Bicycle Crashes: The Blame Game
By David P. Hersh, Shareholder and Avid Cyclist
When it comes to crashes between cyclists and motor vehicles, it is essential to establish who is at fault for causing the accident. Tort law in America operates on a system of responsibility – those who ride or drive on public ways are responsible for their actions, and if their actions harm another, they are held accountable for the damages they cause. “Fault” in the legal context is an important concept.
In the global conversation about motorists and cyclists sharing the road, engaging in public discourse where we “blame” those who are injured in crashes in order to avoid “responsibility” is really inappropriate. For example, when I talk to people about how I feel as a cyclist when motorists “buzz” me or honk at me, I often get push-back as they try to justify unreasonable driver behavior. “Cyclists hog the road” or “Cyclists should be on the sidewalk” or “Cyclists don’t obey traffic laws” – typical statements that are nothing more than what I call “the Blame Game”. These are people who would never attempt to hurt a cyclist – but who probably are afraid they might. They are trying to engage in a conversation that will justify unreasonable behavior by citing to things unrelated to my objections, in hopes that they won’t be blamed if they harm a cyclist. In reality, all drivers are sometimes surprised by the actions of others (be they drivers or pedestrians or cyclists) and it is a natural human reaction to be fearful about those interactions.
In reality, we are all individually responsible for our actions, and if our actions harm another we need to shoulder the “blame” for those actions. It really would be best if we could foster a collaborative and cooperative culture that encourages cyclists and motorists not just to co-exist, but enjoy each other’s company on our roadways. In public discourse it is important not to demonize the other side – yes, there are rogues in each camp – not to engage in the Blame Game. Let’s facilitate peaceful cooperation and interaction.
No reasonable motorist wants to kill or maim a cyclist. No cyclist wants to be a victim of a crash. If we have respect for each other, if we approach each other with a desire to show respect for each other, we can all thrive on our roadways. Slow down, relax, show respect, signal your intentions, evaluate the situation in the larger picture (will this 10-second delay really impact my day?), be alert, say “thank you”. We all, drivers and cyclists, want to arrive alive.
[For an interesting read, check out: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/02/nyregion/weve-blamed-traffic-deaths-on-bicyclists-since-1880-what-about-drivers.html ]
David P. Hersh: Shareholder and Avid Cyclist
Mr. David P. Hersh, the co-practice group leader of the business and commercial litigation department of Burg Simpson, but also focuses his practice on catastrophic personal injury cases. A skilled and experienced trial lawyer, Mr. Hersh excels in the courtroom, expertly handling all aspects of litigation through his creative problem solving, persuasive communication, and outstanding analytical skills. He believes that the benchmark of his success comes from his passion for the law and steadfast mission to be the best advocate possible for his clients.