If you’ve driven into New Hampshire recently, you may have noticed the electronic signs alongside the road which state “one bad driving decision, a lifetime of regrets.” While this holds true for any driving decision, it appears that bicyclists in New Hampshire feel that they are immune from the “rules of the road.”
In Hudson New Hampshire alone there have been two major “bicycle” accidents in July resulting in significant injuries. One involved a 15 year old male at the intersection of Ledge St. and Derry Rd. He was traveling the wrong way and was hit by a truck who was attempting to make a turn. [Hudson-Litchfield News July 11th] This accident could have been avoided had the teenager known the rules of the road such as bicyclists must drive in the same direction as traffic. This is often confused with the pedestrian rule which is that pedestrians should walk against traffic. Additionally, he was not wearing a helmet which is also against the law [RSA 265:144 X] which requires that all cyclists under the age of 16 wear a helmet.
The other day when our paralegal Nicole Canavan was heading home, she approached the Hudson/Nashua bridge and two young men were riding their bikes towards her, going the wrong direction and in the middle of the road. The fact that a vehicle was approaching them did not seem to make a difference. This is dangerous. Not all drivers are paying attention and they do not expect objects, people, or bicyclists to be in the middle of the roadway. She honked at them but again they didn’t care. As motorists we have to be extra vigilant of negligent motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists etc. on the road but at the same time, someone sharing the road, such as a pedestrian, jogger, bicyclist, etc. need to also obey the traffic laws and rules and not cause hazards for motorists legally operating their vehicles on the roadway.
What happens when you’re a cyclist not following the rules and you get into an accident? First, you are likely to be cited for being at fault. There are very very few instances in which a bicyclists or pedestrian not following the rules of the road would be able to make a successful claim for damages. Next, you’re likely injured and need medical treatment. If you don’t have health insurance you could be forced to incur tens of thousands of dollars of debt to cover your medical bills. If you miss time from work or lose your job due to your inability to return to work, you won’t be able to collect lost wages. You might be able to get some if you have a short term disability policy through your employer but not everyone has a plan like that. Basically, you are screwed.
Sadly, there was a case like that in Hudson this month as well when a 47 year old was driving an electric assisted bicycle and collided with a car. The cyclist was not only going the wrong way but also ran a red light. He was not wearing a helmet and sustained a serious head trauma. He was taken to Southern New Hampshire Medical Center and then transferred to Massachusetts General Hospital. The accident prompted local police to issue a press release urging cyclists to obey the rules of the road and wear a helmet.
As can be seen in this last example, the consequences of bad driving decisions can be quite harsh and far-reaching. Whether you are at fault or not, the consequences of an accident affect the individuals and the families of all of those involved, mostly with devestating effects. We urge everyone on the road to follow the rules of the road, watch out for children, pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, other motor vehicles, horses and riders, and wild animals in the roadway. One distraction, especially from a cell phone, can cause a lifetime of regrets.
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