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When motorists cause collisions with cyclists

Although government agencies do collect and analyze annual data regarding bicycle accidents in Indiana and nationally, one study indicates that the information may not be completely accurate. The League of American Bicyclists conducted its own research into the causes of cycling accidents, and through analysis of both official reported data and media and outreach accounts, discovered a number of alarming statistics.

One of the most common accident types is a rear-end collision, all data sources agree, although the League's percentage was much higher than the federal reports. More cyclists were hit from behind than from all types of head-on collisions. While 2 percent of the crashes were because of a cyclist who failed to yield, 6 percent of the collisions were the result of the motorists' failure to yield. Other major types of crashes included T-hits, right and left hooks and sideswipes. In many crashes, careless or distracted driving were listed as contibuting factors.

In spite of the evidence indicating that motorists are at fault in a large percentage of collisions, it appears that victim blaming is prevalent. Media reports frequently excuse a motorist's failure to notice the cyclist by claiming the rider wore dark clothing and was therefore difficult to see. Other reporting methods that shifted apparent blame to the cyclists include using passive voice to avoid explaining the motorists' role, discussing how the crash affected the vehicles rather than the people, and failing to report on the final determination of the crash cause.

According to Bicycling magazine, law enforcement also frequently excuse motorists and blame cyclists when the driver's liability seems to be clear. Disregarding witnesses, failing to interview bicyclists and misinterpreting laws meant to protect them are three such common themes reported. Experts and enthusiasts believe that greater awareness and action may improve the poor treatment many cyclists receive on the road.

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