What North Carolina Laws Do Bicyclists and Motorists Need to Be Aware of in 2023?
Bicycling is a fun and healthy way to travel in North Carolina, whether you are in an urban area or exploring rural roads. Keeping current on state laws can help you stay safe while riding your bike. However, it is not enough for bikers to understand the laws. Drivers need to know and follow the rules of the road as well to prevent deadly crashes. A bicycle accident attorney can explain what you need to know before going out on your next ride.
What Responsibilities Do Bicyclists Have?
In North Carolina, bicycles are considered vehicles under state law, and bicyclists enjoy the same rights and responsibilities as the operators of motorized vehicles. To maintain your safety, you need to be aware of the main rules of the road that apply when you are bicycling. Important state laws that are applicable to bikers include:
- Riding on the right side of the road: Bicyclists must ride in the direction of traffic on the right side unless they are overtaking another vehicle, avoiding an obstruction, or preparing to make a left-hand turn.
- Yielding to pedestrians: Individuals on foot have the right-of-way in crosswalks and sidewalks, and bicyclists must yield to allow them to pass safely.
- Not riding while impaired: Because bikes are considered vehicles, it is possible to be charged with a DWI for riding your bike under the influence of drugs or alcohol in North Carolina.
- Possessing proper equipment to ride at night: To keep everyone on the roadways safe when it is dark, bicyclists must equip their bikes with front and rear lights that are visible for 300 feet, or have a front light and wear a reflective vest that can be seen at 300 feet from the rear.
- Correctly signaling turns: Bikers must use mechanical, electrical, or hand signals to indicate a turn or the intent to stop. Using either hand to indicate a turn is legal, but the signal must begin at least 100 feet before the action and continue throughout the turn.
- Following all traffic rules: Bicyclists must follow all posted traffic signs and signals, including speed limits.
- Notifying authorities of crashes: In the same way that motorists have a responsibility to report accidents, a bicyclist must inform the police if they are involved in an accident that results in injury, death, or property damage greater than $1000. Failing to remain at the accident scene or aid those injured can result in criminal charges and fines.
In addition to these laws, certain municipalities may have rules regarding riding on the sidewalk, removing headphones while biking, and other issues, so it is vital to familiarize yourself with local ordinances before heading out for a ride.
Are Bicycle Helmets Mandatory for North Carolina Riders?
According to North Carolina G.S. § 20-171.9, helmets are mandatory for all riders under the age of 16. A violation of this rule is an infraction, and the parent or guardian of the minor can be fined up to $10. If it is a first-time infraction, the fine may be waived if the person purchases and intends to use a helmet in the future. Notably, the law states that the failure to wear a helmet does not confer liability or negligence on the victim in the event of a crash.
While bicyclists over 16 are not legally required to wear a helmet, helmet-wearing is strongly recommended to decrease the risk of severe head and brain injuries from a crash. Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are common in individuals who have suffered a bike accident while not wearing a helmet. TBIs can result in the following life-altering complications:
- Brain swelling
- Changes in personality
- Chronic, severe headaches
- Coordination issues
- Difficulty speaking
- Memory loss
- Mood swings
- Vision loss
Helmets can help reduce brain injury risks but do not entirely eliminate them. If you have struck your head during a bicycle accident, you should seek immediate medical care as some brain injuries may not be immediately apparent and can be life-threatening. An experienced North Carolina brain injury attorney can help you learn about your legal options if you have suffered head trauma from a bike crash.
Are There Laws for Driving Near Bicycles That Motorists Should Know?
Motorists owe a duty of care to bicyclists and must treat them with the same respect and attention they give to other vehicles. This includes maintaining a proper distance between themselves and the bicyclist. Under state law, motorists must stay at least four feet from the bicyclist while passing them, and they may not attempt to pass while the biker is signaling or in the process of making a left turn. Violating these rules can result in fines and could also lead to the driver accumulating points on their license and/or having their license revoked if their actions caused injury to the bicyclist.
How Can a Bicycle Accident Lawyer Help if You’ve Been Injured?
Unfortunately, even the most conscientious bicyclist can find themselves involved in a serious accident. If you’ve been hurt in a North Carolina bike crash, it’s critical to consult with a skilled bicycle accident attorney as soon as possible to learn about your recovery options and protect your legal rights.
Due to North Carolina’s strict contributory negligence rules, a victim must be able to show that they shared no fault in their accident in order to recover damages from the defendant. Insurance companies and defense lawyers are keen to shift blame onto victims to avoid paying damages, but a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer can help ensure you get the compensation you deserve. Contact our law office today to schedule a free consultation with our legal team.