The number of people choosing to walk or bicycle instead of drive, either as part of their daily commute or for other excursions has increased with our need for physical activity. The expansion of bike trails can be seen throughout Kentucky and particularly in Bowling Green, where bicyclists enjoy the exercise. Not surprisingly there is an increased number of fatal accidents involving a pedestrian or bike rider being struck by a car or truck. There are more bikes and runners along the side of our roads resulting in more pedestrian and bike accidents.
Without the protection of pounds of crash tested engineering, people on foot or riding bicycles are much more vulnerable to injury when involved in an automobile or truck accident.
In Kentucky if a bicyclist or pedestrian is hit by a car or truck and injured they should have PIP benefits or personal injury protection. The statute giving Kentucky citizens struck by a vehicle right to having their medical bills and lost wages paid along with cost of care by the insurance company for the vehicle that hit them so long as they are a pedestrian or on a bike when hit. These benefits afforded to citizens in Kentucky gives us the protection of having income while we are recovering from our injuries or our medical bills paid so we can receive necessary medical treatment when injured by a vehicle on our highways.
Nationwide, deadly hit and run crashes have been increasing at an alarming rate over the past decade. Between 2009 and 2016 (which is the most recent for which data is available), the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports an increase of 61% in hit and run fatalities, with fully two-thirds of those killed having been pedestrians or bicyclists. In just that latest years, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reported 1,980 fatal hit and run incidents, leaving 2,049 people dead.
Concerned riders may be inclined to ask what’s fueling this alarming trend. The reality is that traffic fatalities overall are on the rise, and naturally the most physically vulnerable road users see the brunt of that increase. The National Safety Council has reported that for the second consecutive year, traffic deaths across the country and Kentucky have exceeded 40,000. A major factor in these accidents is distracted driving, particularly with regard to smartphone use – though pedestrians can be dangerously distracted by their devices as well, as the Pokemon Go trend a couple of years ago highlighted. Despite public awareness campaigns aimed at educating the public about the dangers of distracted driving in general and texting while driving in particular, too many motorists continue to text (or talk, or Snapchat, or otherwise use their phones) behind the wheel, heedless of the dangers they pose to others who share the roads with them.
In addition, the past few years have seen a push to encourage people to spend more time outdoors, walking or cycling. In 2016, 864,000 commuters across the country chose to bike to work. The benefits of human-powered transportation such as walking and biking are undeniable. Sharing the road with cars also leaves pedestrians and cyclists vulnerable, especially in areas that are not equipped with physical barriers to keep motor vehicles separate from bikes and pedestrians. Though physically separated bike trails are the most effective way to keep riders and walkers safe from cars, efforts to create these features are often met with resistance from motorists who worry about the traffic resulting from fewer travel lanes and the loss of parking spaces, as well as budget constraints preventing the building of the safety features.
In Kentucky and Tennessee, along with the rest of the country, a person injured on a bike or walking by a vehicle can only collect money for their injuries if it was not their fault. People riding bikes, along with runners and walkers on our roads and highways should always wear bright, reflective clothing and use lights, especially at night or dusk. They are expected to follow most of the same traffic rules as other vehicles. Always check for cars or trucks that might be close to them.