What to do after you’ve been hit by a car on your bicycle

My girlfriend got hit by a car a couple days ago while cycling home from work.

In shock after the accident, she walked her bike to the emergency room to get stitches without exchanging information with the driver, whose negligence caused her to be hurt.

This got me thinking about she should have done instead following the accident. There were nearly 15000 reported cycling accidents involving cars in 2014. In a previous blog post, we explained what common cycling accidents were and how to avoid them. Cycling is a relatively safe mode of transportation — you have about a 1% chance of being hit by a car, but it’s always good to be prepared.

If you do get hit by a car on your bike, it’s important to follow this checklist to protect yourself from further issues.

Assess your situation

Check to see if you are capable of moving. If you are bleeding heavily, you have severe pain when you try to move, you are dizzy, or you are unable to move some part of your body, stay still. You may be in shock and unable to recognize the severity of your injuries. Moving may make your injuries worse.

Why this is important:

If you have a serious injury, moving may actually make your injury worse. Before attempting to do anything normal such as standing up and walking your bike off the road, you should make sure that the injuries you have aren’t severe enough to be compounded by movement.

Record the Driver’s License Plate

Do whatever it takes to prevent the driver from driving off.

How to do this:

Write down or take a photo, or memorize the driver’s license plate.

Why this is important:

The driver may drive off or give false contact information. This is the most critical piece of information required to track down the driver later.

Clear the Road

If you are able to move, get out of the way of traffic.

How to do this:

Pick up or drag your bicycle to the sidewalk.

Why this is important:

Staying in traffic is dangerous and will inconvenience others. It also increases the likelihood that more accidents will happen, further compounding the situation.

Find eyewitnesses

Ask nearby people for help documenting what they saw.

How to do this:

Rather than calling out for help, turn and look people in their eyes and ask them to stay to give an eyewitness account. Making eye contact and speaking directly to people one at a time combats the Bystander Effect. a psychological phenomenon that causes a group of strangers to not take action to help a person in need because they assume someone else will take action. This will greatly increase the chances one or more people will help you.

Be sure to record key witness names, email addresses, and phone numbers.

Why this is important:

You may need to call upon the witness’s account of what happened as an unbiased third party.

Call the police

Call the police or have someone else do it for you.

How to do this:

If you are shaken up or in shock, you may not be the best person to give detailed information to the operator. When the police come, be sure to record their information:

  • Name
  • Badge or ID number
  • Phone number
  • Police report number

Ask the police for a copy of the incident report. It may take a few days before it is filed.

Your local police phone number can be found here.

Why this is important:

The police will be the most important record of what just happened, especially when talking to insurance companies or lawyers. They will interview everyone involved and several eyewitnesses. Additionally, crash statistics are important for local government to know how to invest in bicycle safety programs.

Exchange Driver Information

If the driver is still there, now you can exchange information.

How to do this:

Exchange important information, write anything down that you can, and take photos of documents, such as:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Make, model and year of the car that hit you
  • License plate number
  • Insurance carrier
  • Insurance policy number

Why this is important:

This information will be useful in holding the driver accountable if there are medical expenses, property damage, or criminal charges.

Record the Damage, Surroundings, and Injuries

Take photos and notes about your injuries. The details of the accident may be very important, but you may not know for several days the extent of the damage or injuries. For this reason, documentation is very important.

How to do this:

Take a moment to relax and scan your body. Touch yourself to find any sore spots, Stretch and move, find where you are stiff or in pain. Document your pain (dull, sharp, searing, radiating, pulsing, etc), where it is located, and what causes it.

Start by taking photos of:

  • Your bike
  • The driver
  • The car
  • The intersection
  • Your injuries

Take notes about

Due to shock and adrenaline, many injuries may not be apparent immediately after an accident. Bruises may not show up after 24–48 hours and more serious issues such as fractured bones or severe sprains may not show up for half an hour.

Why this is important:

If there is a need to take legal action or engage with insurance companies, you will need all the documentation you can get. Insurance companies may look for reasons not to honor claims. If your documentation is thorough, they will have a harder time ignoring your needs. Also, because of the institutionalized bias against cyclists, your documentation will help dispel this bias in the face of facts.

