mostly, when many of our roads and communities were built out the 20th Century, fewer people were biking. Roads were built wide and speed limits high to accommodate motor vehicle traffic. Little if any consideration was given to bike lanes or sharrows or pedestrian crossings. That is changing. The City of Fort Lauderdale is promoting safe cycling, and has prioritized improvement of cycling infrastructure, including interconnected bicycling paths, clearly-marked lanes, bicycle racks and bicycle valets.
Motorists’ mindset, however, may take a bit longer. Too many drivers feel a sense of entitlement to the roads, and resent cyclists for traveling more slowly or, in their belief, impede their progress. This in turn can lead to aggression, which has proven dangerous on numerous occasions of cyclists facing road rage of which our lawyers are aware.What is Aggressive Driving?
Aggressive driving is defined by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT ) as when people commit a combination of moving traffic offenses that endanger other persons or property. Per F.S. 316.1923, it involves two or more of the following:
- Improper passing;
- Failure to yield the right-of-way;
- Unsafe or improper lane changes;
- Following too closely;
- Failure to obey traffic control devices (i.e., stop signs, traffic signals, yield signs, etc.).
In numerous surveys of Florida drivers, FDOT reports aggressive driving is consistently named as one of the top three traffic safety concerns.
Combine that with the exponential growth of bicycle commuting, both nationally and in Florida, and the rise in bicycle-related road rage makes sense. The League of American Bicyclists reports bicycle commuting rates in bicycle-friendly cities grew by 105 percent from 2000 to 2013, and in non-bicycle-friendly cities by 62 percent during that same time.
Florida was among those states that saw a 40 to 69 percent increase in bicycle commuting between 2005 and 2013, the League reported.Road Rage Directed at Bicyclists
Examples of cyclists facing road rage are continuing to grow. Among them:
- A Florida driver on Sanibel Island is caught on video cutting off a group of cyclists on a two-lane road and then slamming on the brakes in front of them, causing one of the cyclists to crash into the back. After exchanging expletives with the other cyclists, the driver fled. Driver, later identified as a retired physician, was cited for careless driving. The injured cyclist later sued for negligence.
- A driver in California cursed a group of cyclist as he passed in an L.A. suburb. They exchanged words, the driver pulled out in front and then slammed on the brakes, causing the two cyclists to crash and suffer serious injuries. That motorists, a physician, was arrested and charged with six felonies, including assault with a deadly weapon. An officer who responded to the scene reported the driver said he wanted to “teach (the bicyclists) a lesson.”
- A driver in Alabama was arrested for criminal mischief and reckless endangerment after running over a man’s bicycle with his vehicle after the two argued about right-of-way laws.
Some other instances that are considered road rage toward bicyclists:
- Swerving toward the bicycle rider or deliberately passing too closely;
- Shouting expletives, abusive language or honking the horn;
- Throwing objects;
- “Squeezing” the bicycle rider by forcing their way through traffic.
Those who study these issues say the core problem may be that many drivers don’t ride bicycles. When a conflict arises, they find it hard to relate to cyclists. They may take the poor behavior of one cyclist and generalize it to all others, not recognizing it for the isolated incident it is, and behaving aggressively toward the next cyclist they encounter.Know Your Rights
To date, 15 states – including Florida – have passed laws addressing aggressive driving. However, those laws don’t necessarily improve your chances of receiving fair compensation for your injuries. That’s why you need an injury attorney.
Aggressive driving in Florida will generally result in a traffic citation, which will result in 4 points on your license and possibly a fine and a requirement to attend traffic school. In some cases, if a cyclist is seriously injured, police may charge the driver with battery or assault. However, even a criminal conviction won’t be of much help to an injured cyclist unless the court orders restitution. Even then, restitution may not consider the full scope of damages.
Bicyclists may be able to claim PIP (personal injury protection) benefits from the at-fault driver without ever having to file a lawsuit. However, if one’s injuries exceed $10,000, the cyclist may file a claim under the driver’s liability insurance policy. A cyclist might also seek compensation from his/ her own uninsured/ underinsured motorist coverage. The exact avenues for compensation will depend on the individual facts of the case.
If you have been injured in a bicycle road rage incident involving an aggressive driver, our bicycle accident attorneys in Fort Lauderdale can help you weigh your legal options.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a Fort Lauderdale bicycle accident, contact the personal injury attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm by calling (954) 761-4011 or toll-free at (888) ANSARA-8.