Motorist Always Gets the Ticket?

Question

Sabrena asked: I am a safe driver for over 34 years, and I have ridden bikes on the road and encourage my 4 young children to ride their bikes. My dilemma involves an irresponsible bicyclist who traveled fast against traffic, downhill, without working brakes and with headphones on. This bicyclist is out of my view (about 120 feet away) due to the shape of the road. Upon my looking left, right (the lane the bike was travelling) and left again (for traffic travelling legally in my lane), I go over my speed bump at the top of the drive and pull out into the road. Upon my completion of the turn, the bicyclist swerves to the right (directly in front of me), instead of continuing in the 3 ft curb or going left into the grass. He hits me in the front of the car (My car was travelling about 5 MPH). THANK goodness that the bicyclist is not injured! It scares the crap out of my child and me since we do not see the bicyclist until he hits us.

I received the ticket from a FHP officer because the officer stated to me that the driver of a motorized vehicle always gets the ticket when it involves a bicyclist. The citation failed to mention no brakes and use of headphones. The cyclist verbalized and openly admitted the above facts, and says that he will continue riding against traffic and using headphones while riding. This ordeal has messed up my life for a month now, for I value life, and the thought of what could have happened to the bicyclist is so frightening!

I am writing you because your site promotes safety and education for motorists (bicyclist and motor vehicle drivers alike). Some bicyclists like this guy (who has knowledge of the FL bicyclist law statutes), are still choosing to ignore the law. It is daunting that despite this experience and close call for getting seriously hurt or killed, this particular bicyclist has learned nothing. Is it possible that the FHP officer did not know that he could have given the bicyclist a citation, for he was fully aware of the bicyclist not following the FL bicyclist laws? It is frustrating knowing that the collision could have been prevented if the bicyclist had followed at least one of the above statutes. I’m frustrated for I am left fighting a ticket, failure to have due care to a bicyclist because the bicyclist’s irresponsible actions caused the accident. My motto is safety, for accidents happen once. If bicyclists who are knowingly breaking the law are not held accountable, then these bicyclists are negating everything that you (conscientious, law abiding bicyclists who are concerned about promoting education and safety) have worked so hard to achieve.

Answer

Bicyclists breaking the laws should be held accountable just as others are. If the officer said the motorist always is cited in such cases, that is not true. A citation should be written based on the evidence. If the officer did not witness the incident, the ticket should be easily defeated if it is as you stated. It is recommended that you retain legal counsel.

Posted in Ask Geo, Misc
9 comments on “Motorist Always Gets the Ticket?
  1. Sir Randall says:

    Florida Statutes Section 316.130(15)
    “Notwithstanding other provisions of this chapter, every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian or any person propelling a human-powered vehicle …”

    What the officer probably meant was the above. Lawyer up on the ticket and go after the cyclist for any damages caused to your vehicle.

  2. HarryB says:

    Geo wrote: “If the officer did not witness the incident, the ticket should be easily defeated if it is as you stated.”

    I fail to understand why this citation should be dismissed regardless of whether or not the officer witnessed it. (It would have been helpful if the OP had noted the specific law which she is accused of violating.)

    If I understand the situation correctly, the bicyclist was riding on the shoulder of the highway “against traffic.” Although this might not be considered “safe” by some people, the legislators have chosen not to make it illegal, something I suspect the officer was aware of.

    And I’m guessing he was also fully aware that § 316.125(1), Fla. Stat. requires drivers who are about to enter a highway to, “…yield the right-of-way to ALL vehicles approaching on the highway to be entered which are so close thereto as to constitute an immediate hazard.” (emphasis mine) By the OP’s own admission, she did not yield to the oncoming bicyclist despite her having had time to observe him approaching from as far away as 120 feet.

    Based on what we know, the driver violated the law while the bicyclist did not, and the result was a collision between the two. Why would the judge not find the driver guilty of violating the bicyclist’s right-of-way and causing the collision?

