How to Avoid Getting Hit by a Car Pulling Onto Your Road
One of the most common bicycle accidents that happens to cyclists occurs when a car pulls onto a road from a driveway, side street, or parking lot — right into the cyclist. This accident is usually a result of the driver not checking carefully enough to see the traffic coming up on their left before they turn, and colliding with the cyclist as they pull their car onto the main road.
Unfortunately for cyclists, riding along the right-hand side of the road (either in the bike lane or just on the shoulder) means that you are almost unavoidable for a driver pulling into your path who doesn’t see you.
There’s very little time to swerve out of the way and the driver, pulling out onto the road, is likely accelerating quite a bit to catch up with the flow of traffic on the road where you are riding.
All of this means that one of these accidents — even if it’s a “simple mistake” for the driver — can be quite dangerous for you as a cyclist.
And while it’s not possible for you to make a distracted driver pay better attention to the world around them before driving thousands of pounds of steel and rubber onto the road, there are a few things you can do to make one of these accidents as unlikely as possible.
Make eye contact with the driver
The best way to avoid getting hit by a driver who doesn’t see you is to help the driver to see you. If at all possible, try to catch the eye of a driver who is waiting to pull out from a driveway or side street. By making eye contact, you can be sure that this person actually sees you, and isn’t just looking past you in your direction.
If you can’t catch the driver’s eye just by looking at them, wave your hand. Draw attention to yourself however you can; you can every try calling out with a “hello!”.
While it might be a little bit embarrassing to ride down the road waving and calling out, it’s better safe than sorry when it comes to making sure a driver can see you before you ride in front of them.
It’s annoying to lose momentum because of someone else’s distraction, but slowing down can help keep you safe when facing a driver who might not see you.
The slower you’re going, the easier it will be for you to maneuver out of the way if the driver does end up pulling out into your path. Slowing down also gives you more time to try to catch their eye and wave at them so that they don’t end up driving out in front of (or into) you.
Use a headlight
If you’re driving after dark, you are legally required to use a front headlight on your bicycle. This lamp should emit white light that can help guide your way down the road, but it has the added benefit of making you more visible to cars that are out in front of you.
Even if you are riding during the day, try keeping your headlight on to help you avoid accidents like this one. When a driver is checking to the left for oncoming traffic, having a bright light facing them will make you more visible and noticeable.
In addition to keeping a light on the front of your bike, you can also try putting on a headlamp or attaching a small light to your helmet as well. Having a bright light near your face will give your attempts to make eye contact a little extra oomph, and make you more likely to be seen.
Ride a little farther to the left
Although many cyclists feel that it’s safest to stay in the bike lane or as far to the right shoulder as possible, pulling a little to the left can give you more options (and therefore, more safety) in the event that the driver pulls onto the road without seeing you.
If you’re nervous about pulling over to the left, bicyclesafe.com explains:
“You might worry that moving left makes you more vulnerable to cars coming from behind. But the stats say you’re far more likely to get hit by a car at an intersection ahead of you that can’t see you, than from a car behind you which can see you clearly. So while both positions have risk, you generally reduce your risk by riding a little farther left.”
And it’s true — pulling over to the left helps you avoid a dangerous accident in a couple of ways.
By pulling over to the left, you put yourself in the flow of normal traffic, which is where the driver is most likely to be looking. (Almost everyone will scan the oncoming traffic for cars; not everyone will think to check the bike lane or shoulder.)
In addition, pulling over to the left gives you additional space to swerve out of the way if the car does pull into traffic. If you’re all the way over to the right, you might not be able to avoid the car as it pulls out in front of you; in other words, you can get boxed in all the way over to the right.
If you’re more in the flow of traffic, you will have already carved out a space in the normal lane, which means you will most likely have some room farther to your left where you can veer to avoid a collision.
At the very least, giving yourself a little extra distance between you and the distracted turning car will allow you the chance to reduce the severity of the impact, should they hit you.
Pay attention when you ride
Whenever you are on your bike, it’s your job to stay aware and visible in your surroundings. The more you keep your eyes open for changes of all kinds — including drivers who may be turning or merging into your path — the safer you will stay, because you will have more options for stopping or evading an accident. While you can’t make every driver be aware and safe, you can do your part to protect yourself all along the way.