We regret to learn that on January 11, 2019 in Seal Beach, CA, a tragic bike accident/car accident led to the wrongful death of a 64-year-old local rider. This incident is already the third bicycle fatality in Southern California this year. Moreover, it follows a November 2018 bicycle vs. car accident that occurred in Huntington Beach. That accident also resulted in the death of a 78-year-old cyclist. As a personal injury lawyer, we become all too familiar with these kinds of accidents. Unfortunately, we usually become aware of this type of accident as a result of a wrongful death action. Generally, understanding where and how these collisions happen is a positive first step in reducing the number that occurs. We hope that this post serves to remind everyone to be extremely cautious when encountering a cyclist on the roadway.
According to the Orange County Register, this tragic bicycle vs. car accident occurred on Friday morning January 12, 2019. The incident occurred near the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway (“PCH”) and Seal Beach Boulevard. According to witnesses identified by Biking LA, the cyclist was traveling northbound on Pacific Coast Highway when he was struck from behind (rear-ended). The vehicle involved incurred windshield damage. One witness stated, “I was at the scene when the accident happened, and CPR was rendered by 4 of us before EMS arrived. We all knew what to do and did our best, but we know the tragic outcome all too often when it’s bike versus auto. I ride my bike on that route most weekends and have had several close calls at that intersection. I’m very sad for my fellow rider and his family and friends. Talk about him a lot… it hurts but it helps too. Peace.”
The fellow rider initially had his name withheld by the Seal Beach Police Department. He was later identified as 64 year old Long Beach resident and Parkcrest Christian Church parishioner, Paul Smith. The Seal Beach Police Department later issued a press release about the incident. The statement indicated that Paul Smith had sustained traumatic injuries at the scene. His injuries required that he be transported via ambulance to a local hospital. He was later pronounced deceased at the hospital.
On Sunday, January 13, 2019, Paul Smith’s family and friends held a memorial for him. The memorial which can still be seen is at the intersection of Seal Beach Blvd. and PCH. Paul Smith was described as an avid and experienced rider who competed around the country. His friends also described him as a good man who gave back to the community and country. One example was when he went to Texas in 2017 to help flood victims affected by Hurricane Harvey. Sadly, car accidents and personal injury law regularly remind us that it is always the best that are taken too soon.
Bike vs. Car Accidents in Southern California
No more demonstrative of this heavy toll are the statistics that reflect bike accidents in Southern California communities. According to Biking LA, Pacific Coast Highway is regularly referred to as “SoCal’s killer highway.” Information is available from the California Highway Patrol’s (“CHP”) SWITRS crash database reflecting just how dangerous riding at our beaches can be.
In 2016, Ed Ryder prepared a report called “Bike Collisions on the Pacific Coast Highway.” The report compiled data from the CHP SWITRS crash database. The report also discussed bicycle accidents in Southern California’s Los Angeles County, Orange County, and San Diego County. One of the components discussed in the report is when and where these bicycle accidents are occurring. It was noted that the top 10 cities for bicycle accidents include Newport Beach (#1), Long Beach (#2), Huntington Beach (#3), and Seal Beach (#9). In fact, for the time period reviewed, Newport Beach had more bicycle accidents than Los Angeles and Malibu combined! Furthermore, the bicycle accidents disproportionately occur on Saturday (23%) and Sunday (17%).
Understanding when and where these bike accidents occur can be helpful in understanding why they occur. The Ryder report found that bike collisions are historically the most prevalent on weekends in the Orange County beach communities. The logical conclusion is that there must be a correlation between the increased volume of riders on the road, and the number of auto vs. bike collisions that occur. However, when focusing on the most serious of automobile vs. bike collisions, more typical causation factors are present.
With regard to cyclist fatalities, Ryder’s report found that in auto accidents, driver’s were found to be at fault 46% of the time. Sadly, driving under the influence (“DUI”) and biking under the influence (“BUI”) were leading causes for these kinds of accidents. In fact, driving under the influence (“DUI”) and biking under the influence (“BUI”) accounted for 47% of rider fatalities. The other four factors identified were traveling at an unsafe speed (19%), improper turning on the roadway (14%), failure to use traffic signals and signs (10%), and unsafe lane changes (10%). The potential correlation between an increased number of DUI/BUI drivers at Orange County beaches on the weekends, and the increased number of cyclist, is another potential point of discussion when examining the cause of these collisions.
Drive with Caution Near Cyclists on the Roadway
To minimize the chance of a car crash with a bicycle rider, it is essential that every driver remember the rules of the road. The rules of the road can be found in the CA Driver’s Handbook. Furthermore, the CA DMV makes the CA Driver’s Handbook available on its website. The CA Driver’s Handbook states, “bicyclist have the same rights and responsibilities as vehicle and motorcycle drivers.” It goes on to state that due to the slower speed of cyclist, drivers should follow at a safe distance. In the event a driver wishes to pass the cyclist, the Driver’s Handbook recommends changing into another lane. If the driver cannot turn into another lane, the Driver’s Handbook advises drivers to allow at least 3 feet between the car and bicycle. Then once the road is clear, the driver should pass at a safe speed to not endanger the rider. It is also important to remember that riders may be traveling faster than you think. The Driver’s Handbook states, a driver should not turn in front of a cyclist unless there is enough time to make the turn safely. Regardless of the situation at hand, the common theme is to operate a vehicle with caution around a cyclist.
We hope that the information presented in this post helps drivers remember to be extremely cautious when sharing the road with a bicycle. If you have any information regarding this particular incident, please call the Seal Beach Police Department. Please remember, cyclist have the same rights as drivers on the roadway, and they must be treated with caution. If you are involved in a car accident with a bicycle, it is essential to call the police and paramedics. Furthermore, if you have suffered personal injury as a result of a bicycle accident, reach out to a bicycle accident lawyer right away before speaking to any insurance companies. With this information in hand, get out there and practice safe driving and safe riding practices!
The information contained in this post is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this post, or website, should be taken as legal advice for any individual or case situation. For more information on car accident claims, go to our car accidents page. For more information on wrongful death claims, go to our wrongful death page. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. If you have lost a loved one in a wrongful death action or have pain and suffering from a personal injury case, we are available to assist. For a free consultation please reach out to our attorneys to arrange a time to discuss your matter. All you have to do is hit this link or the big blue button labeled “Contact Us” at the top of this page!