Crash and No Citation
Clayton asked: Thursday April 11th at 11:40 My wife was struck by a car while
we were cycling on Gulf Blvd close to the Don CeSar. My wife and I were in a
lane of traffic that had a cyclist sign on the road. We had just gone through
the intersection and we were trying to merge into the right lane when a car
came up behind us on her left side and hit my wife with the passenger’s side
mirror knocking her down on the road. She sustained a broken clavicle along
with several other bruises and road rashes. Thank goodness we both wear cycling
helmets. The hospital stated she would have been in far worse condition without
the helmet. The helmet shows that her head did indeed hit the pavement.
The police officer stated that it was the driver in the car who was at fault and he provided me with the other party’s insurance information. Although the officer clearly states it was the driver’s fault he did not issue a citation.
Is this a common practice in Florida? I have read that there are many cycling organizations in Florida working with city and state officials to make roads safer. I would think that a car striking a cyclist would be treated more seriously. The other party continues to enjoy the nice weather in Florida and my wife is confined to our condo for the remainder of our stay.
Do you have any suggestions?
Good on you for wearing helmets.
You may want to retain an attorney and ask the department to initiate an investigation into the incident to determine if a citation and a personal injury lawsuit is warranted. It is not clear why the officer would make that statement and not issue a citation.
Keep road bikers off the road,
I’ve lived in Pinellas County for 35 years where this incident happened. Law enforcement does nothing on behalf of cyclists. In fact, I consider myself a second class citizen every time I get on my bike.
If your description of the crash is accurate, the driver violated § 316.083(1), Fla. Stat.: “. . . The driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle must pass the bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle at a safe distance of not less than 3 feet between the vehicle and the bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle.” There is at least one other applicable statute, § 316.130(15), which I will discuss in a subsequent post.
The investigating officer must file a crash report with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles within 10 days after the investigation has been completed. Because it appears the officer has not yet filed it, you might consider contacting the agency that responded to see if you can talk with the officer who investigated the crash to discuss your concerns.
I recommend you obtain a copy of the crash report as soon as it is available to make sure it is accurate. There are two crash reporting forms—make sure he filed the Long Form (as noted at the top of the form) because your wife was injured. Because the officer told you the driver was at fault, but as far as you know he did not cite the driver, it is extremely important that the details of the Narrative and Diagram sections are accurate. He could still cite the driver before he files the report, so check the Violations section at the bottom of the Vehicle Section to see whether or not he cited the driver. Also, in the Person Section, check to see what the officer entered in the Driver’s Actions at Time of Crash section. If your description is accurate, the report should, at a minimum, show the driver improperly passed your wife.
I also suggest you take numerous pictures of the site of the crash as well as the approach to the site. It may all be clear in your mind today, but if you choose to attempt to recover damages, the pictures may be helpful months down the road.
Clayton wrote: “I have read that there are many cycling organizations in Florida working with city and state officials to make roads safer.”
Maybe so, but I have found little evidence to support this claim. The major cycling organization I’m aware of has a very cozy and supportive relationship with the Florida Department of Transportation which sets the standards for the most hazardous highways in the nation for people riding bicycles, and I have yet to see any evidence they are willing to challenge the auto-centric bias within law enforcement agencies (with one exception I’ll mention below). Considering that Florida ranks among the most deadly states in which to ride a bicycle, an organization that really advocates for bicyclists can not have a good relationship with the very people who design and construct the state’s hazardous highways.
And if this claim is correct, why would a driver who obviously violated the three-foot passing law be permitted to leave the crash scene without so much as a slap on the wrist? Instead of pushing for new laws that are not going to be enforced any better than the existing ones, organizations that claim to advocate for bicycle riders should be working to get LEO trained in how to properly investigate crashes that involve bicyclists, and with lawyers to figure out how to force LEO to cite motorists when they violate the rights of bicyclists.
Bicycle advocacy organizations nationwide should have banded together to create a legal defense association for bicyclists which, for a modest membership fee, would provide legal representation when a member is involved in a crash or encounters other legal problems. FBA will pull out all the stops if a bicyclist is cited for ‘controlling the lane’ [§ 316.2065(5)(a)], but otherwise bicyclists in Florida are pretty much on their own, as you have just discovered.
Clayton also wrote: “I would think that a car striking a cyclist would be treated more seriously.”
Indeed, Florida law does place a greater responsibility upon the driver of a motor vehicle than a bicycle rider to avoid a collision: “Notwithstanding other provisions of this chapter, every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any . . . person propelling a human-powered vehicle . . .” [§ 316.130(15)] Consequently, the motorist should have been required to convince the investigating officer that he or she did everything humanly possible to avoid hitting your wife.
This law stands head and shoulders above all others because it properly addresses the consequences of violating the other road user’s right-of-way—when was the last time we heard of a bicyclist who killed a motorist? But, no bicycle advocacy organization that I am aware of even cares about this very important law.