Charleston personal injury attorney Jeff Gerardi of Joye Law Firm spoke recently with WCBD-TV News2 about the tragic death of a bicyclist and the need for stricter laws in South Carolina to prevent distracted driving.
Jeff’s client was biking with his dog, Ava, who riding in a trailer attached to the bicycle. on a trip from upstate New York to the Florida Keys. Tragically, while passing through South Carolina last summer, they were struck by a motorist in Charleston County.
Our client “found the dog as a puppy in Mexico,” Gerardi said. “He rode with the dog everywhere on his bicycle, all over the country.”
Bicyclists have a legal right to ride on public roads in South Carolina, except where expressly prohibited such as interstates. Sadly, a bicyclist dies in a traffic accident in South Carolina every 16 days on average, according to the South Carolina Highway Patrol. As bicycling has increased in popularity in South Carolina, the number of deadly collisions involving cyclists and automobiles has increased as well.
Many of those bike accidents occur in the Lowcountry. Charleston County is among the most dangerous counties in the state for bicycle accidents.
As an experienced rider, our client had taken precautions to make himself visible to motorists, Gerardi said.
“He had a full rig,” Gerardi said. “He had safety gear. He had a flag on his rig. He was an experienced bicyclist. He couldn’t have been more conspicuous.”
Motorists are required by South Carolina law to maintain a safe distance from cyclists when passing.
Even so, Jeff’s client was fatally injured and Ava suffered serious injuries when they were struck by a passing SUV on the Savannah Highway near Adams Run on August 31, 2020. Jeff’s client was pronounced dead at the scene. Ava suffered serious injuries and was cared for by the Charleston Animal Society.
Another bicyclist, was struck and killed while crossing Savannah Highway in December 2020.
Bicyclists and pedestrians have little protection and are vulnerable to serious or fatal injuries when struck by a moving vehicle, particularly at higher speeds.
“There is no such thing as a fender bender between an automobile and a bicycle,” Gerardi said.
After a collision involving a car and a bicycle, insurance companies representing motorists often try to ignore the bicyclist’s rights and to attempt to blame the bicyclist —even when the rider was complying with South Carolina traffic laws.
“There are a lot of people who have a bias against bicyclists and motorcyclists,” Gerardi said.
Many bicycle accidents occur because drivers are not expecting to encounter bicyclists and do not see them. Some occur because drivers are distracted. Cell phones are a common cause of driver distraction. Talking or texting on a cell phone is a distraction to drivers and it is dangerous.
Gerardi is advocating for the South Carolina legislature to pass a hands-free law.
Approximately 25 states have adopted laws that prohibit drivers from holding a cell phone, tablet or other wireless device while operating a vehicle. Only hands-free communication devices would be permitted.
South Carolina has adopted a law banning texting while driving, and highway safety advocates have been pushing to pass a hands-free law.
Gerardi said states that have passed hands free-laws have seen a marked decrease in fatalities and injuries involving drivers distracted by cell phones.
“There’s really no reason not to have it,” Gerardi said.
The attorneys at Joye Law Firm advocate for people who have been injured by the negligence of others and the families of those who have been killed in preventable bicycle accidents. If the motorist caused the accident, the motorist’s insurance should be held accountable. Our bicycle accident lawyers are on the side of cyclists. Learn more about the bicycle accident lawyers at Joye Law Firm today by contacting them.