Car Accidents and Sharing the Road with Bicyclists

October 24, 2015


According to a recent report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute, on average approximately 2-3 percent of all motor vehicle crash deaths involve a bicyclist; to be sure, there were about 741 total bicyclist-based fatalities in 2013 alone.   With the increasing number of bicyclists on the road, it is important to understand the various rules, regulations, and laws regarding the rights of bicyclists, especially if and when you are involved in a car accident with a bicyclist or, alternatively, when you as a bicyclist are the victim of a car accident.

Bicyclists’ Rights on the Road

It is important that a driver of an automobile understand that when it comes to bicyclists, they maintain the exact same rights of drivers of cars with respect to yielding, right of way, and adherence to traffic signs and laws.  In fact, South Carolina law explicitly sets forth that “A person riding a bicycle upon a roadway must be granted all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle…”  This means that when it comes to drivers of automobiles, they cannot drive with the false impression that they maintain a higher degree of rights compared to bicyclists; rather they must view each and every bicyclist as they would an individual actually driving another vehicle.  

A seemingly complicated issue for drivers is often when they encounter bicyclists using an adjacent bicycle lane.  It is important to note that in South Carolina, bicycle lanes have their own independent legal significance, especially where drivers of automobiles are prohibited from using such bike lanes to pass or swerve around traffic.  In fact, in South Carolina, bike lanes are for the “preferential or exclusive use of bicyclists.” Additionally, automobile drivers are expressly prohibited from blocking, parking, or otherwise obstructing bike lanes.  

Another unique aspect of automobile law in South Carolina as it pertains to bicyclists is the following distance that drivers must keep with respect to approach or following behind bicyclists.  South Carolina law specifically mandates that drivers must “at all times maintain a safe operating distance between the motor vehicle and a bicycle.”  Although such South Carolina statute does not specifically identify what is meant by “a safe operating distance” it is clear that the responsibility to do so is on the driver of an automobile, and thus, when encountering a bicyclist on the road, the driver should make every effort to maintain and effectuate such such operating distance.  Although fairly common sense, South Carolina also prohibits the throwing of objects, harassing, and even engaging in conduct that may be intimidating to bicyclists, and therefore, automobile drivers should similarly be cognizant of such issues when driving near or approaching bicyclists.  

Contact Us if You Need Help

If you have suffered harm or injury as a result of car accident involving a bicyclist or as a victim of a car accident with you as the bicyclist, you need a reliable legal counsel to help you navigate the various personal injury issues you may face.  The Connell Law Firm in South Carolina is prepared to offer you professional legal advice and representation. Contact us today for a consultation on your case.