Sunday, 29 December 2013

Collisions: What to do when.....

Let me state at the outset, I have a back round in law enforcement. This has been mentioned previously. So if there is a perceived law enforcement slant, it isn’t intentional.
I just want anyone and everyone who rides or reads this to come back home alive and well after their ride.
Let's be clear on the words we use here, as the words are going to be critical in this blog entry as we continue on.
An accident is just that, an accident. You are hit by a falling meteor, that is an accident.
When two or more objects come together, that isn't an accident, that is a collision.  When a motorized vehicle and a cyclist make contact, that isn't an accident, that is a collision or incident.
  • Ø  Was there a reason for the contact?
  • Ø  Could it have been avoided by the parties involved?
  • Ø  What’s the reason the collision occurred?
            • Ø  Which party involved was at fault?
            • Ø  Was there another mitigating factor involved?

In every collision there was a reason why it happened, therefore it was no accident, short of riding on a country road and you get nicked by that meteor we spoke of previously.

I refer back to the Four Core Principals of CAN-BIKE
            Manoeuvrability, Visibility, Predictability, and Communication
                    See,   Be Seen,  Be Heard,   Be Predicable 

Defensive driving, like defensive cycling is trying to predict what the other guy on the road is going to do, by their actions or inaction's, before they do it. Being able to act or react are the keys to arriving back home in one piece. Cycling isn't a place where you can jump on your bike, put your brain in neutral and go. Cycling is a thinking exercise, I would almost equate it to chess. If you watch the pro racers they have coaches who build strategies for a reason. The first person to the other end of the ride, still in the saddle wins it’s just that simple.
Starting from your residence, having a great ride and ending up where you planned, that is a win.
Planning is a safety thing, so when that collision does happen, then you need to know what to do.
A special thanks to Mr. Hay, a lawyer in Vancouver, who is also a cyclist, or should that read a cyclist who is a lawyer to support his riding habit. Either way he has published a list of Do's and Don'ts when it comes to what you do and do not do when involved in a collision.  He has allowed me to re-publish that list here.
Please take a look at the list, and remember as many as you can when the time comes.
Statistics say “A cyclist is involved in a minor event about once every three years and a major event once every ten years".
When I found that stat, I looked back over my riding years and figured I have better than the odd smackers said I would, but I also didn't kid myself, I know my time is coming at some point.
I want to add a little levity at this point because this is a sombre subject...
Someday my ship will come in... And with my luck I'll be at the airport !!
We can't control fate or our destiny, but we can make some preparation so and knowing what to do and what not to do makes good sense. 
Cycling safety isn't just knowing the rules of the road, and how to negotiate tight confines with confidence, skill and grace.  Safety is also thinking ahead a couple of moves on the chess board of traffic you are in, about to go into or through.
In my classes I joke about cycling being full contact, full combat, and the courses not being your mothers cycling course.  I, as an Instructor teach and expect the rider to think ahead.
I recall another saying about pilots, I believe it is; A superior pilot uses his superior ability and experience so he doesn't have to use his superior flying skills.
Cycling should be viewed in the same basic way. Using your ability and experience to see what is happening around you so you can act and be ready, therefore you don't have to use your superior skills learned and honed.
Avoidance is the best policy, wearing bight coloured reflective clothing, having lights front and back, and riding where you are reasonably expected to ride will assist you in avoiding a collision, but when 'that' time comes please remember what Mr. Hay has said, and deal with the situation accordingly.

       Your safety is first and foremost !!!
       Bikes are just stuff, and we can replace stuff. We can't replace the cyclist.
All the parts attached you started with you want to end with. That certainly sounds melodramatic, but it is hard to argue with.
Bottom line, avoid collisions should go without saying, but if and/or when it happens be prepared. Here is a case when knowledge is power. Have the proper mind-set, WIN, there is no prize for second place in this one. Be a fighter, you could be injured, and seriously injured. Like I said, WIN and you will likely be around to ride another day.
Hopefully you will never have to use the points made. 
Please remember the points from Mr. Hay, and look out for yourself.
Winning and thinking are the only options to ride again another day.

