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There seems to be a nationwide epidemic sweeping the country that is putting many people in the hospital or worse, the morgue at an alarming rate. It is not an infectious disease, but rather hit-and-run accidents with bicyclists. Here are a few incidents from this week alone.

On August 15, a 54-year-old bicyclist was struck and killed by a dump truck in East Baltimore. The truck driver fled after hitting the man shortly before 1:30 p.m. Police continue to search for the hit-and-run truck driver.

On August 16, a 20-year-old New Jersey man left the scene after striking an 11-year-old boy who was riding his bike. When officers arrived, they found boy lying in the roadway and his bicycle about 75 feet away. First aid was administered at the scene; the child was then transported to the hospital with significant injuries. A witness said the child was struck by a black SUV, which police later located. The driver was arrested. His attorney said that the bicycle come out from behind a parked car and his client wasn’t initially sure he struck the rider but didn’t stop to check. Then he panicked.

On August 17, a Chicago man was biking when he was hit by a cargo van. The victim was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. The driver of the van did not stop. Police said that surveillance videos in the area show that it was a white cargo van with a company logo on it, featuring a large letter “A”, and the company’s phone number.

The same day, a Minnesota woman was struck by a hit-and-run driver while riding her bicyclist. Two witnesses said a pick-up truck hit the woman, causing her to fly up over the hood and land in the roadway. She suffered serious injuries and was airlifted to an area hospital.

All these crashes remain under investigation; in most cases the motorist has not been caught.

A hit and run occurs when a driver is involved in an accident with a pedestrian, another car, or a fixed object, and leaves the scene. The definition of hit and run generally doesn’t include fault; the violation is committed when the driver flees the scene, regardless of whether he/she caused the accident. The most common reasons motorists leave the scene include driving under the influence, driving an uninsured vehicle and driving without a valid license. Others may be so fearful about what they have done and the potential consequences; they flee to avoid responsibility and penalties.

In any event, these crashes paint the same picture – we have a serious safety issued nationwide when it comes to bicycle versus vehicle accidents. According to the NHTSA, the total number of fatal hit-and-run accidents reported in the U.S. rose nearly 14% since 2009. About 60% of all hit-and-run deaths involve pedestrians (includes cyclists) as the victims. While Florida and California account for most bicycle deaths, six states – California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Michigan and Texas, accounted for more than 50% of all cycling traffic fatalities.

Almost all of the bicycle-auto accidents that occur today could have been prevented. While tougher laws may help, the main thing we can all do to help combat this problem is to simply be more alert especially as kids are heading back to school.

For motorists:

  • Stay alert and avoid all distractions while driving.
  • Slow down and give at least 3 feet of clearance when passing a bicyclist.
  • Never honk your horn at a bicyclist. It could cause them to swerve into traffic or off the roadway and crash.
  • Always check for bicyclists before opening your car door. Even if the cyclist avoids colliding with the door, he could end up swerving into traffic.
  • Children on bicycles are often unpredictable — expect the unexpected.

Bicyclist can help to by:

  • Wearing a helmet; make sure it is properly fitted.
  • Riding with the flow of traffic; ride on the right side of the road, not against the flow of traffic.
  • Adhering to the same rules of the road as vehicles.
  • Avoiding stopping in the blind spot of a vehicle.
  • Using a mirror to glance at traffic behind.
  • Riding on sidewalks whenever possible.
  • Maintaining visibility, especially at night.
  • Using common sense and remain alert.

Remember, too, that while bicyclists generally are expected to follow the same traffic laws as motorists, some states have laws specific to operating bicycles. For bike laws by states, click here.

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.

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