Seek Medical Attention Within 72 Hours if Necessary

We all you know you are tough, but your body was not designed to sustain the force that even a low-impact car accident can generate.

How to do this:

Determine which doctor you can go to. The nearest hospital may not be accessible with your health care plan.

Get a ride to the hospital, armed with your photos, documents, and injuries.

Why this is important:

Injuries that go untreated can have very real, very profound repercussions later in life. If you discover that you have pain when you move, are dizzy or cloudy headed, have severe bruises, soreness, or stiffness, or are bleeding you need to see a doctor within 72 hours of your accident. 72 hours seems to be the magic window under which insurance companies believe a person will have plenty of time to get looked at.

This is important for two major reasons:

  1. To make sure that you don’t have serious problems like torn ligaments, fractures, internal bleeding, or a concussion.
  2. So a medical professional can document your injuries in case you need to seek compensation from the driver. Insurance companies tend to assume that a person who doesn’t seek medical attention immediately is likely to be faking their injuries.

Go to a general clinic. Only go to the emergency room if you are severely injured.

File Legal and Insurance Claims If Necessary

If you need medical care or financial compensation for your damaged property after the accident, filing a claim will help to hold the driver accountable.

How to do this:

Contact your insurance company and a lawyer that specializes in cycling accidents if one is available. Provide them your documentation, your medical report, the police report, and ask what the next steps are.

You may find this list of bicycle accident attorneys useful.

Why is this important:

Without pursuing insurance or legal claims, there is no reason for the driver to take responsibility. If they file a claim, their insurance rates could go up, their license could be suspended resulting in lost income, or there could be criminal charges.

How to be Proactive

It’s good to keep a card of useful contact numbers in your wallet in case. I keep a sharpie and the following contact information on hand at all time in a laminated card:

  • A close friend
  • Local police
  • A cycling injury attorney
  • My insurance company

In addition to these people’s names and phone numbers, I document their relationship to me in case I’m not able to make calls myself.

Conclusion

I honestly hope you never get hit by a car, but if you do, I hope this checklist proves useful.

Many car accidents are preventable with good bike lights and good situational awareness.

Cycle Safely!

How to Prevent Cycling Accidents Involving Cars

We here at Zackees care deeply about cycling safety.  The most dangerous place to be on a bicycle is on the road with cars.

Although cycling is fairly safe there were 50,000 cycling accidents in 2015, with nearly 30% of those accidents involving a car.  Those numbers are growing.

Cars carry a lot of momentum, so when they hit you it can have severe effects, even at low speeds.  Cars come from all directions and at all speeds, and their drivers are often not aware you are there or how close you are.
Here are some common car-cycling accident scenarios and how to avoid them.

Here are some common causes of cycling accidents involving cars and how to avoid them.

 

probabilities

Source: John Forester, “Effective Cycling, Seventh Edition,” APR 2012.

Oncoming Left Turn

oncoming left turnProbability: 26%
Description
A driver in the opposite lane makes a left turn, cutting you off or hitting you.
Cause:
A driver gets distracted checking for oncoming traffic and pedestrians at an intersection and either doesn’t notice you or forgets you are there.
Prevention:
This is a great reason to wear Zackees Turn Signal Gloves.  Wave your hand and try to make eye contact with the driver, and signal the driver that you are moving forward.

 

Right Hook

right hookProbability: 23%
Description
You are at an intersection and the car beside you forgets you exist and right-turns into you
Cause:
A driver gets distracted checking for oncoming traffic and pedestrians at an intersection and forgets that you are there beside them.
Prevention:
This is the best reason to wear Zackees Turn Signal Gloves.  Wave your hand in front of the driver’s line of sight, look back and make eye contact.  

 

Stop/Signal

stop signalProbability: 16%
Description
When a car runs a red light, cutting you off or hitting you.
Cause:
A driver is driving recklessly or irresponsibly
Prevention:
This is a great use for Zackees Turn Signal Gloves.  Check to your left when crossing an intersection, look out for cars that appear not to be slowing down.  Signal the driver and make eye contact if possible.