    The allegation that the bicycle did not have operating brakes and the rider was wearing headphones did not relieve the driver of her responsibility to keep a proper lookout and yield to the approaching bicyclist.

  3. Even after experiencing multiple near-crashes (or crashes), some riders still believe it is safer, when riding on the roadway, to ride against traffic. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, they believe they can avoid collisions with drivers at driveways and side connections this way and fear that, if they switched to riding with traffic, they would experience even more close calls. This fear leads them to accept the risk they might receive a ticket for violation of s. 316.081(1), F.S.).

    • Original post implies the cyclist was in “the lane”. If cyclist was riding on a shoulder, riding against traffic would be legal (i.e., not prohibited), although the cyclist, like all other operators, would still be obliged to use “due care” (s. 316.185).

      • HarryB says:

        The OP wrote that the bicyclist was riding in a “3 ft curb”, which I understood to be a paved shoulder. (If my understanding of the situation is wrong I invite the OP to provide the precise location of the crash [gps coordinates would be helpful] so we can gain a better understanding of the crucial facts.)

        There is no evidence the bicyclist was riding in a narrow bicycle lane, nor that he was riding in the travel lane, so he was not in violation of § 316.081(1), Fla. Stat. by riding “against traffic” in the shoulder.

        The OP chastised some bicyclists, “…like this guy (who has knowledge of the FL bicyclist law statutes), are still choosing to ignore the law….It is frustrating knowing that the collision could have been prevented if the bicyclist had followed at least one of the above statutes.”

        On the contrary, it was the OP who violated the statutes [§ 316.125(1)] by not yielding to the approaching bicyclist, and the crash was a direct result of her failure to obey that law. Furthermore, she was also required by § 316.154 to not start her stopped vehicle “…unless and until such movement (could) be made with reasonable safety.”

        Based on the information we have, I submit that the officer cited the correct driver, and I’m troubled that FBA is defending the OP.

        While it may be true that riding “against traffic” on the shoulder increases the chances of a collision, the fact is that it is not illegal. And if motorists obeyed the law by looking carefully in BOTH directions before entering the highway, as the law requires, these types of crashes would not occur.

  4. I’m not aware of any information that the FBA is defending the person who wrote to Geo.

    As for contributing crash factors, failure to have working brakes (§ 316.2065(13)) would seem relevant here. Yes, a driver emerging onto a roadway from a driveway is required to yield to “all vehicles approaching…which are so close thereto as to constitute an immediate hazard”, but as a cyclist and motorcyclist, if I simply powered along and counted on any driver who might be at a downstream driveway to judge well whether I was so close as to oblige them to yield to me, I’m not sure I would be here today.

    Riding “fast” on a shoulder in the direction opposed to traffic also raises question whether the speed was appropriate for avoiding collision with any “vehicle…entering the street”, in accordance with the due care requirement (§ 316.185).

    Certainly the driver had quite a bit of responsibility here. However, cyclists also have responsibility to exercise due care.

  5. Mark Sussman says:

    I do not think the Florida laws are conducive to safe bicycle riding. It looks like the story that was just told will happen again and again and again, involving other people. Why doesn’t the state of Florida adopt the “Idaho stop” rule for bicyclists? If this law was in place, I believe it would significantly reduce these kinds of accidents. With the Idaho Stop rule in place, both bicyclists and cars would get to their destinations faster and safer – also the rule promotes improved vigilance on both the bicycle side and the car side for safer transportation.

  6. Geo says:

    Mark,

    The Idaho Stop rule has been discussed but as far as I know, there has been no serious consideration by our legislators. For those not familiar with this concept, see this post:

    http://flbikelaw.org/2009/08/idaho-rolling-stop-law/

    • Mark Sussman says:

      Geo,
      Thank you very much for the link – it reinforces my positive thinking about the Idaho Stop rule. Also I discovered that there are 12 states (not Florida 🙁 ) that allow motorcyclists and bicyclists to go through red lights after a certain amount of wait time (wait time depending on the state). The Idaho stop rule shows the most initiative though.

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