The things people do and say following a traffic accident are often given significant weight by a judge or jury during the trial process. Underlying the theory of evidence is the notion that the further one is from the event in issue, the more inherently unreliable is the recollection of that event, given the impact of anger and denial around the trauma itself, the tendency to reconstruct, and factors related to litigation around the event. However, witnesses I have come across over the course of ten years of practising law have seldom possessed the presence of mind following a serious trauma to take steps to protect their legal position related to that trauma. Let's face it, the furthest thing from anyone's mind following an accident on a bicycle is the possible impact of what they say or do on a lawsuit over the accident. With that caveat in mind, here is my top ten list of do's and don'ts following an accident. This list is based on some of the difficulties I have seen people get in which might have been avoided if they simply had been a wee bit more mindful of the future implications of their conduct.
I preface this list by saying that if you have been involved as a cyclist in a serious traffic accident (and in my experience most accidents between cars and bicycles are relatively serious) there is very little if any anything you can do to improve your legal position and almost invariably, anything you say or do in an effort to explain what happened will be used against you. So don't try.

                The Do's
1.     Try to observe where you are immediately following an accident - make a mental note of where you are in relation to your bike, the car which struck you, and a reference point such as the painted lines of cross walk, a light standard, fire hydrant, corner, bus stop, etc.
2.     Try to obtain as much information as you can relating to the identity of the driver, licence plate of the vehicle, and any witnesses to the accident - this is particularly important if the accident is a hit and run and the police do not attend. Get legal advice immediately as there is a positive obligation on you to attempt to ascertain the identity of the driver and owner of the vehicle.
3.     If the ambulance attendants ask you to go to the hospital, go - you score no points for being stoic and from a medical point of view it is usually a good idea to take the time to get examined.
4.     Control your temper and avoid belligerence or antagonistic behaviour - you may be understandably upset but restraint in these circumstances is of immense value - conversely, displays of anger only predispose witnesses, adjusters, and the ultimate triers of fact to not see things your way.
5.     Talk to a lawyer prior to talking to ICBC - you are required at law to provide information to ICBC but you are not required to provide information directly to ICBC and there is seldom an upside.

                The Don'ts
6.     Do not apologize - we have a tendency to apologize to the person who stepped on our foot. Unfortunately, an apology is often interpreted later as an admission against interest even when, at the time it was made, it may have had nothing to do with who was at fault for the accident.
7.     Do not discuss with the driver of the car or the witnesses what happened unless the driver is explaining to you how he/she was at fault for the accident - in that event, listen carefully and do not offer a statement such as 'It's ok, I think I am fine.' Accident victims are often in a state of shock as a result of which they cannot experience the full extent of their injuries until sometime later.
8.     Do not agree to settle the dispute privately. It may be that you can do this but wait until you have had a chance to fully consider what happened and the consequences.
9.     Do not give or sign long winded or complicated statements surrounding the circumstances of the accident - you will likely be approached both by the police and ICBC - if it is not practical or reasonable to contact a lawyer prior to giving a statement, then keep it very short and concise to allow for further reflection: remember, your statement can seldom help you.
10. Do not pay a traffic ticket related to the accident simply because you have no time to file a dispute. The payment of a ticket, though not conclusive of your legal dispute with the driver, certainly indicates a guilty mind or a lack of confidence in one's position and tends to impact on a case in negligence against the wrongful driver.
David Hay is a litigation lawyer and partner at Richards Buell Sutton LLP. RBS is a full-service law firm in Vancouver delivering legal advice and solutions in all areas of practice. The information above is not legal advice. Anyone seeking legal advice should contact David directly.

I believe that if you wear your helmet, wear bright reflective clothing, and use your bike lights anytime you are on your bike, you should lower you chances of being involved in an traffic incident.
This does bring up the question of proper and effective cycling infrastructure.  Excellent points, points that I will address in the coming months.
Please ride defensively and using your riding skills and ability to keep you out of having to refer to Mr. Hay’s tips, but if you end up in an incident, make sure you remember what Mr Hay’s has put forth.

Thanks for stopping by
      Safe Ride Home,


** The Do’s and Don’ts list republished with permission of David Hay.

 First published by the British Columbia Cycling Coalition newsletter, July 2003.

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