That missive — "Let's be careful out there!" — from the long-ago television series, Hill Street Blues, was how Sergeant Esterhaus ended every roll call. The show depicted a fictional, gritty Chicago precinct of police and detectives. Danger was there, every shift.
While many of us accept the danger a police officer faces in a high crime area, many of us are oblivious to the danger motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians face every day on the roads.
Illinois requires that you stop for pedestrians at marked crosswalks. Despite the fact that many people seem unaware or — worse — uninterested in this fact, it is the law, as codified at 625 ILCS 5/1-113, 625 ILCS 5/11-1002, and other sections of the Illinois traffic code.
Not only must a driver stop for pedestrians in all cases, even in cases where the pedestrian or bicyclist is not in the crosswalk, the driver MUST “give warning by sounding the horn when necessary and shall exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or obviously confused, incapacitated, or intoxicated person.” 625 ILCS 5/11-1003.1.
This means you are not free to accelerate just because you are upset a pedestrian is crossing in front of you. It is your duty as a motorist to be careful. Period. Motorcyclists and bicycles are treated the same as motor vehicles and must observe all the same traffic laws.
Many people complain that I, as an avid cyclist, impede their way on the roadway and clog traffic.
Meanwhile, I can personally attest to numerous times when drivers ran me off the road, impeded my progress, or otherwise did not provide me a sufficient zone of safety as required by law.
The law in Illinois requires that you leave at least 3 feet between your vehicle and the cyclist. 625 ILCS 5/11-703.
Also, see my past blog on the “dutch reach” method of opening doors. This statute was intended to prevent “dooring” of cyclists by forcing you to use the opposite arm when opening your car door.
While there are plenty of examples cited of cyclists ignoring stop signs and even stop lights, the fact is you cannot take out your anger at a few scofflaw cyclists by making other cyclists’ lives miserable or danger-filled.
Playing road rage games with a bicyclist or a pedestrian is likely to end in serious injury or death. The motor vehicle always wins. For that reason, drivers must be extra careful (see the law quoted above) around cyclists, pedestrians, children, and the like.
Motorcycles are polarizing. Those who ride them, like my father-in-law, are adamant that they always observe traffic laws and ride safely. Meanwhile, many non-motorcyclists complain they cut in and out of lanes, ride dangerously, and are noisy.
The simple truth is that most motorcyclists, like most bicyclists, observe traffic laws assiduously. The reason for that is self-preservation. Crashing on a motorcycle hurts quite a bit, and having a half-ton vehicle crush your leg or foot can be catastrophic.
Thus, it is time for auto and truck drivers to go out of their way to drive defensively around motorcyclists. Remember what we discussed earlier about how your anger at a few shouldn’t make you take it out on some? Well, same deal here. Be safe, be smart, and remember that injuring another human being is forever. You do not want that on your conscience.
As in all cases involving injury and potential liability, if you have been hit by a vehicle immediately get medical treatment, report the crash to police and your own insurance company, and contact a lawyer with expertise in your type of case, such as bicycle accidents or pedestrians hit by cars.
If you've been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has nearly 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He is listed as a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
Stephen handles personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything upfront and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day, contact Stephen now.