Two serious accidents in the Carolinas have safety advocates calling for tougher penalties for motorists who injure or kill cyclists. Meanwhile, tourism officials are searching for ways they can invest in bike safety to boost biking numbers in both states.
A South Carolina woman has been charged with DUI following a fatal bicycle accident in North Augusta, little less than 2 hours Southeast of Anderson. Authorities say the suspect struck and killed a bicyclist in Aiken County while driving a late-90s model Chevrolet Luna around 8:30 on a Saturday night. The cyclist was a 60-year-old man.
And then in Johnston County, North Carolina, four bicyclists were struck and two suffered critical injuries after they were struck by a vehicle on a recent Saturday afternoon. The crash occurred shortly before 3 p.m. on Massengill Pond Road. The 50-year-old driver reportedly approached the cyclists from the rear while traveling the same direction and struck all four of them. Each of the cyclists was ejected. The cyclists range in age from 34 to 60.
In the latter case, the driver was charged with four misdemeanor counts of violating the two-foot passing rule causing serious injury and one count of careless driving. As one bike advocacy group stated, “These charges are not adequate. The driver’s conduct … should result in felony criminal charges.” Authorities reportedly did not test the driver for intoxication, though she is on probation for felony drug crimes.
Of the 743 bicyclists killed in the U.S. in 2013, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 22 were in North Carolina and 15 were in South Carolina. The bicycle accident fatality rate per 1 million population for South Carolina exceeds the national average of 2.35 at 3.14. In North Carolina, it’s 2.23.
Danger for cyclists is a major deterrent for many who might otherwise pick up the sport. A growing number are braving the risk, citing the great health benefits, environmental friendliness and social elements of the ride. It’s also a great way to see the country, according to many. In fact, tourism experts are hoping to capitalize on bicycle tourists, whom they characterize as “wallets on wheels.”
According to research by Stateline.org, bicycle tourists tend to stay longer when they vacation and they spend more. They tend to be older than the average vacationer and they usually support more local businesses than large, national franchises. That’s why tourism officials are making bike safety a top priority.
For example in Colorado, the governor announced expenditures of $100 million over the course of four years to make biking more appealing – and safer. In Florida – the most dangerous state for cyclists, according to the NHTSA – officials are dedicating $25 million a year to new bike paths and bike safety lanes.
In Washington, state leaders have dedicated $500 million in state and federal funds over the last 16 years toward safer biking and walking projects.
The Carolinas have much to offer cyclists – but only if we continue to work for making them safe. The South in particular has been noted for its danger to cyclists (per a 2014 report called “Dangerous by Design“) because the post-WWII roads were built only with cars in mind. That means wide lanes, fast speed limits, few crosswalks and few bike lines. No one wants to risk their life for a ride, and they shouldn’t have to.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Suspect charged after deadly car/ bicycle accident, April 16, 2016, By Mike Miller, News Channel 6
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