 

Driveway Yield

driveway yieldProbability: 15%
Description
A driver speeds out of a driveway
Cause:
The driver is not looking or cannot see you behind them
Prevention:
Slow down and give the driver the right of way

 

Door

doorProbability: 12%
Description
The door of a parked car
Cause:
Person in car opens the door abruptly into the lane in front of you
Prevention:
Be mindful of recently parked cars.  Drive slowly, try to look into the back window of parked cars, ring your  bell, and turn towards the parked car if there is traffic in the lane to your left.

 

Overtaking

overtakingProbability: 7%
Description
Your body or elbow gets hit by the rear view mirror or another part of a car when it is passing you
Cause:
A car passes too close as you are riding on the side of the road
Prevention:
Signal the driver with your hand to show the space you need.  This is a great use for Zackees Turn Signal Gloves.  When the car passes, tuck your elbows in.

 

Hopefully with these tools and techniques, you can stay safer on the roads.  Watch out for glass and potholes, though!

 

 

Why Are Zackees Turn Signal Gloves So Bright?

Zackees receives a lot of comments about the surprising brightness of our Turn Signal Gloves.

This brightness is quite intentional and was the result of our team researching the science of how light-emitting-diodes generate light and how as engineers we can push brightness to the extreme.

Our gloves are bright for two primary reasons
1) We overdrive our LED brightness
2) We choose energy-efficient LEDs.

To know how we do this it’s useful to know what LEDs are and how they work.

What are LEDs?

LEDs, or Light-Emitting-Diodes are a technology that converts electrical movement into light. Frankly put, they are awesome.

How do LEDs work?

LEDs work by forcing electrons to change energy states, releasing photons in the process. They do this by sandwiching two semiconductor materials together, forming a diode. One side has a surplus of electrons, making in negatively charged. The other side has a deficit of electrons, making it positively charged.

When electrons are forced into the diode, they are attracted to the negatively charged material.   Specifically, they are attracted to positively ionized atoms on the other side of the diode.  It is possible to flood an LED with electrons, resulting in a permanent chemical change to the LED materials.

 

diode

 

These materials are sensitive and can only hold a certain amount of electrons at one time.  Too many result in a permanent damage to the diode materials. However, at a resting state electrical charges force electrons into a corner of the diode, resulting in a sort of electron depletion.

This means something important to us:

LEDs can be overloaded with electrons after a resting state.

This is how a typical diode works.  What makes an LED special is that when the electrons move from one side to the other, they must change energy states to fit into the empty space of the electron shell of the ionized atoms.  And in order to change energy states, they must release a photon – a quantum unit of light.

 

quantum mechanics

 

The wavelength of the photon released depends on the magnitude of energy the electron changes, which depends on the chemical composition of the LED.

This means something else important to us:

Different colored LEDs have different quantum energy efficiencies.

Here’s how we take advantage of these two properties:

Electron Overloading

LED brightness is very hard to control.  They are generally only on or off.

Many people who work with LEDs create the illusion of brightness control by intermittently turning the LED on and off faster than the human eye can see, using a process known as Pulse-Width-Modulation (PWM). In this way, an LED that is turned on and off 1000 times in one second will appear to be a fraction as bright as one that is on for the entire second.

 

typical led brightness

 

We employ a similar technique as PWM to overload the LED with electrons for brief periods of time, but not so long as to damage the LED.  This makes the LED appear nearly twice as bright as a regular LED.

 

zackees led brightness

 

Optimizing Quantum-Energy Efficiency

Knowing that each color LED has its own quantum efficiency allows us to pick  a color that is both highly visible at a distance and energy efficient.

Blue light is most visible and red light is least visible. Yet blue light is least energy efficient and red light is most energy efficient.

 

color efficiency

 

In order to maximize both energy efficiency and visibility, we went with an amber LED.  This allows Zackees Turn Signal Gloves to squeeze out 4-8 weeks out of a coin cell battery yet still be as bright as a halogen bulb, making cyclists visible to cars any time of day or night.

 

glove-main

 

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