Compared with driving, riding a bike is a much more economical and environmentally-friendly choice. Whether you prefer pedaling through forests, near open fields, or through the salty ocean air, Mississippi has a little something for almost every bicyclist.
Traveling and commuting by bike can be dangerous, though. Drivers who are inattentive or otherwise careless can cause car vs. bicycle accidents that lead to real, life-altering consequences for victims.
Safely sharing the road with bicyclists is key to reducing the number of bicycle accidents and related injuries. Let’s take a look at some key facts that can help everyone in Mississippi share the road with ease.
Bicycle Laws in Mississippi
Mississippi state law has some key provisions that are intended to protect bicyclists. In 2010, the John Paul Frerer Bicycle Safety Act was enacted. This law requires all motor vehicle drivers to maintain a safe distance of at least three feet from bicyclists. It also makes it illegal for drivers to taunt, harass, or maliciously throw objects at bicyclists or in their path.
Bicycles are also prohibited from riding more than two side-by-side in bike lanes or on any path that has been exclusively set aside for bicycle use. If two bicyclists riding side-by-side somehow impede the otherwise normal flow of traffic, they should adjust to ride in a single line. State law also requires bicyclists to ride in a single line when traveling on multilane highways.
Section 63-7-13 of Mississippi state law also requires bikes to have lamps in specific locations if they are going to be on the road. This includes a front-lighted white lamp that can be seen from at least 500 feet away and a red reflective mirror or lamp on the back that can be seen from the same distance in the rear. These lights will ensure that bicyclists are visible to motorists.
It is important to note that not all roads are safe for bicyclists. Bicycles are strictly prohibited on interstates. Cars can travel as fast as 70 mph on the interstate in Mississippi, making it too dangerous for bicyclists to traverse safely.
Bicycle riders are also required to follow the same laws as drivers. They must always come to a complete stop at all red lights and stop signs, signal before making a turn or stopping, and ride in the same direction of traffic.
Mississippi does not require bicycle riders to wear helmets.
How Many People Ride Bikes in Mississippi?
Federal data shows that 0.1% of Mississippi commuters ride their bikes to work. When looking at bicycle commuting rates for all 50 states, our state comes in close to the bottom at 47.
Despite relatively few bicyclists on the road, Mississippi has the highest fatality rate for bike commuters in the United States. Advocates for creating safer, community-centered support for commuting by bike as well as riding for pleasure believe that many people are reluctant to try out two wheels because of the high risk for injury or death. Lack of action on the part of Mississippi legislators has certainly had an impact on the dwindling number of bicyclists. However, a renewed effort toward safety could encourage people to bring their bikes back to the road.
How to Safely Share the Road with Bicyclists
It is up to both motorists and bicyclists to practice safe habits on the road. This means that everyone is responsible for helping to limit the number of bicycle accidents. These responsibilities are different depending on whether you are sitting behind a steering wheel or holding onto handlebars.
As a driver, you can safely share the road with bicyclists by:
- Maintaining a distance of three or more feet from bicyclists in the shoulder or the bike lane
- Slowing down when you see a bicyclist signal a lane change or turn
- Checking the bike lane before making a righthand turn
- Keeping to posted speed limits to avoid taking a bicyclist by surprise
- Paying extra attention between the hours of 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., when most bike accidents occur
As a bicyclist, you can stay safe on the road by:
- Always wearing a helmet
- Memorizing and using hand signals when you are turning or stopping
- Only riding side-by-side with another bicyclist when it is safe, and there is room to do so
- Making sure your bike is in good working order
- Avoiding roads that are not bike friendly, have lots of potholes, or are uneven
- Wearing bright clothing that is easily visible
Types of Bicycle Accidents and Injuries
In accidents involving motor vehicles and bicycles, drivers of vehicles are more often at fault. Although many nuanced factors are at play, one of the biggest problems bike riders face is that drivers simply aren’t vigilant in watching for bicycles. It is not uncommon for a driver to make a right turn without checking their rearview mirrors, only to strike a bicyclist who was riding in the bike lane.
Intersections can also be very dangerous for anyone on a bike. If a driver does not pay careful attention to oncoming traffic, they may make a left turn in front of a bicyclist. Without enough time to stop or take evasive action, the bicyclist may collide with the car.
Bicyclists suffer more severe injuries in these collisions too, including:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Broken bones
- Broken or lost teeth
- Jaw damage
- Road rash
- Vision damage
- Musculoskeletal injuries
Life After a Bicycle Accident
No matter how experienced of a bicyclist you are, there is little you can do to protect yourself when sharing the road with a reckless driver. However, there are clear steps that you can take to recover compensation for your injuries and other damages following a bicycle accident.
Pursuing a personal injury claim against the driver who caused your accident is an excellent way to secure that compensation. Unfortunately, the insurance company will be unlikely to pay out unless they have proof that the driver was at fault.
At Corban Gunn, Attorney at Law, we understand what it takes to demonstrate liability in a car vs. bicycle accident case. From collecting evidence to filing supporting documentation, a car accident lawyer from our firm is uniquely posed to help guide you through this process. To learn more about how working with an attorney can improve your chances of successfully navigating a personal injury claim, contact us for a free evaluation of your case.